Posted in Books, Musings about Books, Writing

Jack Reacher, the A-team, and Anti-Heroes

I picked up my first Jack Reacher book, One Shot, in December 2012. It took about a month to actually sit down and read it, but then I was hooked on Reacher. Fortunately for me, books in the series are sold in just about every airport Hudson News, and I can pick a new one each time I head on a trip.

Reacher strikes me as a rough and tumble (and much more lethal) version of the A-team, and that 1980’s TV show was one of my favorites growing up. I ran off the school bus everyday during middle school to see the second half of episodes playing on TVLand. It supplied my daily dose of adventure, livening up the boring normalcy of my suburban hometown.

The cast of the 1983 A-team (L to R: Faceman, Hannibal, Murdock, and BA)

But as I look back on my memories of the show, nothing bad ever really happened on the A-team. Only one person died in all of the five seasons despite numerous gun battles, spectacular car crashes, and fiery explosions. Plus Hannibal, Faceman, BA, and Murdock were always cast as good guys. They never even stepped close to being considered antiheroes.

Jack Reacher has all the ingenuity and skill of the A-team, but he’s absolutely an anti-hero. He’s got no problem causing serious damage to the bad guys, even killing them if the situation warrants it. Plus he often only involves himself in whatever situation presented by the plot when he’s given no other choice. He doesn’t go looking for trouble. It barrels towards him when he’s simply minding his own business.

Tom Cruise as the title character in “Jack Reacher”, based on “One Shot”

There’s just something about this big anti-hero that I can’t get enough of. I’m even willing to read 500+ page books if they feature him, which says a lot because my short attention span usually caps me around 350 pages. And I want to write a character with that appeal.

But first I need to figure out exactly what makes him so appealing. That’s going to mean several hours spent dissecting his character, what I like, and what I don’t. Of course none of that’s going to happen until my NaNo project is finished.

Is there a character that inspires your writing? What about them inspires you?

3 thoughts on “Jack Reacher, the A-team, and Anti-Heroes

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  2. “Is there a character that inspires your writing? What about them inspires you?”

    Yes, Jack Reacher of course! 🙂

    Like you, I am also a Reacher fan

    Now, let us figure out what makes Reacher so appealing.

    I actually wrote a blog post myself, comparing anti-heroes and goody-two-shoes heroes. Here’s the relevant bit that contributes to this discussion.

    “In most Japanese anime/drama/manga, the good guys never kill. And the bad guys are those who do. Whatever their reasons may be. I just finished watching an episode of Kindaichi where the “villain”, and I am reluctant to call him one, killed off the people responsible for trapping his father and himself in a cave for 12 years. Of course, his elderly father died during the early days of their confinement and the boy had to live on rats and water. For 12 years.

    I thought his revenge was well justified. And too tame since the culprits were killed rather quickly without time to truly repent for their past misdeed. But since this drama had to fit in with Japanese ideas about crime and punishment, the righteous avenger became the “villain” and quietly surrendered to the cops in order to repay his “debts” to society.

    I couldn’t help wondering. What debts?”

    So yeah, before finding Reacher, I was so so tired of not seeing justice done properly.

    We can also take a look at the real world. Where weak people are sometimes harassed by criminal elements and the police does little to assist them. Some women committed suicide after their rapists were acquitted by the courts. Some men killed themselves because they couldn’t pay off crippling debts to greedy loan sharks.

    In those cases, the Law and Order that we know of, the kind that has to follow rules and regulations, looks as helpless as a newborn babe in the wild wild woods.

    And that’s why Reacher’s personal brand of justice looks so appealing. Because he steps in and takes over where the usual kind of Law and Order cannot reach. Dirty cops, corrupt army officers and violent criminals who would have evaded justice under normal circumstances. They were all done in by Reacher.

    1. I can certainly see how Reacher would be appealing because he works outside the scope of traditional justice. Since he’s not bound to laws or rules that govern his actions (and limit the police and other authorities), he can dispense his own kind of moral justice. That was one of the reasons that I really enjoyed The A-Team since they were already fugitives and so had nothing to lose by breaking more laws. They just weren’t nearly as violent or deadly as Reacher.

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