Archivo de la categoría: Género y sexualidad

The re-intepretation of motherhood in Tallulah and Bad Moms

Since the dawn of movies, Hollywood has constantly drawn upon on the very idea of the mother as a selfless benefactor of her family, whose only real motive to exist within the film’s narrative  is to procure and take care of them whilst acting as a passive voice of concern and suffering.

This type of mother has its originis on the (very) dated idea in which is tought that all women, somehow, are born with their maternal instinct embedded in their mind, like some sort of “gift” given by the joys of womanhood. A gift that, for a long time, will determine the  mother’s right place to be on the movies:  inside her house, taking care of the children.

With this in mind, it’s easy to think that films by now will have eventually move past this old trope in order to create and depict better and more accurate representations of mothers in cinema. Surprisingly, it has! At least for the last few years. Sure, we still have a handful of self-denying matriarchs lurking over some movies, but we also got new types of mothers to freshen things up a bit.

Films like Netflix’s Tallulah introduces us to three different type of mothers: Tallulah, the mother for decision, Carolyn, the mother that does not want to be one, but still loves her daughter  and Margo, the estranged mother. Each one of these women comes from different backgrounds and ways of understanding motherhood.

Ellen Page is Tallulah, a woman that decides to steal Carolyn’s baby after she sees her passing out drunk on her hotel bedroom. Tallulah’s decision is in no way a well-thought idea, after all,  she only wants to have a family, to take care of someone else, but mostly, to be taken care of by someone, like his ex-boyfriend’s mom, Margo.

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Motherhood is not the only thing these three women have in common, they also are harshly judged by others, and by each other, thanks to society’s constrained schemes of who should or shouldn’t fall into the eternal selfless mom paradigm and what does a mother has o hasn’t have to do to in order to feel like a real mom.

Carolyn’s character could easily come across as a bad mom, but the movie is the first to not judge her, instead it portrays her in such a deep way like a flawed and broken person that it’s impossible not to empathize with her. Same thing could apply to Talullah’s actions, any other movie could happily chime in with a judgmental opinion of her  irresponsability. Instead, she’s portrayed like a woman who is afraid,  just as Carolyn and Margo, and is only trying to do her best with what she has and with what she knows.

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Each and one of them has a certain way to understand what is like to be a mother. For Carolyn is just another way to draw some attention from her husband, another path to save her marriage, Margo’s undesrtanding of motherhood comes across as an arrangement within two people that care a lot about each other, and for Tallulah is a mean to escape from her reality and, of course, another way to feel loved.

There’s simply  not just one way to be or to act as a mother. Mothers can be estranged from their family, a mother doesn’t need to be related by blood with their children, mothers are not the epitome of perfection and well-behavior and mothers are not certainly obliged to love unconditionally their families. Mothers are just human beings.

As compelling as this narrative is to our reality and level of understanding of gender roles in our society, there still exists some movies that totally misses the point on their attempt to contribute to the debate. Movies like Bad Moms.

This movie appeals (in a more superficial approach) to the very same idea: different women comprehending the meaning  and purpose of motherhood, whilst  being harshly judged by themselves, the ones arround them and even by the movie itself.  Unlike TallulahBad Moms does judge (and even punish) her moms when they’re tired of trying to fit right into the mold of the selfless mom.

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The film starts off with an interesting premise: Amy, Kiki and Carla are three women who interpret motherhood, to some extent, like a self-imposed responsability, but not a burden. It takes no time before they figure out a new way of understanding their mom-figure paradigm together, and, when that happens, the narrative rapidly shifts them back to become just another trope of devoted moms, turning their backs against everything the film intend to do in the first place: an intent to re-interpret motherhood.

It’s always easy to keep reproducing the stereotypes we’re already accustomed with, but, in order to live in a society which doesn’t put judgement before respect we have to start modifyng our way to understand and re-define the concepts we don’t agree on. If the movies are already trying to change it, why don’t we?

 

Ghostbusters y la malinterpretación del sexismo

Debo ser honesto con ustedes, cuando me enteré que se haría un reboot de Ghostbusters  con un elenco integrado por puras mujeres (entre ellas Kristen Wiig y Kate McKinnon) me pareció una excelente idea y, aún a la fecha, me parece uno de los mayores aciertos de la película. Sin duda alguna, el maravilloso cast se lleva todas las palmas del filme.

Aún así, no estoy aquí para hablar de todo lo que me gustó de Ghostbusters y lo mucho que me reí (porque así fue) sino para hablar de un problema que he visto repetidas veces suceder en la industria audiovisual: la competencia entre géneros como solución al sexismo recalcitrante que se vive en Hollywood (y en la vida real) día con día.

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Si hay algo en lo que me gusta hacer especial hincapié cuando veo algo nuevo es precisamente en la representación de equidad de género y las formas en las que se habla de sus hombres y mujeres. Si bien es cierto, el mundo de las películas, más que la televisión, aún sigue muy atrasado cuando se trata de representar correctamente a los personajes femeninos, así como en mantener un equilibrio entre hombres y mujeres.

También es cierto que han habido muchos directores, y casas productoras, que han enfocado sus esfuerzos en crear propuestas modernas donde se trata de mejorar el discurso, creando representaciones correctas y equitativas tanto de personajes femeninos y masculinos en su cine, ahí tenemos a la maravillosa Mad Max: Fury Road como el mejor ejemplo.

Sin embargo, creo que también muchas personas detrás de muchos otros proyectos no han entendido bien lo que significa mantener una equidad de género en sus productos audiovisuales. No se trata de darle más protagonismo a sus personajes femeninos, ni tampoco hacer menos a sus personajes masculinos. No se trata de una competencia para decidir cuál género es mejor.

Se trata, más bien, de encontrar un equilibrio donde ambos géneros sean representados correctamente, sin estereotipos, ni simplificaciones. Como individuos con características particulares, con defectos y virtudes, como personas completas que toman decisiones y se responsabilizan de ellas. Algo que no está presente en Ghostbusters y que sin duda alguna le hace mucha falta.

Si hay algo con que el filme puede vanagloriarse es con la presencia de sus 4 personajes femeninos muy bien hechos y perfilados. Mientras el director nos presenta a cuatro mujeres talentosas que buscan lograr un bien común, que sienten, viven y piensan como cualquier otro ser humano, también tiene la audacia de mostrarnos a un puñado de hombres sin motivaciones, personalidad o caracterización alguna.

Todos los personajes masculinos en esta película o bien odian a las mujeres o no son lo suficientemente inteligentes para estar a su altura. Kevin, el alcalde y Rowan no son más que una caricatura y una representación muy simplista de lo que significa ser hombre en la sociedad actual.

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Lo que me lleva a preguntarme ¿En qué momento se decidió que con minimizar a un género para darle ventaja a otro se lograría mejorar, o incluso aportar algo al debate, en el tema del sexismo recalcitrante que vemos todos los días? No, esto no se trata de poner a un género por encima del otro a manera de venganza por todos los años de machismo,se trata de algo totalmente diferente. Se trata de buscar equidad de género.

El mismo problema puede ser visto en películas como Bad Moms, donde los hombres no son más que esposos desinteresados, o en series como Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (sobre todo en su primera temporada), en la que existe una variedad de personajes masculinos que son ridiculizados constantemente, o vídeos musicales de Jennifer Lopez y Britney Spears , donde los hombres son cosificados de principio a fin.

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No, el esposo poco cariñoso que engaña a su esposa no es la forma de solucionar ni combatir al personaje de la femme fatale . No, un hombre que no tiene otro motivo  más que lucir su cuerpo en un vídeo musical no es más ni mejor que la modelo semi-desnuda que matan al instante en una película.  No, los personajes de policía y recepcionistas ineptos tampoco tienen mucho que pedirle al personaje de rubia poco inteligente.

Me gusta creer que la intención detrás de estos discursos no es mala y que, a fin de cuentas, lo que buscan es tratar de darle el protagonismo que la industria les ha quitado a los personajes femeninos a lo largo del tiempo. Sin embargo, esa no debería ser la solución.

La idea más bien es contar historias que enfoquen sus esfuerzos no en minimizar al otro género, sino en celebrar la diferencia sin necesidad de hacer uso de la discriminación y las limitaciones simbólicas auto-impuestas. Ese es el verdadero objetivo.

 

The Flash y la representación de las masculinidades contemporáneas

Vivimos en una época donde podemos encontrar en todas partes narrativas que giran alrededor de superhéroes. Si hay algo que la televisión, el cine y los cómics nos han enseñado a través de los tiempos, es que no es necesario contar historias complicadas para poder disfrutar de los mejores momentos de nuestros héroes favoritos.

Sería un error decir que estos personajes icónicos no representan la idealización de lo que el ser humano debería ser. Un superhéroe, más allá de sus conflictos internos y modos de reaccionar, es un modelo de conducta, es la construcción del sujeto moral que defiende al inocente y que es difícilmente corrompido.

Los superhéroes, al igual que las deidades, reflejan las necesidades de las sociedades, y contextos, en los que se encuentran inscritos, mientras actúan según las preconcepciones y roles que cada cultura les otorga. Superman es el mejor ejemplo de ello,  ya que funcionó como solución a la necesidad de historias optimistas de momentos difíciles que atravesó Estados Unidos con La Gran Depresión , Capitán América, por su parte, hizo lo mismo en medio de la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

Algo muy parecido sucede hoy en día con las adaptaciones de historias de superhéroes y las narrativas alrededor de la representación de género en la sociedad, sobre todo en televisión.   Mientras Jessica Jones se ha encargado de profundizar en el tema de el consentimiento y la agencia de los personajes femeninos y Supergirl ha centrado sus esfuerzos en hablar sobre el empoderamiento femenino y la importancia de las amistades, The Flash ha hecho un increíble trabajo tratando de reflejar las masculinidades contemporáneas y lo que significa ser hombre en la actualidad.

Si hay algo que han logrado The Flash y sus creadores con esta serie, es desarrollar un relato donde la construcción de sus personajes goza de la misma relevancia que la historia dentro de la narrativa. Así, cada capítulo es diseñado para distribuir equitativamente su tiempo entre sujetos y acción, lo que da pie a un interesante estudio de personajes tanto femeninos como masculinos.

Sin embargo, lo que resulta realmente cautivador del mundo de The Flash es la facilidad con la que representa a su variedad de masculinidades.

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Desde el enfoque de género, la masculinidad se entiende como el conjunto de valores, rasgos y características que la sociedad acepta y valida como comunes en un hombre. Las masculinidades, como parte importante de un sentido de identidad, son variadas y muy diferentes.No existe una sola forma de ser hombre ni de construir a un “El Hombre” como tal.

Por ello, la serie presenta adecuadamente un abanico amplio de masculinidades que permiten entender y visualizar diferentes rasgos de lo que significa para los personajes masculinos “ser hombre” y las maneras en que lo adaptan a su propia personalidad. La paternidad, la vulnerabilidad, el orgullo, el honor y la preocupación por el otro son tan solo algunos de ellos.

La paternidad y las diferentes formas en las que una persona puede convertirse en padre son clave para la narrativa de esta serie. Entender que engendrar a un hijo o hija no convierte automáticamente a alguien en padre es esencial para comprender sus implicaciones dentro de la construcción de la masculinidad en el sujeto.

En The Flash, un padre es aquella figura paterna que se preocupa por tu bienestar, con el que se comparte un lazo fuerte, al que se le puede confiar cualquier cosa y con el que se puede mostrar vulnerable sin temor a sentirse reprimido.

Que Henry Allen sea  el padre de Barry Allen, y esté presente siempre en la vida de su hijo aunque esté encerrado en la cárcel, no significa que Joe West no pueda ser parte de su vida de la misma forma al convertirse en su tutor legal y ejemplo a seguir. Que Harrison Wells no sea el padre de Cisco Ramón no impide que funcione en su vida como aquella figura de autoridad, respeto y admiración que él busca en un padre. Darle vida a alguien es muy fácil, formar un lazo es lo que puede resultar complicado.

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Estas tres figuras paternas también forman parte clave en la creación y crecimiento del héroe. The Flash necesita del apoyo emocional de Henry Allen para no perder los pies de la tierra, de la guía de Joe West para no olvidar su propósito y del conocimiento de Harrison Wells para no perder el control de sus habilidades y de sus emociones, pero sobre todo, necesita de la humanidad de Barry Allen para no dejarse llevar por el ego.

Si la humanidad de Barry es el motor que lo motiva a tomar un camino, la construcción y entendimiento de su propia identidad es el pavimento que lo mantiene corriendo. Él es una persona sensible, que se preocupa por los demás y que, muchas veces, se deja llevar por la impulsividad y sus emociones. Sin embargo, son esos rasgos lo que lo motivan a comunicarse con sus seres queridos sin miedo a mostrarse vulnerable frente a otro hombre.

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Las masculinidades son algo más que una serie de representaciones de lo masculino. Son rasgos, características, principios, valores y perfiles cambiantes que no dejan de moverse gracias a la agencia y motivación de los propios sujetos. Los hombres construyen su masculinidad a partir, y a través,  de ellos.

Los hombres en el mundo de The Flash son conscientes tanto de ello como de los propios alcances que tienen como individuos con agencia.  No son definidos por sus acciones, no son sujetos enmarcados por sus decisiones, su personalidad no es estática ni tampoco inamovible. Eddie Thawne, por ejemplo, rige su camino y modos de actuar según  sus principios, Cisco Ramón lo hace con su instinto y emociones, Harrison Wells con su ambición.

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Entender que el espectro de masculinidades es tan amplio como las aventuras de The Flash es esencial para comprender el trasfondo real de la serie. Disfrutar de una historia tan rica en personajes y representaciones contemporáneas de los hombres es lo que realmente la hace tan innovadora y emocionante.

Si Capitán América y Superman funcionaron como modelos a seguir y agentes de felicidad en una época de tristeza y desesperación, las adaptaciones a la televisión de Jessica Jones, Supergirl y Flash están funcionando como representaciones necesarias de género en respuesta al discurso sexista que vivimos día a día.

 

 

The Disaster Movie problem: Women using scrubs.

Ah, Disaster Movies, those awe-inspiring films that can put their audiences to live all sorts of sceneries around the  inevitable apocalypse, the dreadful consequences of superpopulation, and the possible obliteration of human race.  They are also known as the stories that has and stil have been constantly exploiting  the already worned out trope of women as carers.

It doesn’t matter if Godzilla is threatening to destroy an entire city, an alien race is on the verge of wiping out the whole human race of existence or a new ice age is on its way of freezing the entire planet, women will always be those concerned human beings that will stay behind (and even sacrifice their lives) to take care  of all the helpless people that can’t take care of themselves, waiting for their ultimate demise.

This superficial representation of women in cinema is nothing new. The selfless mother trope exists since the Golde Age of Hollywood, when woman (specially mothers) where portrayed as those people that transformed their households into waiting sanctuaries, waiting for their families to finally arrive in order to help them to fulfill their only mission in life (and on the movie): be there for everyone. In México’s golden age of cinema, the selfless mothers where often compared with clocks.

Apparently, even after all these years of progress in female representation on cinema, women’s intrinsic and sole effective attitude to deal with the unstoppable planet’s destruction is still to take care of their loved ones until the very end. Such characters as Kate (Amanda Peet) on 2012, Sarah (Leelee Sobieski) on Deep Impact or even Jasmine (Vivica A. Fox) on Independence Day are clear depictions of this idea.

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Films nowadays seem to kind-of know that, though. So, in order to create a somewhat adequate depiction of their martir selfless  women, Disaster Movies have gifted us with their ultimate solution to solve this one-note character problem: the Doctor/Nurse women!

Ah yes, the Doctor/Nurse women are those concerned characters that will stay behind (and even sacrifice their lives) to take care of all the helpless people that can’t take care of themselves, waiting for their ultimate demise, but wearing scrubs!

Godzilla gave us Elizabeth Olsen’s nurse, Elle Brody, The Day After Tomorrow presented us Sela Ward’s Doctor, Lucy Hall  and even Independence Day: Resurgence outsmarted itself by promoting Vivica A. Fox’s selfless character, Jasmine Dubrow, into a Doctor before (SPOILERS) killing her off at the movie’s beginning.

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These carers are in charge of the weak and innocent  people that are left behind when the catastrophe strikes. Lucy Hall stayed behind to take care of her (woman) patient at the hospital while a new ice age was happening around them, Jasmine Dubrow sacrificed herself to help her very pregnant patient to get into a helicopter before the hospital  they’re in was destroyed, and Elle Brody evaquated the premises she’s attending before running to look after her son while Godzilla is destroying the whole city.

This particular type of characters, such as the woman doctor, the woman nurse and the selfless mother, have always  worked as the perfect analogy of the womb: Life taking care of life. These women changed their aprons for scrubs and moved their homes to the hospitals. They are the carers in charge of the ill, the helpless and the innocent. They are in charge of the next generation.

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Don’t get me wrong, I think is fantastic that these women are drawn as professional individuals and not one-dimensional clichés whose only motive is to wait for their husbands to come back home alive and well. But, if you are a film director/producer/writer, the least you can do is to give them agency and purpose. Make them  well-thought and fleshed out characters, with a full arc, equated enough with their male counterparts.

Everything is not lost, though. Not all Disaster Movies are trapped in the selfless carer vortex of tropes and clichés . Films like San Andreas and Cloverfiled succesfully have created well-constructed characters like Emma (Carla Gugino), Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) or Lily (Jessica Lucas). Strong women, with particular backgrounds, agency and motives, looking for survival  outside their homes and hospitals and into the apocalypse.

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Death in a time of parallelisms: deconstructing the Antihero trope in TV shows.

Warning: This post contains serious spoilers from Bloodline season 1 and 2, House Of Cards season 2 and Breaking Bad season 5.

Nowadays, it’s very common to watch a whole roaster of heroes and superheroes take on their own stories within the visual products we consume on a daily basis. From literal heroes to protagonists with big ambitions and a strong moral compass embeded in society’s high values, television and cinema have succesfully singlehandedly developed -and adapted- marvelous stories  with heroic characters that we, as an audience, can often relate with.

Heroes are good through and through, they often do the right thing because is right and, most of the times, they get rewarded for their actions. Of course, they are not perfect, but they depict the most accurate version of a good human being. That said, what happens when this person becomes an atypical individual? One that doesn’t go by the rules, or any moral compass but his own, and is often apathetic? Simple, an Antihero arises.

According to tvtropes.org, an Antihero is an amoral misfit that has the opposite of most of the traditional attributes of a hero.  They often work as a profound deconstruction of the traditionally heroic genres. Ultimately, an Antihero is just a consequence of the hero taking another path towards their goals. A hero gone wrong.

So, where do we should draw the line between a hero and an Antihero? What does it have to happen to a hero to walk across to become the Antihero hidden underneath all of that layers? Where is the point break where there is no return? If television has taught us anything, I would probably say it could happen after facing death, specifically by murder.

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Not so long ago, a typical Antihero would be portrayed as an awful human being who’s only way of acting would be on self interest. Nowadays, TV shows are really at its best when they develop well-constructed and layered characters to carry character-driven episodes and fascinating character study plots, something that Bloodline excels at. In order to understand Antiheroes, we need to peel all the layers that surrounds them.

Before murdering his brother in cold blood, John Rayburn, one of their protagonists, was a character with clear goals and ostensibly heading to become the voice of reason and central role model of his family in the showGranted, the Rayburns are not depicted as the most healthy and perfectly functional human beings, they do have a troubled and very fucked up past that always finds a way to come back to haunt them, but at least they keep trying their very best to manage it.

John wasn’t the first Antihero to arise within Bloodline‘s narrative, along came Danny. If you have seen this show (seriously, you should watch it), you’ll know that the youngest Rayburn sibling, Sarah, died  at a young age when Danny was watching her. Living this complicated situation was the reason why he shaped the Antihero figure he became, leaving him only with a broken and damaged life to survive with. Danny and John’s  stories are clearly different whereas their actions are coincidentally embedded.

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That’s why Antiheroes in TV shows often need another character to contrast with in order to be legitimized as one in the first place. Dichothomies, parallels and counterparts work wonders with this type of characters, and their stories, when their flaws and virtues need to be noted. So it definetely wouldn’t be a coincidence if the writers of any given show decided to include someone in their script to balance and tie up their Antihero figure, in order to understand their particular gravitas and ethos.

Portraying both Danny and John as Antiheroes in season 1 and 2, correspondingly, worked greatly because it helped to enrich each character’s profound layers and motives as it was ideal to contrast them with the Bad Guy/Good Guy dichotomy level of understanding they carry with themselves.

When season one started off, John was certainly trying to do his best to be a hero. Notwithstanding, when his toxic brother arrived, he rapidly welcomes him back to the family without any hesitation, trusting him with blind faith and hoping for better days to come. Unfortunately, and depicting the perfect Antihero figure, Danny totes nothing but problems to their siblings, and even to the family inn, leading to his inevitable demise whilst passing the Antihero torch to his brother John in an somewhat act of self-defense.

Ah, ‘self-defense’, a simple word reflecting on an act so big and backhanded that can easily trigger any kind of feelings within a human being. Something that can transform a self-righteous cop into a murderer or a chemistry teacher, into a drug lord.

Just like Walter White, one of the most well-known Antiheroes of our time, that became that cold apathetic drug lord we all love to hate after his very first murder: a drug dealer called Emilio Koyima. Just like John Rayburn, he commited murder thoughtlessly on a self-defense act that not only pushed him to a road where there was no coming back, but also awoke the Antihero hidden deep inside of him.

Breaking Bad did a great job portraying Walter White’s ascension from the shy cancer victim to the shrewd drug lord, thirsty with power, that uses his family as an excuse for his behavior. Jesse Pinkman, on the other hand, served as a counterpoint to Walt’s antihero. He was the inocent life that White carried along, and couldn’t save, but didn’t turn into him either.

Their relationship didn’t work as a dichotomy as it is, but more as an action/consequence kind of dynamic. Where Walter White’s delusional plans were, Jesse Pinkman’s insecurities arose. Narratively speaking, this depiction was perfectly thought in order to draw upon the Antihero status of the character by contrasting him with his student’s decisions.

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Whereas Jesse Pinkman did get to live on the season’s end, Walter White, just as Danny Rayburn, got a comeuppance of his own and  ended up dying. The same fate that Zoe Barnes, in House Of Cards, had to face, before even having the chance of becoming an Antihero, when a murkier Frank Underwood decided that she was not relevant for him anymore as she started to pose a threat to his journey for the presidency.

Underwood’s main Antihero qualities veer around his prowess to manipulate people to do what he wants without making him look bad. Zoe Barnes’ murder, along with Peter Russo’s, was that necessary flame that the character needed in order to gain that apathy and brazen attitude that distinguish his Antihero status.

So, whilst John and Walter are paired with another men in order to aknowledge their bits and parts that they all share as male Antiheroes, House Of Cards cleverly matched up Frank with his wife, Claire, an evident Antihero on the rise for power. Unlike any of them, Underwood’s wife function in the story is not to become a contrast character but more to work as a parallel, or an equal. Whatever Frank does, Claire has already thought and perfected. She embodies everything he is. She is the result of all the decisions he took along the way and managed to get away with it.

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Whilst death and murder are often used as a defining moment of the Antihero, contrast and parallelisms with characters around are used to understand what’s going on in their minds. Hence, as it happens in real life, we only judge someone when we compare them with our own experiences.