Tom Hiddleston as Loki in Marvel Studios' LOKI, Season 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.

I’m Begging Men To Learn What an Anti-Hero Is

As Taylor Swift once said, “It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero.” She was right, because all I do is constantly explain what an anti-hero is to the people of the world. Time and time again, I am left screaming that these characters who have, in the past, done some things that are wrong, are not villains as they are labeled. Rather, they are in a special category, something fun called an “anti-hero.”

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Villains are often the bad guys who never change; they stay that way and their evil ways fuel them, but what makes an anti-hero so special, and why we love them so deeply, is that they contain multitudes.

So tell me why, in the new behind the scenes featurette for Loki season 2, I heard Loki Laufeyson referred to as a villain by executive producer Kevin R. Wright? Back when The Avengers came out, fans of the god of mischief would have started to push back against the idea of him as a villain, but the general public would have probably agreed with the label. Calling him a “villain” after that movie wasn’t unheard of. He was, in a sense, a villain to the Avengers at the time. Throughout the years, though, he grew as a character and changed his ways, and his arc as a character is no longer villainous. Saying he’s “always” been a villain, as Wright did, seems like taking him back decades. In fact, it is taking him back at least an entire season of television we went through with him.

This is, unfortunately, a problem within Marvel that happens more often than not with those in power talking about their characters. For some reason, the word “anti-hero” is absent from their vocabulary. They have their heroes and their villains, which isn’t fair when an anti-hero is the best kind of character in the Marvel canon.

Let their anti-heroes live

Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) in her Scarlet Witch form in 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness'
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Characters like Wanda Maximoff and Loki are just the start of the anti-hero collection for Marvel. There’s the Punisher, who thrives on working in that gray area between being a hero and doing what the “heroes” won’t do,” as well as characters like Deadpool and his smart mouth. Even Bucky Barnes is considered an anti-hero, and there are legions of fans on the internet who will write you novels if you dare call him a “villain,” so where is that same respect for characters like Loki and Wanda? Neither are villains. They’re not heroes, but they don’t deserve to be called villains, either.

Hearing Loki called a villain in a featurette for his own show, where he’s shown us the growth he’s made as a character, weirdly hurts—maybe because we’ve seen how far Loki has come and the brilliance that Tom Hiddleston has put into his character. But it really does just remind me how for some reason, people refuse to recognize the term anti-hero when talking about these characters. It’s weird! An anti-hero is the best kind of character! Embrace it!

(featured image: Disney+)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.