Welcome to 2020. Where the impossible seems to happen on the daily, where the unimaginable is a casual occurrence, where, with every single news headline that blares across our screens, it feels more and more like we’re living in a George Orwell novel. How do you cope with dystopia?
Susan Sontag’s essay, “The Imagination of Disaster” examines how science fiction films from between 1950 and 1965 “normalize what is psychologically unbearable, thereby inuring us to it.” Since then, apocalyptic content has taken over our screens and our minds in the name of both fiction and non-fiction. It is in such a world that the anti-hero arises.
Where the traditional protagonist conveys attributes like optimism, honesty, strength, confidence, courage and virtue, the anti-hero displays cynicism, deceit, insecurity, and vice. In other words, the anti-hero is flawed. By killing the bad guy, the anti-hero protects the world. Yet, by killing the bad guy, the anti-hero inherently becomes the bad guy.
In pop-culture today, the story of the anti-hero is everywhere. Think Dexter, Walter White in Breaking Bad, The Joker, Joe Exotic in Tiger King. Even Elon Musk is in some way an anti-hero figure. In music, no one quite captures the air of the anti-hero like Billie Eilish, who blew up with the release of her Grammy award-winning debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Her album’s popularized main single, “Bad Guy,” introduces us all to this persona almost too well.
The story of the anti-hero may be dark, misunderstood, and slightly Machiavellian, but that doesn’t mean the anti-hero is evil. Unlike the villain, for the anti-hero, the greater good prevails. The anti-hero has something that the villain does not: morals. In a world ravaged by systemic poverty, crime, violence, extremism, and fear, morals appear to be few and far between. It’s no wonder we can relate to the underdog living in a dystopian universe, whose greatest weakness and strength simultaneously seems to come down to one thing: they actually fucking care.
Elizabeth (Lizzie) Donohue | Web Director, Author, Stylist @lizziedonohue
Jenna Carapezza | Creative Director, Stylist @jenna_cecilia_
Stephanie Zhang | Makeup and Hair @stephs_monolids