Some of their fans may protest, but Milady de Winter (of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas) and Armand Chauvelin (of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy) are not true antiheroes. Certainly, they are sympathetic villains, and it might be interesting how those tales would have been told absent their titular characters. That premise—the missing hero—is the aspect of the antihero examined here.
The recent success of Deadpool, as portrayed by Ryan Reynolds, struck like a shockwave, but should not have been a surprise. Where we admire heroes, we envy the antihero. They seem to be free of many of the constraints we face in daily life. Violations of social convention, immunity from consequences, and political incorrectness are part of their license.
The antihero may be born out of a moral quandary, but they often remain morally ambiguous practitioners of situational ethics. In a sense, they serve as symbols of unfettered liberty. All of this can be very appealing, particularly when we perceive that no one else is following the rules.
They are freedom. And, they’re not exactly new.