A new show started on Showtime this past Sunday. It airs right after one of my favorites, Shameless (which I posted about last week), so I decided to give it a shot. The show is called House of Lies and stars Don Cheadle as a management consultant. The show’s pace is fast and the characters are interesting, but I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll continue to watch and here’s the reason: I’m not sure I can get behind Marty (Cheadle’s character). Here’s a trailer for the show, but it is not safe for work:
For me, TV is mostly about falling for characters, so this is a sticking point. I spent some time thinking about it, which led me to decide that Marty is an anti-hero. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, I sought out what I thought would be the best definition. This comes from LearnHub:
Defining the Anti-Hero
The definition of an anti-hero can be subjective. He is usually the protagonist or a key character. Generally, an anti-hero will have the following qualities:
- it is clear that he has human frailties; he has flaws
- he is more accessible to readers because he is more “gritty”
- he is often disillusioned with society, or increasingly becomes so
- he often seeks redemption or revenge for his own satisfaction, and sometimes for the greater good of society
- unlike the classical tragic hero, he doesn’t always think about what the right, moral thing to do – he often thinks about what’s right for him
- he is often misunderstood by others in his society
- he could perhaps be called a noble criminal or a vigilante
- qualities normally belonging to villains – such as amorality, greed and violent tendencies – are tempered with more human, identifiable and even noble traits
- their noble motives are pursued by breaking the law; a.k.a. “the ends justify the means”
- increased moral complexity and rejection of traditional values
Now, I have absolutely nothing against the anti-hero. One of the best anti-heroes on TV right now is Dexter and I adore Dexter. Dexter is a serial killer who targets those who escaped punishment for their wrongdoings. He is a vigilante, but you see a softer side to him when it comes to his son and his sister. Also, he lives by a code where he needs to prove (to himself) that the criminal deserves to die.
The cast of characters from Leverage would also be considered anti-heroes. They steal. No matter how you slice it, what they do is illegal. This is mitigated by the fact that they commit crimes to help those in need. They fund their entire operation themselves, but it is with money gained from the first job they pulled together. Money from ill-gotten gains.
In looking at Marty and comparing him to the list above, I think my problem with him is that I don’t find much to like about him. I don’t see the bad qualities being tempered with good ones. I think the rest of the list suits him perfectly. I don’t see “increased moral complexity,” just amorality. And I’m not sure that’s enough to keep me tuning in.
Did you watch House of Lies? What did you think? How about anti-heroes — love ’em or hate ’em?