The Antihero: Reflections on Heroes, Revolution, and Pop Culture

By Rodrigo Díaz, Josemaría Moreno, and Bernardo Moreno

The Twilight of the Heroes

Regarding the celebrations of the birth of Ignacio Allende (January 21, 1769), hero of the independence of Mexico—of an incipient but decidedly classist Mexico, whose nature of economic inequality and social disparity is so obvious even today—we will now take a moment to reflect on the antihero, i.e., an epic figure that defines an era, tradition, and culture, but at a terrible cost: death, exclusion, fanaticism, nationalism, and alienation. 

Although the antihero figure also represents a very human quality, seen through a critical nuance, he or she reflects the values on which are founded a time, an identity, a narrative that, although disastrous or negative in its consequences, reveals the ideals on which all betrayal is founded. In the end, all revolution is necessarily a betrayal, the philosopher Gilles Deleuze would say. In the case of Mexico, no matter how profoundly our independence betrayed the majority of the population yesterday and today, it also instilled a feeling of autonomous rebellion and fraternity between peoples and classes that differentiates Mexico and all of Latin America from other parts of the globe, turning us into a beacon of humanity and a symbol of hope for all societies then and now. 

Richard Wagner, The Ring of the Nibelung (1876) 

This famous and obsessive musical-poetic experiment that revolutionized music is made up of four epic operas that took its author 26 years to complete and that required—for its correct staging—the construction of a theater founded expressly for its interpretation, Bayreuth. This cycle of operas lasts for more than 15 hours, usually spread over four days. The musical element of this work that perhaps most profoundly revolutionized the history of music is the novel use of the leitmotiv, a thematic motif that repeats itself and becomes more complex as the work progresses, giving dimension to the characters, concepts, and ideas. The theme of the work is based on different elements of German mythology and cemented a romantic identity for its people. With his philosophy, Hegel sought to lay the historical foundations for the formation of a superior nation. Wagner staged it, Nietzsche glimpsed its spiritual potential but renounced it (disgusted by its nationalist provincialism), and Hitler tried to finally create it. A hero is born to a people, only to desolate a whole world.

Luisa Almaguer, Mataronomatar (2019) 

The concept of antihero is also related to the ordinary people and their problems in everyday life—sow sometimes life breaks you or perhaps you overcome it (or not). Far from the superiority and success of the superman, the antihero is ultimately someone you can easily relate to. The authenticity, sound, lyrics, compositions, attitude, and aesthetics of Luisa Almaguer make her one of the subversive icons of Mexico City and, of course, one of our favorite antiheroes. Her somber and deep voice—the display of dirty realism in her lyrics, the music between cumbia and industrial that she manages to produce—catapult her as a great artist. In “Mataronomatar,” Luisa’s latest album, she shares, through eight tracks, her anguish and loneliness within this society, giving a voice to the trans community and reminding us of the danger in which they find themselves. 

The Boys, Eric Kripke (2019) 

It is worth remembering that in mythology—and later in comics and popular culture—the hero was the embodiment of virtues and, above all, a defender of values, possessing particular abilities with which to face (other things being equal) equally powerful demons or villains. Children of gods, victims of some supernatural accident, or aliens with a humanoid appearance, ethics used to be the glass through which everyone looked, putting their skill on the side of humanity—until the antiheroes appeared on the scene (also powerful subjects, but with more human, corruptible, vain, and emotionally unstable traits). These are the characters of “The Boys,” a group of ordinary humans who oppose “The Seven,” a superpower elite serving the capitalist Vought International. They are spurred by the need for revenge because it is revealed that each of them has a painful past, in which the negligence of these superpowered ones—who are also TV stars, action toys, political mercenaries, die-hard narcissists—is the poison in their guts that makes them confront them despite their obvious handicaps. This series is available on Prime, from which we expect its fourth season soon.