fbpx
14/10/2019 Communication Science news and articles

The Brutally Feminine Murder of the Anti-Hero

We all love a hero, but sometimes, an anti-hero is even better. This article explores moral ambiguity and why we are attracted to it.


If you have ever consumed any type of entertainment, ranging from books and graphic novels to movies and TV-shows, you will have almost undoubtedly ran into a character with blurry morals. Maybe he was what Shafer and Raney called an anti-hero, and acted in morally ambiguous ways to reach sometimes noble goals. Maybe it was more akin to what Brett Martin called a difficult man, or “a person who we root and care for despite their monstrosity”. Most likely, you have rooted for a character that you should have not rooted for; and even more so, this character was most likely a man.

Characters such as Walter White from Breaking Bad and Dexter from, well, Dexter, have long been used to describe antiheroes. More recently, shows such as the overly popular Game of Thrones, have challenged the notion of a black-and-white hero. They test viewers moral stances by making characters constantly jump from heroes to villains and letting them sit in between. However, while some people may have found themselves rooting and liking the villainous queen Cersei, this may be more easily related to the concept of a bad fan rather than an anti-hero. These types of fans, according to critic Emily Nussbaum, especially the feminine ones, tend to root for strong female characters regardless or because of their morally “bad” actions.  

On a more general stance, Shafer and Raney (as students of Entertainment Communication should know), associate the enjoyment of antihero narratives with cues that allow for moral disengagement, essentially excusing antisocial behavior. It is on this note that the British-Canadian TV Show “Killing Eve” subverts standards and previously maintained notions, getting close to refuting most theories on the subject. The show follows a story line that is quite commonly known as “spy thriller”.

Following the lower-tier governmental official Eve Polastri as she is recruited to hunt down the international serial killer Villanelle. The show bends the genre by executing known story lines and characters in the most extravagant way possible. The killer herself, Villanelle, is a character that I suspect has never been shown on television. She is peculiarly unpredictable, portraying a charming child-like attitude alongside a barbarically murderous one. She is a difficult woman to be sure, a hit-woman whose main wishes in life are “normal stuff, nice life, cool flat, fun job”. While she appears relatable in the most basic of ways, she is never shown to be anything but a horrible person.

While male antiheroes are often seen to struggle with the bad things they have done, Villanelle is impolitely shown to find delight in seeing the life drain from her victims’ eyes. The show laughs in the face of our desire to understand and justify her actions. Continuing over and over to cross the line that we thought would make us stop liking her. On a note, the show never did try to make her morally ambiguous, as in the first episode alone she kills 6 people, using a child as an accessory to his grandpa’s death and purposely spilling ice cream onto the lap of a little girl.

She leverages her beauty, uses tampons and hugs as subterfuges and takes great pleasure in dressing up.

However, the main and gigantic difference between Villanelle and the previously mentioned antiheroes is, of course, that she is a woman. We have seen difficult women on television before but it has almost exclusively been women channeling men to execute their actions. Women written as men, often expressing a typically masculine rage and aggressiveness. Villanelle does not do any of that. She leverages her beauty, uses tampons and hugs as subterfuges and takes great pleasure in dressing up. She sits in a huge pink tulle gown, laughing at a picture of a dead dog. Another important side to the character is her relationship with Eve Polatstri, as they slowly develop obsessive behaviour towards each other.

The main theme of the show is then shown to be obsession, as Villanelle develops an obsessive crush on Eve. The latter becomes a surrogate for TV audiences as large, admiring and respecting the mastery of Villanelle’s work. Feeling both disgusted by her ruthlessness and desperately in love with her.

Knowing all this, it is impossible to find cues that allow us as viewers to disengage our morality from Villanelle’s actions. There is no tragic backstory, no justification, no way to save her. As she walks amongst carnage and observes the artistry of it with teary eyes, there are no cues to cheer for her. And yet, we do. We may just have been conditioned to root for protagonists or just expressing our deviant inner desires. However, what the show really manifests, in my opinion, is how complex the human moral and emotional system is and how hard it is to define.

Final Editor: Mana Reed Stutchbury
Unsplash:
Sofia Sorza

Reacties

reacties

Related Posts

Medium Podcast #7 – Let’s talk about nudes

24/09/2019

24/09/2019

Two aspiring communication scientists, a few cans of beer and some Bacardi breezers. It was King’s Night when Kajsa and...

Film Pride: How Northern Ireland and Singapore Handles Fame

02/09/2019

02/09/2019

Angela went along on the study trip to Dublin and Belfast. How do the cities cope with their fame achieved from series and movies?

Ierland is een feniks die zal herrijzen uit de as

30/08/2019

30/08/2019

De een kan niet een heel land bereiken en de ander heeft een te oubollig marketing beleid. Twee bedrijven die voor hun eigen uitdagingen staan.

World capital of street art & graffiti? – It’s probably Belfast

22/08/2019

22/08/2019

Written by: AJ Kutlu here are two things that you are exposed to the most when you visit Belfast: People...

Hoe propaganda twee partijen steeds verder uit elkaar drijft

18/08/2019

18/08/2019

Fabian dook in de politieke spanningen tussen Ierland en Noord Ierland. Propaganda is daarbij niet te vermijden.

PR-Disaster or opportunity? The influence of #Brexit in Ireland

18/08/2019

18/08/2019

The Brexit will have a big influence on companies in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Kelly explains why a good PR will be more important than ever before.

Protesten aan de Ierse grens: wat betekent de Brexit voor Ierland?

16/08/2019

16/08/2019

Het bekende Goede Vrijdag-akkoord diende een vredige oplossing te bieden voor de strijd tussen Ierland en Noord-Ierland. De huidige ontwikkelingen rondom de Brexit brengen dit echter in gevaar. Quinta beschrijft de situatie, hoe deze is ontstaan en welke rol de Brexit hierin speelt.

Why won’t Ed Sheeran sell me a chair?

12/08/2019

12/08/2019

Marketing agencies are using celebrities very often, but during the company visit at Morrow Communications, Joanna learnt there is a shift going on from celebrities to social media influencers.

Entertainment uit de Oudheid viert hoogtijdagen in het digitale tijdperk

10/08/2019

10/08/2019

Een Ierse tour-guide die met zijn manier van vertellen laat zien dat de klassieke retoriek nog niet verloren is in het digitale tijdperk zoals wij dat kennen. Kevin vertelt over Patrick en zijn tour in Dublin.

Why Northern Ireland plays a key role in Brexit

10/08/2019

10/08/2019

Sjors travelled to Northern Ireland and saw the remains of The Troubles. What role does Northern Ireland play in a possible Brexit?

Ada Varriale – a first-year communication science student

24/06/2019

24/06/2019

Join us as we get to know a little more about first year Communication Science student, Ada.

The downfall of Vero

22/06/2019

22/06/2019

Our brand new writer Jade on the downfall of Vero. Why was it the most promising social media platform? And why was it not able to beat Facebook?

The Day I Broke My Smartphone

21/06/2019

21/06/2019

Could you go a day without your smartphone?

Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

20/06/2019

20/06/2019

For this week's review, Karina tells you what she thinks about the popular book (and series) the Handmaid's Tale.

Congrats on being phubbed!

18/06/2019

18/06/2019

Phubbing is something we experience a lot in current society. Medium elaborates the negative consequences and gives you also advices how to stop phubbing.

EnjoyInstagram