Media Stew

Pop culture through the lens of TV, movies, and games.

Hancock: An Examination of the Anti-(super)hero

Many people cheer for the anti-hero.
Hancock: An Examination of the Anti-(super)hero

Will Smith remains as the hero of Fourth of July movie debuts with his most recent film, Hancock. However, in an interesting twist, the superhero Hancock, that Smith portrays, is actually an anti-hero.

Typically, a hero is someone of distinguished courage or ability who is admired for brave deeds, noble qualities, achievement, dedication, integrity, and/or skill. Often, fire-fighters, police officers, teachers, and even athletes are thought of as heroes.

Saving the life of another almost always qualifies one as a hero. Superman is the ultimate hero. His other-worldly powers afford him an opportunity to save just about anyone. Even Batman, the dark knight himself, is revered for saving the lives of others.

Hancock also saves lives. However, Hancock does not seem all that interested in saving humanity. He is a drunk and lives as a homeless person. When feeling compelled to intervene for the forces of "good," Hancock will use his superpowers to help those in need.

The problem is, while he helps others, Hancock causes a great deal of property damage. The general public, especially the citizens of Los Angeles, where Hancock resides, believe that the economic costs (e.g., the destruction of buildings and freeways) outweigh the benefits of his heroic deeds. As the disdain directed toward Hancock continues to grow, this superhero becomes increasingly despondent.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

As a movie viewing audience, we are basically being asked to cheer for an anti-hero. This raised some marketing problems for the makers of Hancock as they feared the public might not like to support such a character.

However, as any sports fan can tell you, we do seem to love the anti-hero. What is an anti-hero? An anti-hero is an enigma in that he or she does not demonstrate the desired values or norms of society and yet still possess a fan following. The anti-hero is someone who feels that they do not need other people, they possess a "me first" attitude.

In sports, anti-heroes may include, Terrell Owens, Dennis Rodman, Alex Rodriquez, Barry Bonds, Bode Miller, Kyle Busch, Jason Giambi, Randy Moss, and many others. Past anti-heroes include Pete Rose, Billy Martin, John McEnroe, and Tonya Harding.

Many people cheer for the anti-hero because they can identify more easily with them than the traditional interpretation of a hero. Cheering for the anti-hero is like dating a "bad boy" or "bad girl" with the hope of being able to change them! In this tradition, Hancock befriends a mortal who just happens to be a public relations guru.

I don't want to ruin the plot of Hancock for those who have not seen it yet-and it is highly recommended that you watch it-so, I will simply say, attempting to drastically change anyone's personality is a formidable challenge. This attempted transformation coupled with at least one other surprise explains why Hancock has attained "block-buster" status.

 

Tim Delaney teaches sociology at SUNY Oswego. Author of such books as Simpsonology: There's A Little Bit of Springfield in all of Us! and Seinology: The Sociology of Seinfeld.

more...

Subscribe to Media Stew

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.