Thursday, December 15, 2011

The American Anti-Hero

What historical factors influenced the rise of the American Anti-Hero in cinema and how does this hero contradict the Classic Hollywood Ideology.

After WWII America experienced a social paradigm shift. Americans were very rebellious and were very aware of the horrors in the world. Likewise, Americans were aware that every person had their own faults, and that no one acted in a perfectly moral manner. This increased a yearning for an anti hero because "they were true representations of life, who were faulty and vulnerable, like America's real life heroes". These real life heroes were the soldiers who fought in WWI, and who returned to America with deteriorated mentalities. Most likely, their new perception of the world mirrored the anti hero's perception. The anti hero, after all, was meant to present a new yet old perception of what the average human is like. The average human is likely to commit moral and good acts, but they are also fully capable of committing immoral acts. These immoral acts are done by the antiheroes frequently and they demonstrate how complex and imperfect people truly are. With relation to the time period, the American antihero most likely rose after WWII because Americans began to realize how horrible their and other's actions were during the course of the war. The war truly opened up society's eyes to a dark side of human nature, and people became interested in exploring why people behave in these ways. That also shows why Americans began to watch Film Noir as sort of "guilty pleasure".

The antihero also portrayed the duality in human nature which was very prominent during the Cold War. In the Cold War Americans were very paranoid because they did not know what to believe in anymore. They wanted to avoid war with Russia, but they did not know how to act because they no longer could differentiate between right and wrong. That caused a blurred line to form surrounding morality. Americans were puzzled at how people could appear to be moral, yet at the same time commit immoral crimes. The antihero allowed the American to explore why people had this dual character. In fact, Americans pondered over this "long after the projected has been turned off".

Again, the rise of the antihero stemmed from a social paradigm shift in America. This occurred once more during the 1960's when the Civil Rights Movement reached its peak. Leaders like MLK, Malcolm X, and other revolutionary leaders rose against society to illustrate why society's practices were wrong. In reality, they were real anti heroes. They all illustrated that anyone who went against society was going to be deemed as rebellious and a bit psychotic. This is what captivated the American audience the most because they yearned to be exposed to new perspectives of the world. After all, they were unsure of their own perspective because they had trouble understanding what truly was right and wrong. This ambiguity was caused by, again, the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movements which all presented problems in American society.

The anti hero constricts the classical hero because their actions are based upon very convoluted and complex motives. They are not so clear cut as the classical hero because the classical hero is simple. They always do the right thing and end the film with a joyous life. The anti hero usually ends life bitterly, and this is supposed to mirror the typical life of a person.

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