Jan. 8th, 2008

batyatoon: (gashlycrumb)
So everyone's talking about Sweeney Todd (sorry, [livejournal.com profile] agonistes, me too). And in the comments to [livejournal.com profile] filkertom's post on the subject a while back, somebody was complaining about how the musical changed the original story, and expressed disgust for how Sondheim turned Todd into "a misunderstood anti-hero".

I boggled a little, as I'm sure at least some of you are, but it got me thinking. Sweeney Todd is obviously not a misunderstood anti-hero, but what is he?

Has anyone yet coined and defined the term anti-villain?

If an anti-hero is a character you're not supposed to like, or sympathize with much, or admire, but who is nonetheless the one you're supposed to root for ... I propose to define an anti-villain as a character you do like or sympathize with or admire, but are nonetheless not supposed to root for.

Sweeney Todd may be an example of such. So is everyone from Booth to Oswald in Sondheim's Assassins. I'm not sure where to draw the line between an anti-villain and a villain who has been humanized to the point of drawing audience sympathy, or one who is just so awesome as to draw audience admiration. I think the difference may be in the presentation of villain as protagonist.

Following the immediate obvious association, does this make Elphaba an anti-villain? I don't think so, but I'm not sure I can put my finger on why.

Discuss.

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