Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Choose His Destiny

 Judge Sweeney Todd for me.

A friend recently told me that a great evil of the world was the proliferation and glorification of the Antihero.  When I first heard that sentiment, I didn't know how to take it.

I don't know how to judge those words now.

Initially, when thinking of the Antihero, my mind drifted to the barber formerly known as Benjamin Barker.  The distinguishing principle about him, in my quick recollection, was that he was born out of pain.  I hastily then surmised that to be diagnosed as an Antihero, you have to have endured some great atrocity. 

I took this disposition into my maiden viewing of Gus Van Sant's sophomore flick, Drugstore Cowboy.

I looked and I looked and I looked... 
...But my druggie of a lead really didn't have much of a claim to be an Antihero.  No real wrong seemed to be thrust upon him.  

He just was what he was.  

Then a revelation came to me; it's not about the amount of pity that we have for the protagonist, it's about what we compare him to.  In the case of Drugstore Cowboy, we meet many worse druggies than our lead, as well as meeting the old clergyman that hooked our boy on narcotics from an early age.  Passing out doogies from the altar, now there's some villainy.

Then there's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.  He kills with relative abandon.  He slits the throat of many-a stranger.  And yet, we are given two (debatably three) characters who are far viler.  Mrs. Lovett, the pie maker herself, tempts Sweeney to eat of the sick fruit of murder from the very start.  She has no pity, no moral fiber.  And no bleak past that we are aware of.  Worse still is the Judge himself of whom Sweeney stalks.  He is a self-righteous evil.  Somewhere deep down we know pride to be the worst of all sins, for it came first.  And so we are happy when Todd catches his man.

If the Antihero is just the guy who is least evil, what does that mean?  What are the ramifications?  Is my friend right?  Should such creative constructions be undone?

It's a question of levels, no?

This rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.  This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.  Revelation 20:5-6

Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work.  If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.  If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.   1 Corinthians 12-15

It would appear then that there are two resurrections, 
and various degrees of reward in heaven....
...So, can the Antihero be that guy that gets into heaven by the skin of his teeth?



  1. I think you are spot on with the ideal that the antihero is shaped by those with whom we can easily compare him to. Though after our last discourse I am admittedly hesitant to attempt a brief dialogue, I do have a question. How would you classify protagonists who are glorified career criminals. Movies like Inside Man or the Oceans series (which don't get me wrong, I am not a fan).

  2. That's the thing, I don't know how to classify these guys!

    I'm totally rooting for Clive Owen in Inside Man, and I totally shouldn't be. Yowzer!

    Is it a seduction towards accepting evil as good? I'm not sure.