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The Anti-Hero: Why We Love a Good Bad Guy

 

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The anti-hero. No longer does America want to watch the good guy (or girl) on TV. Over the last decade or so, we have seen a trend in American TV culture, in which we root for a character that is a combination of hero and villain. This evolution has shown us men who are real family men, but also have less than honorable jobs and commit terrible acts: a ruthless mob boos (The Sopranos), a serial killer (Dexter) and a drug lord (Breaking Bad), as examples.

This is not a new concept. Some of our most loved classic novels depict these types of characters, which may account for their long-lasting popularity. This list includes a criminal turned mayor (Les Miserables), an egotistical charismatic party-thrower (The Great Gatsby), and a troubled loner teenager (Catcher in the Rye). Hey, even the Cat in the Hat is an anti-hero, who knowingly causes all sorts of mischief when the mother is out.

Maybe the anti-hero better reflects real life than the traditional heroes and villains that have permeated our TV and movie screens for years. 

But what exactly is an anti-hero, and why do we find this type of character irresistible to watch? Are these characters essentially good people or are they bad? What are their motivations in choosing their surprising paths? Should these characters be rewarded or punished for their actions?

Maybe the anti-hero better reflects real life than the traditional heroes and villains that have permeated our TV and movie screens for years. Think about it, is that arrested criminal being broadcast on the news, pure evil? Is it more likely that he or she is also a loving husband or wife, with children he or she loves? And, that hero who just rescued that child from a burning building, do we know his full story or are we just judging him on his latest act of good?

 

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For some reason, we seem to love anti-heroes even though they commit evil acts, we sympathize with them. In the beginning, they have good intentions and motives: money, taking care of their family, finding confidence in themselves, feeling strong, feeling powerful. However, towards the end, we realize that their motives have changed: greed, revenge, self-righteousness, ego, etc. Still, these shows would not have lasted as long as they do, unless the audience was in some way on their side, cheering them on.

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: How to Write a Public Domain Mashup

 

Reviewers are surprised that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies follows the plot of Jane Austen’s original novel so closely, but they shouldn’t be. The book of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is mostly made up of the original text. The author made a fortune by just adding a few paragraphs here and there to an existing book. This is the start of a new genre: classic book mashups.

Book remixes are possible because copyrights do not last forever. Copyrights are designed to increase the earnings of authors and their immediate descendents. Most expire between 50 and 90 years after the author’s death since it’s a little silly to think that Jane Austen’s great-great-great-great grandnephews deserve a cut of her book sales.

Once a copyright expires, the book enters public domain. Public domain works have no restrictions at all. They can be stolen, republished, edited, used in music, movies, or video game, or just zombified. The public domain includes millions of books ready to be butchered.

In this lesson, we’ll be doing the messing. Why stop with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? How about a romantic comedy, Moby Dick in Manhattan? Or a sci-fi Romeo and Juliet? There are many possibilities, but executing them is harder than it appears.

Just like mixing music, mashing up classic literature takes some real thought. The newly edited portions need to match up to the original text, in grammar, cadence, word choice, and structure. In this lesson, we do a deep dive into how classic literature and modern genre fiction work, so that we can mix the two together flawlessly.