The On-Screen Anti-Hero

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This session will consider the rising popularity of the anti-hero across film and television and to some extent, computer gaming. It will question why viewers and gamers are drawn to morally questionable characters in popular culture. Programming such as The Sopranos (1999-07) and Breaking Bad (2008-13)have normalised the way in which audiences invest years in rooting for difficult fictional characters onscreen, while investigative documentary programmes like Making a Murderer (2015-18) and Tiger King (2020-21) have given celebrity status to morally questionable figures in reality. The current popularity of Baby Reindeer also reminds us of the historic and controversial way in which difficult characters and representations of mental illness have been problematically linked onscreen. This was particularly emphasised with Todd Phillips’s Joker (2019) and its imminent and awaited sequel Joker: Folie à Deux later this year. This session will explore some of the reasons audiences and players are drawn to this content, the concept of bad fans and the blur between heroic and anti-heroic figures.



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SKU: Anti-hero Category: Cinematography




Daniel O'Brien

Speaker: Daniel O’Brien

Dr Daniel O’Brien is a Lecturer and Researcher in Film and Digital Media at theUniversity of Essex. He has published work on film, gaming, interactive art and video essays across a range of academic journals, books and audio-visual collections.
Vimeo / NECSUS Journal

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