War, American society and culture, and the implications behind the distinctly male point of view taken by film and TV anti-heroes were some of the hot topics raised by writer and producer Glen Mazzara on Wednesday evening's inaugural Character Sketch talk. "The Anti-Hero is the American Hero--it's an individual who's willing to take matters into his own hands because he has a code that knows better and supersedes what we consider fundamental American ideals," explained Mazzara, the creator and showrunner of the upcoming A&E series about the anti-Christ, DAMIEN. "We want a can-do guy who doesn't give a sh*t what everybody thinks, who's willing to go against the system. What makes him the anti-hero is that he kills people indiscriminately."
As he traced the literary history of the American anti-hero trope, from its appearance in James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking series in the 1820s and Westerns of the '50s and '60s to its resurgence in TV on shows such as GAME OF THRONES, BREAKING BAD and THE WALKING DEAD, Mazzara posits that the public's fascination with morally complex characters and the often violent worlds they inhabit are a reflection of American society's current anxieties, which, at the moment, includes anxieties about war.
"The warrior, the soldier is the predominant story we are seeing today because America finds itself in a constant state of war," said Mazzara.
Mazzara's thoughts on gender and race as viewed through the lens of the anti-hero's predominantly white, male point of view particularly resonated with the audience. "This view of the American hero is tied up in white male identity and it's being talked about as if the myth is real," said Mazzara, who is the Co-Chair of the WGAW's Diversity Advisory Group. "The dark side of the American hero/anti-hero is there's a level of racism in that trope. It has a white point of view in which other people of color are either 'savages' or 'noble savages.'"
Daring to venture into controversial topics such as the depiction of rape in film and TV, Mazzara encouraged emerging writers in the audience to be mindful when writing female characters and avoid plain old lazy writing. "There's no reason for you to write 'She's hot but doesn't know it.' I don't know why this is used to describe a strong character," he admonished. "If I see it in a script, you're not getting hired."
"We have a responsibility as writers to look at the messages we are putting out there--the point of view and perspectives," Mazzara said emphatically. "I'm trying to spark debate that I think is important; it's something that's infected my writing and hopefully this topic is helpful to people."
Stay tuned for the full recording of Character Sketch: Glen Mazzara on Writing the Anti-Hero. Check out more upcoming Writers Guild Foundation Events.
Photo: Glen Mazzara met and chatted with Green Room Experience ticket holders before the event.