Justifiable Anti-heroes

When you’ve decided to tackle an anti-hero story, character development is key. The best anti-heroes often have a reason for being an anti-hero. It’s not enough to simply portray a character that doesn’t care about anyone else and has little to no moral or ethical code to speak of—that can lead to writing a one-dimensional character. It can work (see below), but audiences love justifiable anti-heroes because they showcase the truth of humanity—that we’re all flawed.

Justifiable anti-heroes have a background that shows an audience a cause and effect as to why they are the way they are. This background gives the audience a reason to root for them. Emotions like depression, neglect, grief, and abandonment are understandable. It doesn’t excuse someone from doing wrong, but we understand why their world isn’t black and white. The best anti-heroes travel that gray line in between what most would say is good or bad, justifiable or unjustifiable, right or wrong.

Mad Rockatansky (Mad Max)

Tom Hardy replaced Mel Gibson as the titular Max for Mad Max: Fury Road. Gibson played the character in all previous installments in the franchise. Image courtesy Warner Bros.

Max Rockatansky from the Mad Max franchise became the loner he is after losing his wife and son to a sadistic biker gang. That carries over to the next film, The Road Warrior, as he is forced to fend for himself. He is deep within the post-apocalyptic wasteland, where every drop of water and gasoline is a luxury. In this type of world, morals and ethics have no place if you want to survive—you either kill or be killed. Actions an audience would normally find deplorable are made morally justifiable in George Miller’s world. Or at least, they’ve been shuttled from the black or white to a shade of gray.

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