Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hero Archetypes: The Selfish Capitalist Jerk

These are characters who always seem to be too concerned with their latest business deal or sexual conquest to ever be heroic until the proverbial "chips are down" at which point they grudgingly come to save the day. They usually go against every other member of their cast out of selfish concern for their own safety/comfort. Characters like these are often used to show how "heroic and selfless" their teammates are.

The teammates of characters like this are usually exceptionally tight-knit (or like to think they are at least) and very idealistic. They're always focused on how they'll next save the world or make their next big discovery without much concern for anything besides that... like how the electric bill will get paid for their next big experiment or if they're in the league of the threat they're facing.

The thing is that no matter how many times you try to manipulate a character or story, some things just shine through. Trautman never comes off as a kind loving father no matter how many times First Blood was rewritten. She-Ra always comes off more as He-man's girlfriend more than his sister. Most importantly, these characters are treated as immature, frivolous. and silly, but when you really pay attention these are the people that save and protect the more "mature" and "idealistic" characters. These people are always concerned with the facts of reality and survival, pragmatic as they may be, and fight for it when their allies would "give" themselves to death and foolishly always seek out danger even when they shouldn't.

A few examples are

  • Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four (especially the film version)
  • Peter Venkman from the Ghostbusters
  • Johnny Cage from Mortal Kombat
  • Styles from Teen Wolf
  • Eric from dungeons and Dragons
  • Shaggy from Scooby Doo
  • Dr Smith from Lost in Space

    Joe Maurone said...

    Great observation, Landon. I want to point out, in addition, that Ayn Rand's characters in ATLAS SHRUGGED are an inversion of this archetype. Dagny and Reardon, they won't join the "crowd"..but in this case, the crowd is in "Galt's Gulch," and they are not a "crowd," but a "group" of individuals. The characters you mention are separated from the group by greed and selfishness, while Dagny and Reardon stay in society out of duty and selflessness. It's only when they MORALLY accept their selfishness that they join "the crowd."


    Mike Vardoulis said...

    Well pointed out, Joe, and to Landon's list I would add Angel from the X-Men and the arch-capitalists Tony (Iron Man) Stark and to a lesser extent Bruce (Batman) Wayne.

    Another inversion of this archetype is, to a certain extent, the Incredibles.