Broken-down Poetry: Title Track: Antihero


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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Title Track: Antihero

Last summer I created one of those obnoxious “How Well Do You Know Lauren Deidra Sawyer?” Facebook quizzes – the kind that notifies you every single time someone takes it. “Samantha answered 60 percent correctly.” And my response: “Wow, my own sister should know me better that that.”

But I put a lot of thought into this quiz because I wanted to stump my test-takers. I mimicked that one college professor who makes impossibly hard quizzes that stresses out his students to the point of crying. Or dropping the class.

I threw in a few easy questions like, “What color is my hair?” (orange), and “Where do I want to live when I grow up?” (Portland). But the majority of the questions were tough like, “What’s my favorite McConn beverage?” (Cuban latte with a shot of hazelnut), and the question that led me to write this column: “Who is my favorite character on the show ‘How I Met Your Mother’?” (Barney).

Barney Stinson is legen – wait for it – dary.

Barney, played by Neil Patrick Harris (from the just-as-legendary “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”), is the comedic drive of the show. He has the best lines. He is the best dressed.

But he is also the very antithesis of everything I believe in as a woman.

Barney treats women like meat. He prides himself of having sex 200 times with 200 different women and celebrates “Not a Father Day” with his other proud-to-be-promiscuous buddies.

But … I love him.

Despite our opposite values – even if he is a fictitious character – I watch “How I Met Your Mother” for Barney.

But why? I want to believe that there’s a bigger answer than “he makes me laugh.” Because though Barney is a hilarious character, this doesn’t explain my gravitation toward the “bad guys” in movies and TV shows. Barney isn’t my only “bad guy” favorite; he’s one on a list of many.

So let’s think this through:

1. We love the “bad guys” because of their dramatic and mysterious nature. You’ve heard that people “fear the unknown,” but sometimes I think we like the unknown – a lot. It keeps us stirred and on our toes. Why do high school students love drama so much? It’s because nothing exciting is actually going on in their lives. When it comes to characters on TV or in the movies, we tend to like to those who aren’t like the everyday people we know.

2. We love the “bad guys” because Hollywood casts hot actors to play them – to be blunt. My favorite character on NBC’s “Heroes” is Sylar, played by the oh-so-good-looking Zachary Quinto. Minus those caterpillar eyebrows, I know that part of my fascination with this villain is because of his looks. This is shallow, I know. But honestly, I think most of us would agree.

3. We love the “bad guys” because we believe in redemption. I found this true after watching “Blood Diamond” for Globe Fest last year. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Danny Archer, was throughout the entire movie nothing less than a jerk. He used people; he lied to get his way. But in the end, when he’s dying on that mountain (spoiler alert!), I can’t help but bawl. Finally he learned that people have value. There’s nothing more satisfying than a bad guy turning good.

I’m not trying to over-spiritualize this, but I did promise in my first column to seek the truth in the media. In this case, I would say as humans it’s not that hard to sympathize with the “bad guys.” Sometimes, we act just like them. Maybe we mistreat the opposite sex like Barney Stinson, or stir drama like Regina George.

I also think that for most of us, we desire to see the Hollywood thieves, whores, murderers and drug dealers redeemed, for the same reason we want to see our non-Christian neighbors redeemed. I hope this doesn’t seem like too hyperbolic, because I don’t think it is. I believe it is engrained in us as Christians to want to see lives transformed. Even in fictional characters. Even in Hollywood.

The post was originally printed in Indiana Wesleyan University's The Sojourn newspaper.

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