An Antihero Returns
Pow! Blam! Zip! Bang! These are just a few of the terms found emblazoned on comic book panels, and sometimes, across our movie screens. They represent and highlight the violence that takes place in these fictional stories of heroes versus villains, but the Earth-shattering showdowns and the impending doom our heroes are trying to upend can be aggressively severe. Recent, mainstream silver screen adaptations have indulged fans with a chance to revel in the chaos of cities crumbling, bullets flying, and punches landing as our defenders in tights attempt to save the day. These films and colorful comics have arguably painted violence in an inconsequential light. Audiences have become all too unfazed and that’s a serious problem according to the Tribe of Fools, a Philly based physical theatre company, and the architects behind Antihero.
Antihero uses dynamic fight-movement comedy to explore the depths of society’s fascination with violence and vigilantes, and how it ties into violence as entertainment in superhero films and comic books. Tribe of Fools aims to shine a light on this polarizing topic once again by bringing Antihero back to Fringe, after 3 years. “This show looks at how easy violence can become and the permanence of its consequences,” explains Tyler Brennan, the show’s director.
Brennan’s interest in the subject arose from looking at his own personal life. “What really got me interested in the subject was how often I would find myself thinking of my daily struggles in life in similar terms as the entertainment I was consuming. I would always envision myself destroying whatever problem I encountered. When you’re dealing with an insurance company or some sort of technology problem, it’s really no big deal, in some ways it helps. When I was dealing with people though, it became a huge problem. Everything was an argument and I always needed to win. It never escalated to violence in my personal life, but I would find myself enraged all the time.”
Today’s superhero participates in non-stop violence; he’s aggressive, even vengeful. Those feelings of anger Brennan had felt, made sense considering how our fictitious heroes deal with their own dilemmas. “I realized that I was internalizing a lot of these narratives of the hero destroying his enemy,” explains Brennan. “And I realized that I’m probably not the only person who’s done that.”
Tribe of Fools has always utilized dance, theater, acrobatics and a satirical tone to deeply affect the audience while unearthing the underpinnings of delicate societal topics. “There are things we encounter every day that we as a society just accept as funny that actually hold a lot of pain,” says Brennan. “If you play those things for the laughs you know you’ll get, and then over time strip away the humor, you can get people to see the pain and the humanity of the situation instead of a punchline.”
The comic book genre is almost omnipresent in popular culture, yet it’s always had a masculine undertone to it. Men in tights gallantly saving the day. Square jawed caped protectors, standing for truth and justice. This connotation also carries an unfortunate air of sexism as the genre has been known to alienate and debase females. What does that look like from the outside looking in?
“In my experience, comics and general nerd-dom tends to be a pretty male place – not necessarily a “masculine” place but a male one,” says Brennan. Brennan argues that putting a feminist critique upon the testosterone fueled culture of superheroes and comic books brings a fresh, rare, and unique perspective. “The reason we looked at this story through a feminist lens is because nerds and comic guys tend to be a pretty teased and bullied group, yet there’s also a certain amount of sexism ingrained into the comic world; but the bullying and the sexism come from the same place.” Consider this portion of the show as an added bonus to the intelligent material being explored.
There’s a sense of relevancy Antihero possesses that makes it so worthwhile. What’s being questioned, critiqued and poked at is affecting. Brennan and his crew wouldn’t’ have it any other way. “We feel that this show is fun and relevant and it has a message that resonates.”
— Rob Wells
Painted Bride Art Center
230 Vine St.
Sept. 9-23, click here for more info and showtimes