I’m not 100% sure Rorschach is the best example. He might be more cynical than pessimistic, but it’s been a while since I saw the movie or read the graphic novel. I asked a friend if he knew of a pessimistic hero and this is what we came up with. Rorschach might be more cynical and jaded than ‘everything is hopeless’. Then again, that might be too extreme. Pessimism is to look on the bad side of things and I believe he does mention or hint at what they’re doing is an unending path.
Anyway, this makes me wonder if you can have a pessimistic hero. One who is still pushing ahead or possibly being dragged along. They feel like they’re going to lose the battle or never find what they’re looking forward. Every cloud will rain and there’s nothing you can do about it, so stop smiling. The glass is half empty and I’m pretty sure that isn’t water. Just a miserable, negative ray of gloom.
I can see this mentality wearing on a reader and author a lot. To keep a person like this throughout a book would cause some friction because you’d be hard pressed to believe others would deal with them. Even worse if the story ends and they’re still claiming things are bad. So this is a good starting point for a character evolution or even the ending for an optimistic hero. Though you’d have to figure out why a pessimist would try to do something they either hated or didn’t believe in. Again, this is the very watered down and extreme type of pessimism that I’m working with. Plenty of people have negative outlooks and still carry on because that’s what you do.
An interesting aspect to this character type and his/her partner the Optimistic Hero is audience reaction. People love to see a smiling, shiny hero get the positive outlook knocked out of them. I’ve seen people who thoroughly enjoy this character arc and get angry if the hero maintains their original optimism. Now I don’t hear as many people cheering when the Pessimistic Hero is moved to the middle or other side. Perhaps if he’s connected to the audience and his happy outlook is seen as a reward, you’ll get a big reaction. The odd thing is that many will want the story to continue so this new positive mentality gets crushed. I should probably stop spending time on Internet comment sections, but it does seem like people enjoy to see their heroes fall into the darkness. Which is where the pessimistic hero starts.
Anyway, are there any pessimistic/negative heroes that you can think of? What made you love or hate them?