Dark heroes wanted: Wimps need not apply

(Cross posted from Silk And Shadows)

Warning: Some of the following may cross the line into slight snark and spoiler territory.

Currently working on: Judging the 2009 Prism contest
Mood: Happily awash in books

joss-archerIt’s tough being a dark hero.  Sure, you’re sexy, powerful, sexy, and possess a seemingly endless supply of black leather jackets. 

But you’re also tortured.  The forces of evil are arrayed against you in ways that most cowboys, architects and veterinarians just don’t have to deal with.  Even billionaire sheiks wouldn’t put up with the brooding shadows that haunt your eyes when you’re a dark hero.

I know last week I said I was in love with my brooding hero.  But – oh fickle heart of mine — my loves only last about 400 pages, and then I’m on to a new love. 

joss2This week, I’m enamored with this hottie:

If you don’t recognize him, that’s Joss Whedon, the creative genius behind Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and — most recently — Dollhouse.  Sure, “creative genius” is overused, but I don’t think I’m overstating the case to say that Buffy and Angel helped crack the floodgates for today’s feast of paranromal and urban fantasy romances.

While Whedon is most often lauded for his strong heroines, I think he does a smashing dark hero.  Emphasis on smashing.

joss-angel2Angel, of course, was the first.  (I’m skipping the movie version of Buffy, because apparently creative genius goes through a crawling stage before it can fly.)  The vampire with a soul, poor Angel had to pay endlessly (or at least through the five seasons of his own show) for his sins.  Love was granted him — with the absolutely wrong person, naturellement, a vampire slayer – then torn away (repeatedly).  He even lost his soul on occasion.

But he portrayed one of the important lessons of a dark hero: Redemption is so often a path, not simply a destination.

joss-spike2

In contrast (the hair, if not so much the black leather), Spike was the unrepentant dark hero.  Reveling in his badness, he offered a delightful foil for the self-flagellating Angel.  

In Spike’s human past as a minor Victorian poet with a penchant for tearing up — and that’s tearing as in crying as opposed to shredding – we see another vital aspect of the dark hero: Vulnerability must be hidden from the world. 

Until, of course, the heroine rips you wide open.  Being a dark hero is sooo much more difficult when there’ s a heroine out there with your name stenciled on her love bullets.

joss-mal2

Which is not to say that torture, remorse and vulnerability has to get a man down.  Whedon does the wounded warrior with a light hand, like the wise-cracking Captain Mal from the criminally cancelled, one-season space-opera Firefly and its movie sequel, Serenity.

Mal lives one of the dark hero’s most deeply cherished credos:  That which does not kill me gives me a right fine opportunity for target practice. 

joss-horrible21Even when the hero is a villain (and, hey, villains are the heroes of their own stories), Whedon delivers a character of such depth that you can only hope a heroine comes along to set him back on that path of redemption.  (I will not spoil Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog for those who have not seen it — and why haven’t you? — but those who have know I am being very snide with that last sentence.)

Dr. Horrible taught us: It’s okay for a dark hero to sing.

joss-ballard2All of this (except for that last example, which is probably undermining my efforts) is a thinly veiled attempt to interest you in Whedon’s work because I am thoroughly enjoying his latest, Dollhouse, and I’m fatalistically convinced it won’t survive the season. 

We’re only now beginning to unravel the layers of Whedonesque plotting, but already the dark-hero-in-the-making FBI Agent Ballard is suffering nicely.  He needs to be roasted a little longer to be truly dark, so I’m hoping more people find the show.  Soon.  I need my Whedon fix since he seems to know: Dark heroes, like dark chocolate, are good for the heart.

Any fellow Browncoats in the house?  And speaking of brown coats, will someone please tell me what’ s sexier than a black leather jacket?  No, srsly, I need something sexier than a black leather jacket.

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One thought on “Dark heroes wanted: Wimps need not apply

  1. This is great, even for me who’s heroes aren’t dark, but still have to be wounded, face a heroine with the ability to rip him wide open, and be redeemed so he has a purpose for being part of the story. I will try to check out Dollhouse – TV is not my thing in the evenings but I’m wondering if I should change that pattern.

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