In recent years, the antihero has risen in popularity. For those who don’t know, the definition of an antihero is “a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.”
I think what makes an antihero is someone who, though they may do the right thing, have a different mindset from traditional heroes, setting them apart from the rest of the team.
There are different types of antiheroes who get stuffed into the same group. One type might be self-sacrificing but much less idealistic than the hero. Instead of having a dual with the main bad guy like a hero would, the antihero might sneak into the enemy’s tent and stab him in his sleep or just shoot him. This type may be willing to lay down his/her life for a cause, but might not be willing to do something idealistic. If the other characters are more idealistic than the reader, this can make the reader love the antihero because s/he’s the one using common sense. In another way, it may make the audience pity him/her, because this person had something bad enough happen that they’ve gone this far. Saw Gerrera from Rogue One and Star Wars Rebels is an example of this type. He’s certainly no coward, but some of his methods go too far.
The other type might be more selfish. While a hero will instantly leap into a battle and risk their lives, this type tends to hesitate. In the end, the good ones normally do the right thing, but they do it grudgingly. With heroes, it’s a given that they’ll join the fight and do the right thing, but with this antihero type, the audience is on the edge of their seat wondering if the character will do what’s right. Tony Stark/Iron Man, fits this category.
To some, this seems like a bad thing. Isn’t the hero supposed to be a good role model? Well, sort of, but they should also be relatable. In real life, many people will hesitate before they do something brave and risky. This is human nature. In one of these situations, it would be easy to see a normal person hesitate. Making it to the point of being a hero is journey enough.
Another reason antiheroes are liked is that they’re not chained down. They’re normally roaming through the world and have very few responsibilities, other than feeding themselves. These people have the ability to go where they want, when they want. They don’t have a boss, nagging family member, or some other responsibility tying them down. The audience can relate to this, not because they roam the world, but because they’d like to roam around in the storyworld. Who would want to stay on a moisture farm when you could be seeing the galaxy?
In the end, antiheroes shouldn’t be the only character type in a story, and they sometimes make poor main characters, but they bring much-needed moral diversity to a cast of characters.