It never fails. At some point during most days here at the office, a conversation about a movie or TV show inevitably pops up. It could start by someone quoting Wayne’s World or making a random Sarah Michelle Gellar reference (that would probably be me), or at least, that’s how it started today.
Today’s topic: our favorite antihero characters. These characters blur the line between villain and hero. They typically have a good heart deep down, but they come with some serious baggage. It could be a desire for power, corruption, substance abuse, or they’re just a jerk. But despite all their faults, you still find yourself pulling for them.
We took a Pivoteer poll of our favorite fictional anti-hero character in a movie or TV series, and here is what the crew came up with.
Peter Griffin, Family Guy
Melissa says: He is so delightfully stupid. Peter always finds new ways to screw up his marriage, ridicule his kids, injure his friends, fight with oversized chickens, and destroy the town of Quahog with hilarious results. He has a big gut, but also a big heart, so you just can’t help but root for Peter.
Carrie Mathison, Homeland
Joshua says: Her day job makes her an instant, traditional hero. Carrie is a CIA Officer who hunts down terrorists. But she’s constantly breaking CIA protocol and risking the lives of the American people for what could be argued as selfish motives. She even becomes so obsessed with an alleged homegrown terrorist that she becomes romantically involved with him. Yet, in spite of her flaws, Carrie Mathison overlooks nothing. Everything gets tied back to the investigation and she continues to be the CIA’s most valuable asset.
Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, Boardwalk Empire
Jenn says: A corrupt politician in Prohibition-era Atlantic City, Nucky is ruthless, clever, and uncompromising in his quest to hold all the cards, all the dollars, and all the power in his boardwalk fiefdom. Crafting tenuous treaties with legendary gangsters like Al Capone, Nuck makes backroom dealings into high art.
Of course, any gangster who wins the heart of the public (or in this case the HBO viewer) is an antihero to some degree. Nucky is no exception. His endearing humanity is “written in” to his character; he saves Margaret Schroeder and her two small children from an abusive husband, he was raised in a broken home by an abusive father, and he has a soft-spot for his pseudo-ward and junior apprentice Jimmy Darmody. But, I think what makes this character so darn likable is actually the underdog actor behind the antihero, Steve Buscemi.
Royal Tenenbaum, The Royal Tenenbaums
Ryan says: Royal is the estranged figurehead of a band of exceptional misfits. He also evades taxes, cheats on his wife, takes one son to a dog fight while shooting the other with a BB gun (“There are no teams!”), constantly reminds his daughter that she’s adopted, pretends to have stomach cancer, and might be a racist. Yet somehow you still root for him because he’s the person that holds the Tenenbaum family together—first as a common enemy, then as a common bond. And he’ll talk some jive like you never heard. Oh, yeah? Right on.
Jack Skellington, Nightmare Before Christmas
Ashley says: Jack is a well-meaning dead guy who, in a moment of after-life crisis, attempted to create a city of everlasting Christmas. Yes, Jack may be naïve (trusting Boogie’s Boys was dumb), he may be dead (he can take off his head), and he may even be whiny (seriously, just get a hobby), but ultimately he’s just a corpse who wants to share his newfound joy with his constituents. He also saved Santa from Oogie Boogie. The broken rag doll could do worse.
Lucille Bluth, Arrested Development
Sarah says: Lucille is a terrible person. As the Bluth family matriarch, she’s materialistic, hypercritical, elitist, vain, and manipulative; I think the inspiration for her character was a cross between Maleficent (the witch from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty) and the coiffure of an election-year senator’s wife. But underneath her scales, Lucille is a fiercely loyal mother and wife who will happily ruin the life of anyone who messes with her family. As Tobias so keenly observes, Lucille is not the villain. She’s just a girl who really has a thing for vodka martinis.
Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock
Christopher says: Teaser trailers are starting to drop for the next season of BBC’s Sherlock, so I’m tossing his deerstalker cap into the ring of antiheroes. Holmes is kind of a prick, always asking supporting characters what they think happened, ultimately as a setup to say they’re wrong and recount what truly happened in his own brilliant, cocky way. You’re never quite sure why he solves crime, and more often than not, you get the feeling that it’s more for fun than for justice. He doesn’t seem to care much for people, but for the people he does care about, he will do anything, even ruin his reputation and stage his own death. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good bromance, and there are few greater bromances in history than that of Holmes and Watson.
Darth Vader, Star Wars
Union says: When it comes to bad guys, Darth Vader reigns absolutely supreme. In every Star Wars movie, Vader’s entrance is spine-tinglingly awesome. Just typing this is giving me goosebumps. He’s evil, intimidating, calculating, power-starved, and can strangle a man from the other side of the galaxy. Every living creature knows and fears him. But underneath the mechanical suit, he’s still the scared boy you see in the prequels, deformed by the events of his misfortunate life. His heartbroken past has forged him into the Emperor’s puppet we see in the movies. It’s not until the very end that Vader fulfills his destiny and defeats the sinister Emperor and saves his son’s life. I’ve watched Star Wars more times than I’m proud to admit, and I cheer for Darth Vader every time.