why do we root for the bad guy

Do you root for the drug dealer in a TV show instead of the cop trying to fight for justice? Nowadays, when watching a show, we actually find ourselves wanting the villain to win. There is no longer a clear cut of good and bad. Rather, the two opposites have been morphed together to create the new star of television: the anti-hero. The new age of television is full of anti-heroes Б the main character who doesnБt have the usual good qualities that are expected in a typical hero. These characters commit murder, lie, cheat and steal, but for some reason we still idolize and root for them. You canБt escape the anti-hero, because he or she is all over modern-day television. Walter White, Dexter, Don Draper and Nicholas Brody all seem like really good guys, but are they actually? The first anti-hero can be recognized as mob boss Tony Soprano. Though he commits unforgiving actions, as an audience, we still think Tony is a good guy. We think this because through his illegal activities, we see him on the therapistБs couch every week trying to make sense of his problems.


He has a family, can run several businesses and has good friends, which allows us to look past the atrocities he commits. We consistently root for Walter White and hope he succeeds while he is killing, lying and manufacturing illegal drugs because he has a story that we can sympathize with. TV watchers perceive his criminal acts as justifiable and make sense out of them because White was just trying to help his family. Dexter and Don Draper show us flashbacks of their terrible pasts, so we excuse their actions and pity them. We hope they both succeed and feel their pain when something doesnБt go as planned for the two. Each anti-hero has a past, and something has caused them to be the way they are now. They have a background story that allows the audience to understand and ache with the character. We have compassion with the anti-hero because they reflect the complex, not perfect world we live in today. The anti-hero doesnБt play by the rules and they decline the constraints and expectations society lays upon us.


They do the things we are afraid to do as normal people. We can live through the anti-hero and not have to apologize for corrupt actions. We want to see people who donБt behave correctly, who donБt always make the good decisions because itБs realistic. As people, we realize no one is perfect, so we can see through the charactersБ flaws. Each character is delivered with at least a bit of humanity. They all have families or somewhat normal lives that allow us to see their repeated sins as versions of ourselves gone wrong. WeБre rooting for every man who lies and cheats because they all have a character flaw that, when we analyze ourselves, we can see as a weakness in ourselves too. Though not many of us can relate to wanting to kill, we can connect because of the reason the anti-hero is committing the crime. We justify the crimes because the motive is relatable. We all know the feeling of wanting revenge or the need to help our family or friends. We can see the good because they stand for something that makes sense to us.


The anti-hero reminds me of sociology or psychology class, where the professor brings up a slide and says, БShould a man let his wife go without medicine or break into a store to steal her drugs? Б
The anti-hero makes a crime morally justifiable. We allow the character to do illegal things because they give a reason for why they are breaking the law and we agree. We sort of think, БWell, if I was in that situation, IБd probably do that too. Б We like to watch the anti-hero because we want to see those who donБt always make the right decisions Б those who donБt behave correctly. After watching these types of shows, we no longer feel so badly about the acts weБve committed, because we see characters on TV doing them as well. The anti-hero can make us feel better about ourselves and therefore, we like them. Who wouldnБt like someone who makes you seem like a better person in society? Description: Studies in Popular Culture is the refereed journal of the Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association in the South.


The editor invites the submission of articles dealing with any aspect of American or international, contemporary or historical, popular culture. Studies in Popular Culture is published biannually, with one issue appearing in the fall and one in the spring. Formerly triannual, the journal has spun off what was its third issue to become the Popular Culture Association in the South's second journal, Studies in American Culture. Studies in Popular Culture publishes articles on popular culture however mediated: through film, literature, radio, television, music, graphics, print, practices, associations, events--any of the material or conceptual conditions of life. Its contributors, from the United States, Australia, Canada, China, England, France, Israel, Scotland, and Spain, include distinguished anthropologists, sociologists, cultural geographers, ethnomusicologists, historians, and scholars in mass communications, philosophy, literature, and religion.

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