I always had and continue to be a sucker for the classic “heroic” character. Not so much Prince Charming on a white horse, more of Link from legend of Zelda, or Finn from Adventure Time. This is the character who is a hero. When they have to sacrifice themselves for a cause, or perhaps for the decent person they have just met, they will. If they have to dive into the most hostile places in the world for their friends, they will.
Many times people like to mix things up a little. Perhaps the “hero” archetype is cliche. Perhaps its more interesting to have an anti-hero or subvert this character type in some certain way.
I enjoy doing this as well, but I find that the hero archetype being played straight is rare for most movies, books, TV shows and so on. Instead I’m constantly watching a rugged anti-hero shoot people down with giant guns. It’s actually refreshing to see or read about a heroic character who’s somewhat likable and legitimately selfless.
My Favourite Heroes in this category are:
Link (Legend of Zelda)
Finn the Human/Finn the human (Adventure Time)
Harry Potter (Harry Potter)
and of course…
Simon (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann)
That’s not to say subversions of these heroic characters are inferior in any way. Rincewind from Discworld is a coward and he’s my favourite character in the entire series!
But nowadays it’s almost like these characters are avoided. Writers seem to believe heroic and selfless characters are too cliche and “crutches” that inferior writers rely on when they can’t come up with a deeper character to use. (I remember being told this a long time ago)
I personally believe that a character can be deep without having a gruff exterior and a back story involving dead family members and a drug-related past. In fact, gruffness is in itself becoming a bigger crutch than heroics and selflessness.
One can make a memorable heroic character if they have the talent or experience (one usually comes with the other). Any long time watcher of Adventure Time will tell you that Finn from Adventure Time is not a static flat character (though he may seem like it at first). Harry Potter is definitely not a flat or boring character (arguably actually, but these are my opinions) but he is still heroic and selfless.
I am not hating on anti-heroes or “manly gruff characters” in any way, but I really believe that the classic hero is an underrated concept.