Associating with Antiheroes

I have written before about the fact that many readers delight in a well-written antihero. But… why? Why do we enjoy reading stories which feature characters who teeter on the ledge between hero and villain?

Okay, let me back up a second. For the purposes of this discussion, I am: 1) speaking exclusively of fiction and 2) making the enormous assertion that we read because we find the act of reading enjoyable.

That being said, why do we enjoy reading about antiheroes?

Affective Disposition Theory (ADT) explains why an audience finds a particular narrative enjoyable; the theory predicts that a reader’s pleasure will increase when a likable character experiences positive outcomes as a result of their actions, and also when a disliked character experiences negative outcomes.

The reverse is also true: a reader’s enjoyment of the narrative will be diminished when a liked character experiences negative outcomes, or a disliked character is rewarded.

Further, the reader’s like or dislike of a character is closely tied to both empathy and morality; arguably ‘good’ characters who do ‘good’ things are likable, while ‘bad’ characters who do ‘bad’ things are repellent.

So, for our purposes, there are three components to