Re: RARA-AVIS: Hardboiled politics

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 21 Jul 2003

Jim D wrote:

"Marlowe, Spade, the Op, Archer, etc., do their jobs, keep their promises, uphold their commitments, and, when this steely resolve puts them in harm's way, they face danger bravely. That's what heroes do."

I agree with your overall point about the nature and appeal of heroism and the hope and dream (and doubt) within most of us that we would be just as standup in a situation that required it. However, I think it's kind of telling that your heroic examples are all from a much earlier era. I stand by my claim that a lot of recent hardboiled heroes are losers, and they know it. It's hard to think of (early) Matt Scudder as anything but. Maybe it just makes it more dramatic when a drunk like
(again early) Scudder rises to the occasion and becomes heroic, but I think it's because hardboiled is increasingly addressing the psychopathology of the loner hero. I'm not saying many go as far as, say, Marc Behm (Eye of the Beholder) or Frank Miller (Dark Knight or Sin City), but I think it's more and more obvious that a lot of these characters such as Hap Collins, for instance, get into these situations because their life is out of control and/or they would rather deal with the problems of others than face their own. This does not make them any less heroic, but I do think there is now more recognition of the hero's tragic flaws. Of course, now that I think of it, some of this would apply to Spade, whose professionalism hides a screwed up private life -- a partner he hated, the earleir Archer, whose wife he was screwing, but now can't get rid of and falling in love with a murderess.


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