What do Michael Corleone, Jack Sparrow, Patrick Bateman and Tony Montana have in common? Answer: They are all bad guys, of course. But what Im talking about is that in a weird way we somehow “care” about them… Why is that?
We have, for example, a bright young man who could have been anything he wanted to be and who chooses to kill a cop inside a restaurant and to never look back. Or a rum aficionado who would feed his grandmother to the crocodiles if it could get him a ship with a willing crew. Yet, you can’t help but loving him. We know that taking an axe to a man’s head might usually be considered barbaric, but when accompanied by the strains of Hip To Be Square , it seems altogether more forgivable. And well, what can I say about Tony Montana, he’s living the American dream isn’t he?. So he might have killed a few people along the way, but rules are there to be broken, right?
All of them are stereotypical antiheroes and do things they’re not supposed to do. To figure out why we care about these guys dispite ourselves, let me introduce my two, of all times, favourites bad guys: Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield
This are the heroes from Pulp Fiction. Also they are drug addicted hit-men with really bad haircuts. Quentin Tarantino pulls off a very smart move when we meet those potentially unlikable guys. He makes them funny. Their discussion inside the car, during the first act, about how are called hamburgers in France is hilarious. And sort of childlike. We already start to like this pair from the get go, even if we know they are about to smoke someone soon. We are “with” them sort of speak.
Tarantino absolutely know he has a problem. These two are about to do something despicable, and at the same time, the audience must like them in order to root for them. After meeting this two knuckleheads we already like them. Tarantino in his own way makes them so funny that we almost don’t mind if they kill a few people.
The problem of making antiheroes likeable enough to root for them, is that now we need their antagonist to be even worse! A little further in the introductory scene of Pulp Fiction, Tarantino manages to do just that. Right before Vincent and Jules get to the door of their victim, Vincent starts telling a story about their boss. Saying he had someone thrown out of a window for giving his wife a simple foot massage. So if you thought those two hit men were the bad guys, well, wait until you meet the boss! What Tarantino points out here, is that these two are a couple of muppets compared to the big boss. So now we have everything properly balanced and in place again.
So bottom line is, the writer’s most important job is to help us care about the hero. Even if he or them are bad guys. Now we can continue rooting for these cool cats!
- Blake Snyder Beat Sheet – aka “BS2″
- Die Hard (1998) Structure Breakdown