Some critics have labeled Breaking Bad as the greatest television show ever made.
The show’s protagonist is a high-school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with lung cancer and begins manufacturing crystal meth in order to provide for his family’s future. Though he resorts to a law-breaking career, the show’s enormous audience wants to see him succeed.
Walter White is just one example of a lead T.V. or movie character who walks a crooked line.
The age of the anti-hero is at its peak.
Merriam-Webster defines an anti-hero as “a protagonists or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities.” Urbandictionary.com defines it as “a flawed hero, and therefore, much more interesting then the more traditional heroes.”
Some popular examples from modern culture include Tyler Durden from Fight Club, Jack Bauer from 24, Don Draper from Mad Men and Dexter Morgan from Dexter.
These characters steal the show (and maybe a few other things) with their questionable actions, skewed morals and problematic intentions. The entire plot is based around them and their dysfunctional lives, and the audience laps it up.
The anti-hero is not a new character type, but recently more defective protagonists have been appearing on T.V. and movie screens.
There is a fine line between an anti-hero and a villain, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. The anti-hero might not support the greater good, but he usually comes with one or two redeeming qualities that keep him from falling from grace completely.
What is it that makes these flawed characters so popular?
For many people, a clean-cut character who is perfect in every way just isn’t plausible. It’s much easier to relate to someone who screws up just like everyone else. Society is shifting into an age of realism. Focusing on reality is causing people to evaluate why they like certain things better than others.
While anti-heroes might not make the best role models, their numerous fans will tune in to see what choices they will make in order to navigate their crazy lives. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Breaking Bad series finale broke records by drawing in 10.3 million viewers who were curious about the fate of Walter White.
True-blue heroes are not gone. They will never be gone. But anti-heroes are on the rise and it looks like they are here to stay.