© April 2010 by Fabienne Lopez
In turn, my own post inspired her to ask her audience who their hero was? Which, in a feedback loop, inspired me again.
In her post she used a picture of Johnny Depp in his role as Captain Jack Sparrow to illustrate her point. When I remarked that Jack Sparrow was more the archetype for the anti-hero than the hero, she agreed. For a great astrological analysis of Jack Sparrow as the archetype of Mercury, the Trickster, see Jeffrey Kishner.
What is an anti-hero? Besides being the “evil” twin of a hero and the cousin of the bad guy. A definition from filmnoirstudies.com states that the anti-hero character is: The principal protagonist of a film who lacks the attributes or characteristics of a typical hero, but with whom the audience identifies. The character is often confused or conflicted with ambiguous morals, or character defects and eccentricities, and lacks courage, honesty, or grace.
This seems to fit Johnny Depp’s character in the Pirates of the Caribbean. In the original movie and sequels, Jack Sparrow survives mostly by using wit and negotiations rather than weapons and force. He tries to flee most dangerous situations. He is a morally ambiguous character who plays both sides with good guys and bad guys, profiting from both. He is duplicitous at the core, switching sides and loyalties according to the circumstances while his true motives remain shrouded in secrecy. His moral compass is guided by self-preservation and self-interest. Whether he is a true good guy or a legitimate scoundrel probably depends on the audience.
House is another example of a great anti-hero. He is rude, offensive, blunt, lacks bedside manners and is riddled with flaws, but the audience sympathizes with him because of his genuine determination in saving patients, even by the most underhand and unorthodox means. He says what many people think but don’t dare voice.
After this lengthy introduction on the characteristics of the anti-hero, what can we say, from an astrological point of view, about him?
In two words. Mercury, the trickster. Okay, that’s three. Many, many planets in Gemini, or in the third House ruled by Gemini. In my opinion, the duality that is so present in Mercury is the central trait that defines the anti-hero. Mercury illuminates the area of our life where we will bend the rules, use our intelligence and wit, and bring together everything necessary to solve key problems in our life.
Let’s compare the characteristics of anti-hero taken from Jessica Page Morrell’s Writer’s Digest article with the archetype of the Trickster mentioned above. There are multiple parallels.
An anti-hero is a realist. One of Mercury’s functions is to allow us to stand back and look objectively at what is going on around and act accordingly. He or she is a consummate survivor in a shifting world. A hero many times represents the last fight of a dying era. As an idealist, a hero many times fights for values that no longer hold true for society. His inability to adapt many times requires him to die at the end of the story as a symbol of a world no longer existing. On the other end of the spectrum, the anti-hero is a survivor, a character eminently adaptable who possesses almost a chameleon quality that allows him to act to the best of his interests. The hero acts in the name of principles.
An anti-hero has a moral code that is quirky and individual, which frees him from much of the responsibility of most heroes. He does not have to be big, brawny, and muscled. He is a character who has pushed the limits and walked away, and often crossed that fine line between good and evil. Similar to Mercury who among his attributes was the god of boundaries, an anti-hero is always crossing boundaries between right and wrong, good and bad, black and white as a way to indicate that most issues in life are not so clear cut as the hero wants us to think. This characteristic give the reader an opportunity to think about issues and understand that the answers to most issues in life lay in a gray area.
An anti-hero is a complicated character who reflects the ambivalence of many real people. He seems to be more versatile and adaptable in a changing world, and has a “plasticity of behavior,” due to his realism but also his “mutability”, (the ability to mutate, i.e., change form)—certainly one of the qualities of Mercury.
An anti-hero can be nasty and unkind. And yet he does it with such charm and finesse that we are prepared to overlook his misdemeanors — much like Mercury who can resort to devious tactics to win over others — like his bold-face capacity to tell whopping great lies. One of the great lines of the show “House” is from Hugh Laurie’s character. He frequently mutters, “Everybody lies,” and proclaims during the team’s deliberations, “The patient is lying.”
An anti-hero is clever, has an enormous capacity for wheeling and dealing and is adept at wriggling himself out of tight corners — a situation where Mercury has found himself numerous times with his brother Apollo. Even when found guilty of stealing Apollo’s cattle, Mercury turns the situation in his favor. When his theft is finally exposed, he promptly invents the lyre and swaps it for the cattle, so creating both music and trade.
His belief in the “ends justify the means” makes the anti-hero the patron of stealthy action. Zeus often used Mercury to rescue others from danger such as when he escorted Persephone back from the Underworld. In the show “House” the character battles authority and sometimes go up against tremendous odds, but not always because of principles. His motives can be selfish or rebellious, but he uses cunning and whatever means necessary to achieve his goals.
Which brings me to another characteristic of the anti-hero: a mutability, a capacity to adapt to any situation and use the methods and behaviors which will best achieve the results targeted.
In the Native American legends, several stories speak of Coyote’s – an animal closely associated with the archetype of the Trickster- ability to imitate other animals, of having a “repertoire of ways” that allows him to become a consummate survivor in a shifting world.
But in the end the anti-hero is not what I am looking for in a novel. Jack Sparrow can elicit our praise for his ingenuity, House can be an admired medical genius, however, these anti-hero do not make me dream, do not make me want to go beyond my limitations and reach for something that is beyond the human capacity. The connection with God is somewhat eschewed towards the human side when I want to be taken out of my limitations. I want to dream BIG, not be reminded of my own limitations as a human being. I definitely prefer the hero.
Photos credit: Photobucket