We admired Superman for being the man of steel, loved Batman for his ability to maneuver the Batmobile to catch Gotham's goons in the dark of the night. Then there were Spiderman, Ironman, the incredible Hulk, Captain America- all figures of indomitable physical prowess and an intellect equally equipped to handle crime. These were the people we idolized growing up.
Now, all grown up and armed with a less utopian view of the world, we follow a whole different breed of gentlemen. These men have more or less the same purpose in life as their Kryptonite predecessor, which is to bring to light the truth and defeat the forces of evil. These heroes don't have any physical superpowers- some of them can't even walk straight. But what makes us put them up on a pedestal above is their brainpower. Their amazing, wondrous, sharp and witty observations, epiphanies and philosophies..
Welcome to the age of worship of the nerds and the geeks. But that's not all the hero of the day is about. True, he is a genius and up there at the top of his game, but there is a darker, murkier side to him.
Eight years back, we met a misanthropic, arrogant cripple who solved medical mysteries at the speed of Bolt. House immortalised the line 'Everybody Lies' - his doctrine of not accepting things as they seem and digging beneath. It was his staunch refusal to believe in the necessity of being good that helped unearth the truth and save lives. No matter what people said about him, how much he was hated, he was the one everybody always turned to for advice. But, disregarding his image as the best doctor across states, he is miserable, addicted to opiates and unable to move on and get a grip on his life. He is withdrawn, unsocial, alcoholic and prone to hallucinations- does not need much googling to find out what personality disorder these add up to.
Two years later, in 2006, we meet a blood splatter pattern analyst working with the police department who has a 'need to kill'. Supercop by day, serial killer by night, Dexter is the closest to a comic-book hero you can get. A comic book hero which is much closer to reality than a cape clad bird of the night. A comic book hero who considers himself to be detached from the rest of humanity, who can kill without the pangs of guilt tearing his conscience apart. An anti-hero, perhaps.
In July 2010, England's most popular detective made his way back in to our lives. The new Sherlock is not only as sharp and unforgivingly witty as the older one, he is also technologically equipped. Obsessed with unmasking criminals, his ingenious deductions leave the audience gasping for breath. But, Sherlock is, in his own words, only a 'high-functioning sociopath'. He is a loner, highly eccentric and bizarre with no person to call a friend except Watson. The audience sees him tearing himself to pieces with anxiety and boredom in between problems to solve.
What is it that makes us tune in to watch these men in action, day after day, till our eyes get sore? The plots and directions of these shows are exceptional, no doubt. But why this affinity to anti-heroes?Is it because we find them cool? Or is it because they are different? Or maybe because they are more like us than any other hero we see. They have a darker side. They, like us, are striving to make things better, set things right, find the truth, but with all of that going on in their head and taking it's toll on their cerebrum, they develop issues of their own to deal with. Human, in the end.
Usher in the era of the super-geniuses.