Heroes. Have we come to the point where we are so desperate for heroes that we have cheapened the meaning? A look at some of our latest hero stories.
What I think it means to be a hero
In writing we do a lot of work on our heroes. There are aspects to the development of the character that don’t change no matter what the story. Your hero needs to be a real person. They need to be flawed and they need to make mistakes and they need to have secrets. In the the story, the author uses all of these things to make the hero struggle for the goal.
In fiction, there is a two way relationship involving the hero. The villain frustrates the hero’s every act. The villain also needs to be the hero of their own story.
The hero in fiction doesn’t have to be larger than life. Not every story can hold onto a super hero.
Heroes in life are different
We hear or read stories every day about heroes in real life. Before I talk about recent cases, let me share what I think happens in real life with heroes.
There’s a three way relationship in real life, oddly also in super hero fiction, the hero, the villain and the victim. Without a victim there is no need to be heroic. The villain generally creates the victim and the hero saves them. The three roles don’t need to be filled by three people, but it generally is the case.
Charles Ramsay, had been called a hero for rescuing the three women in Cleveland. He didn’t know if he was risking his life by pulling them from the basement of that home, but he acted anyway. Was he a hero? Let’s see. Victim: the women (they may not stay victims, but for this circumstance they were.) Villain: Kidnappers. Hero: Charles.
It seems to fit the model.
Angelina Jolie, she’s being called a hero for undergoing a double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer. Is she a hero?
I think she is brave to make such a decision. She was stuck with a dilemma, and she chose to maximize her chance to live. but I don’t think she is a hero. She didn’t save anyone by putting her life at risk.
So what do you think. Have we cheapened the actions of heroes by applying the label to bravery?