Movie "heroes" who are actually low-life scum. Why do we watch them?

Laspector

Sr Member
Since we were talking about Breaking Bad over in the Netflix thread, it got me to thinking. Why do we watch these movies and tv shows where the protagonist(s) is actually horrible low-life scumbags with really no redeemable characteristics at all? Stuff like the Sopranos, Godfather, Scarface, these are ALL absolutely deplorable people. How many can you name and why are they so terrible?

Breaking Bad: Almost everyone in the show is either a murderer, drug dealer or addict, embezzler, kleptomaniac, etc.

Thelma and Louise: Both horrible people

Escape From New York: Snake is a bank robber, cares about nothing or no one, kills without a second thought.

Just a few off the top of my head. How many others?
 

Wes R

Legendary Member
The same reason folks like these people in real life: there is something about an outlaw. Look at how popular Bonnie and Clyde were back when they were working, or Pretty Boy Floyd. People love anyone who stands up to the establishment. I think it lets folks live out fantasies of being carefree and doing what they want when they want.
 

Laspector

Sr Member
So why do we want to be entertained by watching horrible people do horrible things? Don't get me wrong, I like watching it too, but even as a kid I remember thinking "Why are we playing army, or cops and robbers, or cowboys and Indians? All we are doing is playing 'let's kill each other'."

It must really say something about the human condition.
 

Snikt

Sr Member
So why do we want to be entertained by watching horrible people do horrible things? Don't get me wrong, I like watching it too, but even as a kid I remember thinking "Why are we playing army, or cops and robbers, or cowboys and Indians? All we are doing is playing 'let's kill each other'."

It must really say something about the human condition.
I think its exactly what Wes R said. People like to enjoy not having to conform to society because for the most part its boring. I think thats part of why I find Archer so damn funny. He says stuff that we want to say, but cant because of societal norms that in order to be a good little drone we must essentially sit down and shut up. And sticking it to the man is rad. I know that we are supposed to think Walter White is awful, but man, I could relate to him on a few levels. And Bryan Cranston is such a good actor too, and so likeable! I never saw the sapronos though. Maybe I should check that out.
 

Laspector

Sr Member
Okay, how about this?

Your kid says "Mommy, we are going to go outside and play Army." (I'm just using old school examples, I have no idea what kids play today). Mom says "Okay, you kids have fun!"

or

"Mommy, we are going outside and pretend to kill people!"....What does Mommy say to that?
 

firesprite

Master Member
Sons of Anarchy is another. However, I liked Jax and his crew a hell of a lot better than I liked Walt and...well, just about anyone except Walt Jr on Breaking Bad.

I like my heroes dirty sometimes, but there has to be SOMETHING redeeming to them. I think there's a big difference between a well-written hero who's no angel vs just unrelentingly unpleasant people.

I enjoyed the first season or two of BB, but by the time it ended, I was literally hate watching it. By the time we started on season 3, I was actively rooting for Jesse and wishing a horrible death on Walt.

Jax, on the other hand, was a bastard, but he was also a loving husband and father who legitimately wanted to do better for his sons than his parents did for him. That made him more sympathetic to me, and made the experience of watching SoA more pleasant (although when every episode started being 90 minutes, it just felt overly indulgent and overblown).
 

dascoyne

Master Member
It's already been said. Anti-hero sorts tend to be folks that we can relate to - who make the mistakes we make and have our flaws - in some cases they indulge in these weaknesses which a part of us enjoy vicariously. Sure, it was wrong of Thelma and Louise to hijack that guy's rig at gunpoint just for making obscene gestures but there's a part of us that would love to see something like this happen. Since it's in a movie we don't need to worry about consequence.

That being said my personal favorite anti-hero is Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez (The Good The Bad and The Ugly). He's the most human character in that movie and has the most crushingly poignant scene in the film when he meets with his brother.
 

Laspector

Sr Member
Just for the record, I want to say I am NOT one of those people wanting to take guns away from people or think that video games and rock music or Bugs Bunny cartons contribute to kids turning to violence. NOT AT ALL! That's political stuff and let's don't even get into that lest we get banned.

I'm just playing a little devil's advocate here to further ideas about the subject matter of the thread.
 

Malphas

Well-Known Member
So why do we want to be entertained by watching horrible people do horrible things? Don't get me wrong, I like watching it too, but even as a kid I remember thinking "Why are we playing army, or cops and robbers, or cowboys and Indians? All we are doing is playing 'let's kill each other'."

It must really say something about the human condition.
Because it's more fun than playing stock broker or an accountant.
 

Wes R

Legendary Member
Sadly playing cops and robbers will probably get your kids taken away from you these days. I think deep down people miss the days when we had more freedom, the era of the wild west where you could make your own destiny without being overly constrained. Modern society, even as it's changed over the last 20 years, is more of a choke collar on personal freedoms and life itself. The era of being PC has created a new genre of anti-hero who don't have to do anything but say "offensive" things that were okay 25 years ago. It's a form of romanticized nostalgia I think.
 

Nth

Well-Known Member
I don't consider Snake Plissken deplorable. He has every right to be bitter considering he was F'd over by the military and his government. Never once during Breaking Bad did I consider Walt the bad guy either. Outside circumstances made them what they are, and they simply adapted.
 

StevenBills

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
The Anti-Hero protagonist is very common today. Maybe it helps people "live" out their weird/disgusting/twisted fantasies without actually getting into trouble/and or messy?

SB
 

Laspector

Sr Member
Never once during Breaking Bad did I consider Walt the bad guy either. Outside circumstances made them what they are, and they simply adapted.
But remember, Walt's friend offered to pay for all of Walt's treatments for free with no payback. Walt refused because of some damn foolistic male pride crap. Then he turned to cooking meth to pay the bills and provide. To me, that does indeed in fact make him a bad guy. He actually had no reason to turn to crime. Granted, the medical bills being paid wouldn't take care of his family once he was gone, but still not really a reason to absolutely destroy God knows how many lives. Not just the people actually seen on the show who died because of it, but the thousands of people whose lives would have been ruined by the drugs he made. Crystal meth is some really REALLY REALLY bad stuff!!
 

Edraven99

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Same reason why the top movie in 1990 and one of the top grossing rom-coms of all time was about a hooker and her John ;)
 

modelcitizen

Sr Member
Walt's "friend" was the guy who screwed walt out of all them big bucks in the past. Walt was tired of being screwed being the nice guy, hen pecked by his wife wearing those pink sweaters. it's in the title of the show. a nice guy breaking bad. throughout the show we were to straddle the line of whether we thought he was a good guy or not. at the end ultimately he crossed the line many times into being absolutely not a good guy. there were consequences to his actions. in the end however, he acknowledged his human behavior and said "i liked it. i was good at it".
moral of the story? don't be walt i reckon.
 
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NormanF

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Several years ago I was watching "Day of the Jackal" and about half way through I realized I was rooting for the bad guy.

Sent from my Motorola StarTAC
 

PoopaPapaPalps

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
A few guys have already hit on the head here as far as I'm concerned and I'll repeat all they said in one word: catharsis. A catharsis that satiates both our desires from an evolutionary and societal/anthropological level, depending on the work. For me, I don't think it gets any better, or more cathartic, as Falling Down. It indulges in some really dark material but, at the same time, does it in a very tongue-in-cheek, almost camp, manner.

On the topic of the anti-hero, that isn't something new. That character type has always been around and has been a staple as long as people told stories. And like many character types, they can adapt and change as much as the times do.

One anti-hero that often gets over-looked, and misunderstood, in recent memory is that of Ethan from The Searchers. I know there's hoopla today that touts the movie as racist but 1) The film is from the lofty, Protestant view of whites settling the West, and 2) The main character is a bigot. More than that, his character isn't someone many would typically root for if his background is laid out. He willingly fought for the Confederacy and as the Civil War ended and the South lost, he ran from the army and joined bandits in the Texas territory for a number of years. Early in the film, the ranger questions him about it when he comes home and Ethan gives a very nebulous answer about it in return. The film even ends symbolically of him being dated and of the past and only possible of existing in this one time and setting.

I think people over-look that he is an anti-hero because of just the way the film is. It's that very romanticised image of the West and the characters were molded to fit into that vision. The similar thing happened to Wayne again when he played Rooster Cogburn in the first film version of the True Grit.
 

JLeezy23

Sr Member
Its fun to watch something out of the ordinary, see the other side of the story. This brought Lawless to mind, they go against the law, but other than that the Bondurant brothers are pretty normal, imo. Rooting for the "bad guy" seems relatable, the story sympathizes their morals and situations. Each bad guy is also a human (mostly in films) and they usuallly have good reasons they are the way they are. Magneto was a holocaust victim, he wanted to rid the world of man, because man only causes war and destruction. I can feel his reasoning, and want to root for the mutants as a whole, but its still wrong to kill ALL of mankind because of what happened. Deadpool kills like 100 guys in his movie, but its entertaining.

Why do we have violent sports where people are paid to injure each other? Human nature is a messy thing, we're messed up. I for one have always loved Darth Vader. I was Vader for halloween as a kid so many times I lost count! I knew he was the big baddie, I knew he choked guys who did one thing wrong, I knew he ruled the galaxy and struck fear into EVERYONE. But hey, bad guys are free to do bad, they are truly free from boundaries and are living exactly the way they want to. The Joker does bad, look how happy he is!
 
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