I have read all seven Harry Potter books, seen all five movies, and I look forward to the theme park being built in
I’m Beej, and I’m a hero hater.
I don’t know what it is, but I since I was young, I’ve always had a hard time rooting for the characters I was supposed to root for. I always liked the idea of the bad guy winning. I used to read comic books not for the heroes, but for the villains. I have always liked Venom better than Spider-man (well, maybe not always; he was a stinker in Spider-man 3). I watched Saw when it was new and exciting. When Jigsaw won at the end, I was giddy. The spoiled, alternate ending for Terminator: Salvation made me happy because it was beautiful irony that the bad guys would be leading the good guys. What got me reading comic books in the first place was my hearing about Superman being killed. I was mad when he came back to life because I had watched him die. I had hoped since Chamber of Secrets that Harry Potter would be killed. Words can’t describe the nerdrage I felt when Harry came back to life to defeat Voldemort. I felt cheated rather than exalted.
So what is it about a hero that is so antithetical to my enjoyment? I think I’ve narrowed the problem down to mainly being the hero archetype getting the credit for being special when there is very rarely a conflict overcome by the hero’s talents alone. The hero often has his or her boon companion or ensemble of friends that is often as equally skilled, if not more so, than the hero. And still it is the hero who gets all the credit for being special. I have never thought this is fair, so in my own way, I rebelled and started rooting for the other side.
The first example that comes to mind is Harry Potter. Sure, Harry is a nice enough kid, but he’s really nothing special. The only thing that makes him special is that he has part of an evil wizard’s soul inside him. He never solves anything on his own. Either Hermione or Ron or Neville or Dumbledore or someone else bails him out of his jam, and he’s hailed as being the chosen one. Why? Because he’s the one who the bad guys gun for. He’s the one in the spotlight. And it’s not fair to his friends to be consistently overshadowed when they’re the ones doing the work, specifically Hermione. She researches for him and finds out how to overcome most of his conflicts, but she sometimes gets treated by those around her as an overachieving nuisance, even though she is the one who does the legwork while Harry keeps all eyes on him. Not to mention that without Dumbledore’s guidance, Harry would have been dead long before Voldemort came to Hogwarts. Dumbledore oversteps his implied role as Harry’s mentor and becomes his companion and protector. If not for Dumbledore, Harry would have died in Chamber. If not for Hermoine, Harry would have died in…well, all seven books! And if not for Neville Longbottom, even, he would have died in Goblet of Fire, yet all of these characters play second-fiddle to Harry Potter’s predestination to be the hero, even when he is hardly qualified for such a role. He has a good heart, but, let me be honest, the kid’s a wiener.
In Buffy Summers’ case, she does her part to slay the vampires, and she makes a ton of sacrifices to do things herself, but she consistently whines and complains about everything that she has to take care of alone. And yet, she is not alone. She has the Scoobies. Again, she is the one all the bad guys gun for, but when push comes to shove, she has the support of
Aside from all this, I just find villainy to be more interesting. I think there is something in me that prefers the darker elements of characterization over the lighter. I have always been a Batman over Superman guy. Batman’s darker, do-what-it-takes attitude always seems more pertinent than Superman’s All-American Boy Scout shtick. Maybe it’s the pessimist in me that sees more to relate to in darker characters, anti-heroes, and villains, but there seems to be something more real about them than those characters who are always defined solely by their positive attributes.
I like to think I’m a nice guy, a good guy, but when reading or watching TV, I always think of “good” characters and most heroes as being clichéd and boring. There are only so many knights in shining armor I can read about and see on the screen before I start wondering what their deal is. There rarely seems to be anything underneath the surface of these kinds of characters, no real depth. Obviously exceptions exist, but heroes are generally all good and loyal and trustworthy because they’re heroes.
It’s the villains who traditionally break out of the prescribed molds and bring something new and interesting to the viewer/reader, and if it’s not the villain who brings excitement, it is the hero’s companions. The hero’s role mostly lies in simply being the hero and living up to that expectation, while the rest of the world is set for novelty and intrigue. It’s almost as though literature, television, and film require a hero who is generic in some way to allow more in-depth experimentation with characters in the supporting cast and ensemble.
Maybe one day, I’ll find a hero that I really like. Until then, I’ll continue to read novels and watch movies where I root for the villain or love the supporting cast more than the title character. I’ll love stories about anti-heroes and avoid those about the too-good hero. I’ll loathe Harry Potter’s resurrection, and I will look forward to Buffy Summers maturation. I like reading about Luke Skywalker’s ascent to Jedi Grand Mastership in the novels, but the movies make it hard for me to relate to him. I will give Willow and Xander and Hermione and Neville the billing they deserve when perhaps few others will. And I will always love when Batman outdoes Superman because he is willing to do whatever it takes to swing the odds to his side. And it’s not just because that’s how they write it, either.