I’m done with Walter White & Frank Underwood. I’m done with Tony Soprano & Nucky Thompson. I’m done with Jax Teller, and yes even ‘good guy’ gone serial killer, Dexter. Men who beat, rape, and murder. Who are sexist, racist, and will do anything to stomp out anyone in their path to get their own way. Somehow- these men- these evil, evil men- have been written into the fabric of modern entertainment story-lines as people we can relate to; people we at times are even encouraged to route for. When did the anti-hero become the new hero? I for one, am done.
I don’t want to root for the bad guy anymore.
Because this morning when I logged onto Facebook, the first alerts and images I saw were of a real life bad guy. As I scrolled through my Facebook feed, he was everywhere I looked. This man had just shot 2 dead, and wounded eight others. Their faces, their stories, I did not yet know. But his, his was everywhere. Already immortalized because he ruthlessly and senselessly murdered strangers in a movie theatre and then took his own life in the process rather than face justice for his crimes.
Of Vietnam POW John McCain, Donald Trump quipped sarcastically recently, “He is not a war hero…he’s a hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” And sadly, there’s a sting to what he said that goes beyond dishonoring McCain or other prisoners of war. Sadly, we seem to say it to victims and their families every time a tragedy like the recent Lafayette shooting occurs. Whether I want to or not, I will forever remember the face of the Aurora shooter, the Columbine boys, and Charles Manson. But, I cannot remember what even one Sandy Hook victim looked like. Why?
Because, we Americans, we like people who weren’t murdered. That’s who keeps showing up again and again in the stories we tell, in news feeds and history lessons- in music, in pictures, in films. The anti-hero staring at us again and again, article after article with a depraved, satisfied expression. We’re telling ourselves whether we realize it or not: THIS is what it looks like to be on top, to have power, to enjoy life, to avoid being the victim. It’s painful to think of the alternative: that we feel powerless against senseless acts of violence committed repeatedly and randomly against innocent people in this country. It’s painful to actually stare into the faces of victims and realize- they are the faces of those we should have valued enough in the first place to end this terror. To vote in favor of policies and protections which would prevent these kinds of senseless tragedies in the future. It’s scary to think that they are the ones WE would actually resemble should a tragedy like this hit close to home. Victims for no other reason than for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Everyday people with simple, everyday worries and joys- decidedly undramatic and un-newsworthy.
Unless we choose to stop reading, choose to stop watching, choose to stop secretly admiring and romancing the anti-hero- he will continue to creep up in our Newsfeeds and on our TV screens. Luring us into a false sense of what it means to be strong and safe in this country. Let’s fight for what is right and what is good. Let’s remember the victims and their families and remember, with clarity, that it very well could have been (and still could be) any one of us. Let’s end, once and for all our toxic, toxic relationship with the anti-hero. Who has never, and never will be, any kind of hero at all.