I’ve been mulling over the concept of anti-heroes, and trying to understand why they appeal to us as they do. For the most part, they seem to be assholes; people who are driven by some quest or a set of principles to act in a manner that flouts social conventions and causes them to defy authority figures and all those that would stop them. They are personally flawed, brilliant at what they do, solitary figures and a source of grief for those who seek to help or hinder them.

Tony Soprano, Batman, Mackey from The Shield, Jaime Lannister from G.R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, Wolverine, Dennis Leary from Rescue Me, Waylander from David Gemmel’s Waylander the Slayer, The Punisher, Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, Constantine from Hellrazer: the one thing that they all have in common is they’re jerks. And we love them for it.

Why?

We’re thrilled by them. We wouldn’t want them as friends, neighbors, family. But we want them there when trouble hits the fan. Complex, charismatic, vicious, dedicated, unstoppable. Objects of fascination and fear. Like open flames. We can’t take our eyes off of them, loathe them and cheer them on at the same time.

I haven’t drawn any solid conclusions yet. So if anybody has any thoughts on anti-heroes, and why we like them, please, weigh in. I’d like to hear what you guys think.