Antiheroes are nothing new in cinema, TAXI DRIVER saw to that by crafting one of the most engaging characters of all-time in Travis Bickle, who in turn birthed generations of antiheroes in film and on television. What is somewhat new about the antihero is what I call the “Dexter effect,” that is, how writers and directors take their antiheroes – by design deplorable, heinous people – and generate empathy for them. You get what I mean by the “Dexter effect,” right? For seven seasons that series had people actively rooting for a serial killer. And you can say all you want to about the kind of people he was killing, but bottom line, dude was still draining dozens upon dozens of people of their blood, chopping up their bodies into manageable pieces, then dropping them in his own special underwater necropolis. Plus, he was keeping trophies. Don’t kid yourselves, Dexter was a psychopath of the highest order and no one you want to encourage with support. But we did. We couldn’t help it, in fact. But why?
One of the best antiheroes of this decade has got to be Louis Bloom from Dan Gilroy’s 2014 film NIGHTCRAWLER. Bloom is a parasite who isn’t content to be passive, he manipulates his host – crime and violence – to his greatest fiscal advantage, caring not for the lives in the way of his next big scoop. He’s a malcontent, a lecherous voyeur, a criminal himself, and in serious need of behavioral therapy, but yet again, we view him as an underdog more than we do a sociopath, someone to be rooted for instead of against.
In the latest bit of insightful script analysis from Michael Tucker and his Lessons From the Screenplay YouTube channel, NIGHTCRAWLER goes under the microscope to figure out just how Gilroy conjures our empathy for his decidedly unlikable central character. It is, as we have come to expect from Tucker, grade-A film criticism and an eye-opening opportunity for anyone who dabbles in the art of story.