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Revisiting House of Lies & the Anti-Hero

A few months ago, I blogged about a new show, House of Lies. I liked the premise of the show and with it being on Showtime, I knew that there would be a certain shock factor. Of course, the show delivered. If you’ve never seen it, the show follows a business management consultant and his pod (team) as they rip companies off.

It’s an interesting, and I believe pretty true-to-life, representation of some business management consultants. When I wrote about this last time, I wasn’t sure if I would continue to watch the show because after three or four episodes, I found that I really didn’t like the main character, Marty (played by Don Cheadle). People told me to hang on, that we’d probably get to see some more redeeming qualities in Marty.

While I didn’t rush to my TV every week to watch the new episode, I didn’t delete the timer, either. When I had some extra time, I caught up on episodes. In my last post, I questioned whether Marty could be considered an anti-hero because I didn’t see any redeeming qualities in him. After watching the entire season, I can admit that the show did allow peeks into some of Marty’s vulnerabilities and there were some redeeming qualities to Marty.

He truly loves his son Roscoe, who is figuring out his sexual identity. Marty handles this well and I don’t doubt his love for his son.

Marty also appears loyal to his pod, but I do question that loyalty. By the end of the season, although I wanted to believe that Marty would stand by his team, I still felt that everything he did was to manipulate them to achieve the outcome he wanted.

Mid-way through the season, Marty supposedly fell in love. I believe he cared for April, but I’m not sure this man even understands what it means to love someone. Bottom line, he leads with his dick and his ego and does whatever he wants regardless of the consequences.

That is the sticking point for me. While I believed an anti-hero needed some redeeming qualities, Marty has taught me that it’s more than that. Even though I can see that Marty loves his son and he struggles to deal with his mother’s suicide, it’s not enough for me to want to continue to watch him. And this is why:

An anti-hero has to at least appear to be redeemable.

The anti-heroes that I can believe in have more than just redeeming qualities. There’s something about them that makes them more…human. They have some kind of moral compass, even if it’s not one that coincides with mine.

Batman doesn’t let anyone get close to him and I believe that is because he tries to protect others from getting hurt. He won’t let himself have the pleasure of a “normal” life. He’s a man on a mission, and his mission, although it feeds into something on a personal level for him, does good for society.

Dexter is much the same way. He’s a truly screwed up individual, but he lives by a code, an honorable code. He’s a good father who also happens to be a killer. Dexter does everything in his power to protect those he cares about including his son and his sister. He only kills bad guys, ones that fit the code.

For both Batman and Dexter it’s more than just having likable qualities or vulnerabilities that make them anti-heroes. They do things that don’t quite fit into the norm of what is expected for a hero, but I think that if their personal experiences had been different, if their worlds had changed early on, they could be true heroes.

This wouldn’t hold true for Marty. I can’t imagine Marty doing anything heroic because that would require him to put someone else before himself. Marty is too selfish and egotistical for that. He ruins lives around him. He has little or no regard for anyone else. I don’t believe there’s any hope for Marty.

Now that the season is over, I don’t know that I’ll watch next year. The show itself is well-written and enjoyable, but like I’ve said lots of times, for me, it’s all about character.

And I really don’t like this character.

Do you watch House of Lies? Do you enjoy watching anti-heroes?


The Anti-Hero and House of Lies

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?