Tag Archives: hero

The American Hero

Superman is an interesting character.

I know; that’s not a popular idea. Superman, for me and a lot of people, is The Superhero. He has every power that he could possibly have: flight, super strength, freeze breath, laser eyes, great hair. He holds all life sacred. He does not use his powers to alter humanity’s way of life, no matter how much he may or may not disagree with it. He stands for Truth and Justice and he…does…not…bend from those morals.

This does not make for a compelling character. The reader or viewer or listener (just in case you’re a huge fan of Superman audiobooks, I guess), wants a hero with flaws. They want someone who doubts and second guesses and makes mistakes. This is true in all fiction. If the central character if flawless and is an indestructible being of unimaginable power, the reader is bored at Page One.

However, whether or not you think a writer can tell a good story with Superman isn’t the point today. The point is what Superman says about us. Superman is as American as cowboys, jazz and baseball. Like America, he is the biggest, most powerful guy on the block. His strength is uncontested and his reach is unlimited.

The difference between Superman and America is as clear as the difference between the Ideal and the Real. The wonderful thing about this character is that he has the power to split the world in two. He could rule this planet with an iron (Steel) fist. There is nothing on this planet that could stop him. Instead, against all odds, he helps old people and saves cats from trees. He is an uncorruptible, unstoppable force. He is goodness personified.

America, once it took up the mantle of a global superpower, does not have the same track record. Our country has interfered in the affairs of other nations; not to their benefit, not to correct some wrongdoing or to right some terrible wrong. It has been about money or unfounded paranoia or because of some stupid, political morass that our country has involved itself.

We have wrecked countries over communism, a political system that was so flawed it annihilated itself. We have decimated populations to protect oil fields, which lead to enraged populations that struck back in vicious, terrible ways that caused us to reciprocate in like-mind.

Superman is how we wish America was. He is the ideal for the nation. He is how our country, our government, should be. When people ask for help, Superman responds. If a building was on fire, Superman would save everyone inside. And then he would probably rebuild the building for good measure. He would not make sure that his contractor friends got the job to rebuild and allow them to use shoddy and questionable materials to save a buck and turn a quick profit.

He would not charge into a situation where he was not wanted. He does not impose his will and then leave the situation worse than how he found it. He does only what he can be reasonably expected to do and what he does do, he does because he can and because it is righteous that he uses his might and influence to make things better.

Superman is interesting, he is fascinating, because he represents how everyone in a position of power or authority should be and rarely is. He has ultimate power and he would just as soon use it to talk a young woman out of killing herself as he would fight the Villain of the Week. He is what we should all aspire to be and, while that does not always make for interesting reading, it is sometimes important to be reminded of what we can be.

-D-

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Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

One Dry, Vodka Martini

 

We expect, in our heroes, the ability to last. They last from generation to generation, fighting the good fight, no matter if that good fight completely changes from now to then. As the times progress, so must our heroes. Their methods grow more modern. Their attitudes fit our own. Their morals reflect what we expect in a good person.

James Bond has been around, in one form or another, since the early 1950’s. The world is an extremely different place since he first stepped onto the stage. The Soviets are no longer around. Communism is not perceived as a threat. And we worry less about nukes and more about religious zealots with some simple explosive and the will to use it.

He has, however, managed to stay relevant for over six decades. His creator has died. The actors who played him at first are beyond the age where they could play him now. Six men have played him (not including the movies made by other studios), numerous authors have written him and who he is as a person has changed in sometimes subtle and sometimes drastic ways.

But, at heart, he remains the same. He is a lover, who will not let any harm come to his woman, but he will also not stay with them very long. He is a killer, but only kills when it is necessary to survive or necessary for the greater good, not for pleasure or sport. He is tough, intelligent and charismatic.

He has money, but not enough too much money. He likes nice things and appreciates good drinks and fine foods. He has a wealth of knowledge at his fingertips and is always interested and invested in learning more. He is curious, brave and determined to see matters through.

If one wanted to see a perfect, masculine ideal, a facet of the ideal, you would do no better than to see the evolution of James Bond. Or, perhaps, you would do no better than to see how James Bond has influenced a perfect masculine ideal.

The movies continually and routinely do well at the box office, even at their low points, it was never enough to kill the series. They keep making the movies and writing the novels, which means he appeals to the popular culture, which means he means something to the popular culture. He is, for a large number of people, an ideal.

This is how our culture defines a hero. He is British in a lot of ways, but also American (independent, takes law into own hands, almost a vigilante, in spite of his government agent status, see the number of times he is at odds with law enforcement and his own agency to see the vigilante aspects of his character).

A society’s heroes (and their villains) define them.

What does James Bond say about us?

What does his appeal say about us?

He has lasted 60 years as a relevant, pop culture icon, while remaining much the same in a majority of ways (assassin, drinker, womanizer, violent, sensitive, charmer, vicious), what does that say about our culture that promotes such a creature as our hero?

If you cast the light in a different way, you could make him a monster; a sociopath who destroys lives, a government robot so heartless that he will have sex and murder within the same hour. He is so controlling that his drink must be the same and made the same way every time.

You look to a culture’s heroes and you learn so much about them.

What does James Bond say about us?

-D-

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Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts