We’re Bad People Sometimes
And other times, we’re good people, too.
Human beings are flawed. We make shitty choices. We like to think we’re good people. And yet no one is inherently good or bad. Even serial killers don’t grow on trees, you have to plant them.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
There was a short period of my life when I let myself do terrible things to people. I was hurt, I turned bitter. And if I’m one hundred per cent honest with myself, I was self-entitled. For whatever reason, I blamed everyone else for the lack of success, which I was desperate for. I didn’t understand I was just too early.
I started acting out. I convinced myself the world owed me. And the was the only way I could survive in the world is by using others as life rafts so I can stay afloat. I used them. I caused them pain. I was hurt. Hurt people hurt people.
What I didn’t understand then was they all were and are human beings who deserve the respect of not being used like objects, and of me being forward about my intentions of using them to fill up my void. I thought adopting (toxic) masculinity was the way to go. I was the “nice guy”, but I didn’t care for them, not one bit, despite the changes of our relationship status on Facebook. I was in love with someone I couldn’t be with, so I used others to fill the empty dark pit in me.
I was hurting so much I didn’t realise I was doing the same to people.
As a teenager, I loved the anti-hero archetype, sometimes in the form of a bad girl, usually in a gothic costume and dark eyeliners. Unlike the perfect protagonist, anti-heroes are compelling, multifaceted, flawed, and sometimes almost real. And just like me, the anti-hero tries to do good and makes plenty of mistakes. The anti-hero throughout the series would embark on a redemption arc till a noble sacrifice is made. Maybe I was looking for my own redemption.
I’m not going to lie, I still care for anti-heroes much more than heroes. The typical superheroes don’t appeal to me. I love Deadpool and Star-Lord than Captain America, whom I find a bit bland. I love Elliot Alderson from Mr Robot, which deserves its own post. And I have a soft spot for the murderous Dexter and Damon Salvatore, despite how problematic they are. Most of these characters are male and white. Since they have also been dissected to death, I would like you to two slightly different variations of the anti-hero trope; a warrior princess and a horse.
My partner introduced me to Xena, the character and the TV show, in my early 20s. Hercules was on air in Vietnam, yet Xena was presumingly still too “gay” for the Vietnamese government in the 90s, despite the censorship. Xena started in the Hercules as a war. She became so popular that Xena, the spin-off show, was born shortly after. The show lasted for 6 seasons containing the entire redemption arc of Xena becoming a hero at the end of the show.
Xena has not only complex storylines mixed in with methodology and plenty of comedic moments. The show also shuts down unhealthy tropes usually associated with a story about an anti-hero. Xena and Gabrielle have a realistic and eventually healthy relationship (if you don’t see them as a couple, you’re missing out). Many toxic behaviours such as “friend-zoning” got called out. Even when the crew messed up and faced a backlash from Hindu groups, they handled it with grace. Xena takes responsibility for her sins when she realised what she’s done as a warlord, how much hurt she left behind. She didn’t blame anyone. She tries to be better. And Gabrielle is there despite Xena’s flaws, not because of them.
This woman has pleaded guilty to her crimes. Even she admits she can never do enough good to erase the evil that she has done, and yet, she’s willing to keep trying.
— Xena: Warrior Princess, Path of Vengeance
Xena & Grabrielle — Xena: Warrior Princess by Universal International Television
Fast forward to the year 2014, a quirky adult cartoon called Bojack Horseman debuted on Netflix. At first, the critics and the mainstream audience didn’t know what to think about this show with talking animals surrounding a depressed alcoholic horse. After 6 seasons, Bojack Horseman proved itself to be another prominent anti-hero in the golden age of TV. The show also faced criticism on diversity in its cast. Despite its flaws, Bojack Horseman is one of my favourite shows of all time.
Bojack, as mentioned, is a horse. He was famous in the 90s, playing in a sitcom. He grows up in an abusive home, becoming a famous actor in his 20s with lots of money and not a lot of happiness. The show starts with Dianne Nguyen as his soon-to-be-friend and ghostwriter for his book, until the end of their relationship, which ended due to Bojack’s reckless behaviours. Throughout the shows, Bojack goes on to hurt every single one of the people he loves and only takes responsibility for his actions in season 6.
Unlike its anti-hero predecessors, the show makes it very clear Bojack is a terrible person. And he gets what he deserves at the end. The people he hurt are hurting others. The show didn’t end when Bojack supposedly dies, but what happens after. When he has to face his life and his actions, despite having become a different person (horse?).
Life is a bitch, and you keep on living anyway.
— Bojack Horseman series finale.
Bojack fanart by shay.
Amongst all the anti-heroes in my life so far, I wish Xena and Bojack had been in my life earlier. I was scared to take responsibility for my shitty actions. I’m not trying to blame anyone, maybe an explanation; I didn’t know what I did was wrong, and how to make it right. Shows like these have such an impact on people’s lives because we all hurt people, and they hurt us. But that’s okay. We’re all humans, after all. The important thing is to keep on living, forgive oneself, make amends and try to be better.
I could’ve easily told myself, I was young (I was) and I didn’t know better (I didn’t). I could’ve blamed society for not providing the knowledge needed, so when I entered a relationship, I don’t hurt people because of my own stupidity. But I did all that, knowingly or not, even if I remember it, or not. Even if people hold me accountable, or not.
As humans, we’re working progress until we perish. And only when we think we’re always and right, then we become villainous, sometimes without realising. Simply because we start to feed the wrong wolf.
There’s always time to be better.