Ambivalent responses to the ambiguous anti-hero morality: Tony Soprano and Walter White as a case study
The popularization of the antihero is linked to the dramatic and narrative need of seriality: the constant dichotomy between the family and professional spheres, between noble and petty actions, between duty and want, moves the story forward, generates suspense and renews conflicts, prolonging the story for dozens of hours. Vic Mackey (The Shield), Dexter Morgan (Dexter) or Nucky Thompson (Boardwalk Empire) could serve as an antihero example. However, the two most radical and complex cases are undoubtedly the protagonists of The Sopranos (Tony Soprano) and Breaking Bad (Walter White). The emotional affinity with the antihero has recently become the object of study. This paper proposes a new angle of study: the antihero's relationship with the rest of the characters in the series. For that purpose, we will select the characters - main or secondary - that the writers use as narrative strategy to guide the emotional and moral responses of the spectator the emotional and moral responses of the viewer in their particular relationship with the anti-hero. We will mainly focus on the reactions of these characters to the amoral behaviors of the antiheroes. We propose a methodology of textual analysis that, based on cognitivist theorists, will serve as a mechanism to better understand the construction of the anti-hero and to investigate the effects of authorial decisions on viewers.