So I’ve been really noticing lately how today’s fictional heroes seem to be similar to the Romantic notion of the Byronic hero…particularly with today’s fascination with vampires. However, I’m not going to talk about vampires right now because I am currently suffering from vampire overload(anybody else?). Instead, I’m going to talk about some of my favorite characters and their “Byronic-ness.”
The Byronic hero is a tortured soul who is often “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” Lord Byron was “the” Byronic hero. In all his beauty, craziness, and ultimate sex appeal of the time period, he was just a moody bad boy who the women (and even some of the men) seemed to love. Just look at him!
Popular characters throughout fiction that exude Byronic-ness are Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, the Phantom from Phantom of the Opera, Captain Wentworth from Persuasion, and my personal favorite, Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre.
The Byronic hero is a popular choice for the heroes of today’s where corruption and danger are often involved in our daily choices. They are tortured souls who are searching for a reason to continue, a cause to fight for, hope. They are outsiders who go against the grain of society, who never quite fit in. It’s easy to see how the undead fit in to this category.
So who are the Byronic heroes I’m thinking of?
Malcolm Reynolds-Yes, that’s right, the one and only captain of the firefly ship Serenity. Described as “a man of honor in a den of thieves,” Captain Mal was on the losing side of a civil war in space. Now, he is an unwilling thief with a heart of gold. His crew is like family to him as he navigates the skies and looks for jobs to make some money and get back at the Alliance (the greedy super government that won the war and has taken over space). Captain Mal is the quintessential Byronic hero to me. If you’ve seen Firefly, you know what I’m talking about. If not, check it out! You won’t be disappointed!
James “Sawyer” Ford-Now I’ve only seen Lost from Season 4 to the present (an amazing accomplishment I’ve been told) but Sawyer, to me is the tortured soul looking for redemption and a reason. A talented con man, Sawyer has no problem doing the “tough jobs” on the island and taking charge. However, Sawyer has a soft side to him which often reveals itself when least expected. Now I know many people feel that Kate is the woman for him, but no one in their right mind can still think that after seeing Sawyer and Juliet together. I mean come on!
Max Evans-Roswell is still one of my all time favorite shows! Max was the leader of an alien race who crashed down to Earth in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. While he’s been trying to keep out of everyone’s radar and act like a normal teenager, he falls crazy in love with local waitress Liz Parker and ultimately “outs” his alien-ness to her when he heals her from a gun shot wound. Max suffers throughout the first half of the season with his inability to connect with Liz romantically for fear that he will hurt her by being alien. The entire show is swoon-worthy due to this romance. Max is constantly battling his inner demons of overwhelming responsibility, fear of hurting the one he loves, and protecting everyone involved.
Barney “Swarley” Stinson-Now some may feel this is a stretch, but here’s my thinking. Barney is the arrogant, egotistical, and ultimate womanizer of How I Met Your Mother. However, he has the deep seeded fear of being alone. He struggles to be accepted, always making sure he is Ted’s best friend (even though everyone knows that would be Marshall). We’ve gotten to see Barney’s vulnerable side many times throughout the show, but particularly when he begins dating Robin. While we don’t see Barney’s emotional struggle too often because he is often the comedic side of the show and Ted is the serious one, I believe Barney is more the Byronic hero of today, the anti-hero.
So there you have it, my modern Byronic Heroes. Do you agree? Who do you think fits the description these days?