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IdleRich
27-04-2014, 02:26 AM
This something that occurred to me to ask recently. Been watching Breaking Bad recently and got to the fifth series and I notice that my girlfriend is losing interest in what happens, the more evil Walter becomes. I've not been that bothered by the series so far but I feel that having watched to the fifth series I want to see the end of the story - I don't really care whether or not I'm rooting for the protagonist. But a lot of people do. I don't think Breaking Bad could have started with Walter as a bad guy, they had to sucker people in with the victim story line and get people on his side before they could start with the bad stuff. Most people needed to be lured in before they could go that way.
Which started me thinking - what are the stories when the main character is a bad guy? Which was the first of these? Girlfriend suggested Shakespeare but I'm not sure that's what I mean. Othello, Macbeth are both partly sympathetic, they are led astray by others and situations. But what's the first book with completely, unredeemablly nasty characters. I guess 120 Days of Sodom could be a contender.

Mr. Tea
27-04-2014, 04:56 PM
Raskolnikov (Crime & Punishment)? Satan (Paradise Lost)?

Interesting thread. I liked BB but found it a bit of a drag towards the 5th series just because of how unremittingly bleak it got (getting that way about Game of Thrones a little, to be honest). But Anna feels the same way Liza does, and I suppose I did a bit too. However, even as Walt descends into irredeemable evil I felt myself nonetheless rooting for him in a completely amoral way, simply out of respect for his ingenuity, determination and sheer Wille zur Macht, as well as a desire to see the other (equally shitty) characters get their comeuppance. In fact, apart from a few points where Walt does something that just seems almost gratuitously evil (watching Jane die from a heroin overdose and not lifting a finger to help her, poisoning Brock in order to manipulate Jesse), the bits where I wanted to yell at Walt through the TV were when he did something stupid rather than morally bad. But then I guess the show's writers have such a finely attuned sense of classical drama that it was always going to be Walt's hubris, rather than simple badness, that led to his downfall.

mistersloane
27-04-2014, 04:58 PM
Hamlet kinda. Paradise Lost?

Alot of the post-Sade decadent books are nasty characters, amoral, Maldoror definitely doesn't have any remorse.

Mr. Tea
27-04-2014, 07:59 PM
Oh yeah, Maldoror is a good one but that book is so all over the fucking place I'd have a hard time describing it as a 'story' as such.

Hamlet ends up being a bit of a fuck-up but isn't he basically a noble character driven to extreme actions by the circumstances?

Patrick Swayze
28-04-2014, 12:31 AM
the emperor's new clothes

Slothrop
28-04-2014, 12:59 AM
Hamlet ends up being a bit of a fuck-up but isn't he basically a noble character driven to extreme actions by the circumstances?
Yeah, agree.

Richard III, OTOH...

you
28-04-2014, 01:07 AM
Ripley...

you
28-04-2014, 01:08 AM
The Room - Hubert Selby Jr

you
28-04-2014, 01:09 AM
Alan Mabanckou - African Psycho

you
28-04-2014, 01:10 AM
Isserley in Under The Skin by Michel Faber...

you
28-04-2014, 01:12 AM
Idle - there are a lot of utterly amoral protagonists out there, but that doesn't stop you from rooting for them and turning the pages.

Mr. Tea
28-04-2014, 10:24 AM
Ripley...

Huh? Which Ripley? I can only think of Sigourney in the Alien films, and she's bad-ass but not bad.

mistersloane
28-04-2014, 11:46 AM
lol Talented Mr Ripley I think

Yeah right about Hamlet, we double posted about Paradise Lost Mr Tea!

mistersloane
28-04-2014, 11:47 AM
Is Glamorama the only book ever written where the protagonist is a total dick, but you still end up rooting for him, or following him or something.

mistersloane
28-04-2014, 11:50 AM
I know Martin Amis did a few but I don't count him cos he's a wanker

sufi
28-04-2014, 11:53 AM
evil protagonist is a vintage meme
http://villains.wikia.com/wiki/Gilgamesh_%28Epic_of_Gilgamesh%29

Mr. Tea
28-04-2014, 11:54 AM
lol Talented Mr Ripley I think

Yeah right about Hamlet, we double posted about Paradise Lost Mr Tea!

Ha yeah I saw that, was wondering if you were questioning my post then realized it was only 2 minutes after mine.

Mr. Tea
28-04-2014, 11:56 AM
evil protagonist is a vintage meme
http://villains.wikia.com/wiki/Gilgamesh_%28Epic_of_Gilgamesh%29

See also: God (in the OT, at least).

woops
28-04-2014, 11:59 AM
My first thought was Lermontov's Hero of our Time
I think that's more or less agreed to be the first anti-hero.
Basically appearance of novel = emergence of good baddies

IdleRich
28-04-2014, 05:08 PM
Not read Paradise Lost - is Satan the main protagonist?
With the Shakespeare stuff, I'm not sure that that's what I was asking for - I think that there is an acceptance that the most evil ones (Richard III say) must ultimately be punished and be seen to be be punished as a result of their iniquities, I guess you couldn't show someone profiting from their crimes without there being an ultimatel reckoning or you would have been denounced as being immoral.

IdleRich
28-04-2014, 05:08 PM
The Lermontov one is interesting - he's not really evil though is he, just kinda neutral I'd say.

IdleRich
28-04-2014, 05:13 PM
"Interesting thread. I liked BB but found it a bit of a drag towards the 5th series just because of how unremittingly bleak it got (getting that way about Game of Thrones a little, to be honest). But Anna feels the same way Liza does, and I suppose I did a bit too. However, even as Walt descends into irredeemable evil I felt myself nonetheless rooting for him in a completely amoral way, simply out of respect for his ingenuity, determination and sheer Wille zur Macht, as well as a desire to see the other (equally shitty) characters get their comeuppance."
I could say a lot about Breaking Bad (guess there is a dedicated thread) but I'm particularly interested in the way that for some people his becoming more and more evil makes them lose interest whereas for some people it doesn't. I guess those first people would never watch/read something with a truly evil protagonist and if you set out to create something like that then you're instantly halving your potential audience. Maybe that's why there are relatively few - and maybe why with things like Maldoror which are so out there already it wasn't a concern.

crackerjack
29-04-2014, 09:13 AM
Huh? Which Ripley? I can only think of Sigourney in the Alien films, and she's bad-ass but not bad.

Highsmith wrote about 5 Ripley books. He doesn't start off evil, more a bit pathetic, and even when he is 'the bad guy' you're still expected to root for him. I always sense that Highsmith feels most of his misdeeds are offset by his being so damn cultured.

Mr. Tea
29-04-2014, 10:05 AM
A Clockwork Orange?

Good call.

Eric Cartman?

Benny B
29-04-2014, 10:09 AM
rebours - JK Huysmans

Perfume - Patrick Suskind

Mr. Tea
29-04-2014, 10:30 AM
In Poe's short story 'The Casque of Amontillado' the protagonist assures us that his victim has committed some appalling outrage against him and that he therefore deserves everything he gets, but this crime is never specified so we just have to take it on trust. I guess it's a pretty classic case of an unreliable narrator.

you
30-04-2014, 12:03 PM
Tom Ripley from the Highsmith books yeah

you
30-04-2014, 12:10 PM
Highsmith wrote about 5 Ripley books. He doesn't start off evil, more a bit pathetic, and even when he is 'the bad guy' you're still expected to root for him. I always sense that Highsmith feels most of his misdeeds are offset by his being so damn cultured.

I've just read the first 3. For me, right from the start he is amoral and selfish and the reader is oddly and deeply sympathetic with his woes of want and greed. I don't read Highsmith's intentions that way, rather being so cultured is a further aspect of his utter greed and driven by insecurity.

baboon2004
30-04-2014, 01:32 PM
Is Glamorama the only book ever written where the protagonist is a total dick, but you still end up rooting for him, or following him or something.

I never even managed to get through Glamorama, and I'm a BEE fan - but generally he does quite well in the getting-the-reader-to-root-for-psychopathic-assholes stakes.

Good call on Martin Amis - I think he intends his characters to be likeable.