Steve Zissou – Anderson’s Most Iconic Anti-hero

        What defines an anti-hero? The answer may differ drastically from one to another. Some might view this type of character as realistic, fed-up men who still possess a kind heart that craves human interactions, while others may simply regard these characters as complete douchebags who are indifferent to others. Apart from personal opinions, though, the character trope has been consistently proven to be one of the most popular tropes of all time based on its association with a wealth of classical characters in various media, ranging from novels to films.  Now, to the author who crafted the character featured in this article, Wes Anderson, an anti-hero’s mischievous ends are far less extreme than other similar characters. Anderson’s anti-heroes are often grown men mature in physique but discreetly childish at heart. Their behaviors are often self-centered and brandished with selfishness, especially when romantic. However, these men will ultimately recognize the flaws in their character and the faults they have committed and come to terms with those they’ve hurt. 

        For Steve Zissou, all of the descriptions fit him more so than any other character that Anderson has introduced to his audience.

        Without going deep into spoilers, a comparison of Steve Zissou with a number of his comparisons in other Anderson films will be used to demonstrate the uniqueness of Zissou’s character. First and foremost, Steve Zissou possesses one of the fundamental traits of an anti-hero, a bloated ego. At the beginning of the film, Zissou’s career had experienced constant fallbacks, and even one of his most loyal companions had expressed the severity of his situation. Yet, Zissou insisted on the brilliancy of his work and refused to admit the unpleasant reality. In Mr. Gustave, the protagonist in Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, such ignorance was not found. Though Mr. Gustave also held immense pride in his role, he adequately recognized the dangers and troubles he attracted. Moreover, Zissou’s character was much more childish in his relationship with a love interest, whereas Mr. Gustave always maintained his cool when it came to such matters. 

        In addition to pride, selfishness, as mentioned previously, is another unique character. 

        The character shift that Zissou experienced was also more evident than other characters. Unlike Mr. Gustave, Zissou didn’t simply utter one single line and continued on his old path; he truly understood the weight of his actions and how he could become better. Some may attribute this to the tragedy that Zissou experienced, while others may choose to view Zissou’s ending more extensively. But no matter the key motivator to Zissou’s complete transformation, it was evidently stronger than any other character. 

        Although Steve Zissou could be Anderson’s most detested protagonist due to his numerous foolish and loathsome actions early in the story, he remains Anderson’s most iconic antihero. In some sense, Zissou’s initial lack of sensitivity ultimately drives the emotions that come with his redemption arc. The fact that he is less caring than Max Fischer and less friendly than Mr. Gustave provides him an edge over those arguably more renowned Anderson protagonists. No matter what position someone may place Steve Zissou in the long list of Anderson’s fantastic characters, he will always be recognized as one of Anderson’s best.