What happened to the heroes?

Dear Pogue,

Today I am writing as a form of therapy, to help me recover from my Lego experience. Well, do you remember this?

We can beat them, just for one day

We can be Heroes, just for one day

Yeah, I’m back to the man Bowie. You see, having started writing about him three posts back he’s been in my thoughts on and off. And the song that these lines come from, Heroes, plays right into my thoughts at present. You see, during the lockdown I’ve been reading more books and probably watching more television. And what I’ve noticed is, the main characters in books and on programmes, the heroes, are all flawed people. Indeed, some are deeply flawed and if seen from only one perspective could be considered candidates for psychological help. Men and women scarred by their pasts, traumas, persons with abandonment issues, addictive personalities and more.

There were times when heroes were exceptional in all aspects of life, with something that mimicked purity of intent. They arose to confront the bad and rescue the oppressed, the disadvantaged, from the forces of chaos in whatever form these appeared. A Robin Hood, taking from the rich, who also happen to be portrayed as unjust, and giving to the poor. St.George saving the maiden from the monster. Aragon leading a seemingly hopeless cause against the forces of madness.

There was a time when Batman’s motivation was pure and clearly divided from all that was bad. But no longer. As said, our heroes have become flawed, far removed from the characters of folklore.

There hangs a question as to why? Why we seem to have abandoned the concept of the hero in favour of that new deliverer of justice, the antihero. Indeed, why have we given away our expectation of the need for a strong moral lead and clear ideals in our characters who bring deliverance? Do we realise that we have entered onto ground where we will happily endorse the ideal that the end justify the means? Morally ambiguous characters who sixty years ago would not have been the substance of popular consumption.

The root of every anti-hero story is the idea of wish fulfilment. You might not like what they do, but you are rooting for them anyway.

Dan Wells

But then a nameless cowboy rode out of the wilderness, found a needy cause, went on a killing spree, and we loved it. The cowboy returned as Dirty Harry, a cop who solved his problems with a Magnum handgun and we packed our cinemas to see him.

So why have antiheroes replaced the heroes in so many places? Now I’m going to offer my opinion so feel free to disagree. Actually, please disagree. I need a challenge every now and then.

Traditionally the role of the hero has been to go forth against the tyranny of chaos. To stand against the descending hoards. To beat down the chaos of rising injustice. Chaos was the enemy. Chaos spewed out the monsters. The hero was a moral being with a strong sense of right, and if at all flawed, strong enough to overcome these inadequacies. The world was chaotic and people needed hope.

But times changed and the world began to turn to order, especially the Western world where nations joined to bring order. Technology blossomed and day by day our world became smaller and more structured. Organisations, the size of which would not have been dreamt of a century ago rose from cottage, or more correctly garage industries in a matter of years to control the worlds information and with budgets far exceeding that of many countries. We have all become more and more known, more recorded, more visible. If it was once said in jest that we are all just a number in the system, it’s no longer a joke as our lives, gradually become more and more controlled by the system.

But, well, we have order so it’s a fair trade, right?

Maybe we don’t need a hero, we need a monster to save us.

Wic

It’s just somewhere in our thoughts we want an escape route. There’s a little part of us that needs a way out because our surrender for the sake of order and convenience occasionally concerns us. In our least comfortable moments we reflect on the fact that our shopping habits have allowed an organisation to build a very accurate picture of us and our lives. Our lives are being moulded, modelled and stored away by the wizards of algorithms. I quoted Keanu Reeves recently, saying: “The Matrix was a documentary”. I now suspect that as time moves forward we may all find some truth in that statement.

So, the enemy is no longer chaos but rather order and unlike chaos which is lead by fear, we have embraced order believing it to be the harbinger of peace. It may be just that for those who will surrender the task of independent thought, the burden of decision making, the effort of interrogating a situation to enable an informed decision, this is ideal. But for us who value freedom and like the exercise of freewill, the new breed of champion, the antihero is a beacon of hope and a remnant of inspiration. Hope for those who fear succumbing to the tyranny of the institutions of order. “Stick it to the Man” we laughed, but now we realised we really need to and the antihero is the one we will send forth to bring down the systems.

Never forget what you are, the rest of the world will not. Wear it like armour and it can never be used to hurt you.

Tyrion Lannister

There was a time when men feared the primitive, the barbarians, but in this moment in time the pendulum has swung and we should fear the forces of progress. We now need the champion who lives the life of chaotic disorder. A personality that is divergent and shuns, no is removed from the world of convention. Unhindered by moral conformity and social acceptability. Our prophets are telling us as they write their novels and make their films to allow for the possibility of such. The seeds of hope?

Fancy being a hero, just for one day?

Yours, checking my flawed personality,

Wic.

10 thoughts on “What happened to the heroes?

  1. I think the anti-hero speaks to us because they’re deeply flawed, and often, they’re unlikeable. Just like us. The forces of order and chaos rage inside them. A society with too much order will aways impinge on basic freedoms. Seems so foolish because order incubates chaos, as chaos incubates order. A society that goes too far one way forgets what it is to be human. In some ways, the anti-hero is the most human of us all. So, in the coming age of mandated vaccines, perhaps the anti-hero can be a vaccine to the pathogen of totalitarianism?

    This was a wonderful post Wic. I was thinking the other day that it’s such a pity Bowie wasn’t with us. The consummate artist with keen insight – how we need that now!

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    1. Thank you for adding to the post with your comment. I read your recent post ‘The Invisible War’ which I have put aside to think on before rereading. There was a lot of good stuff in it. But having read it, and knowing my own thoughts, I am left wondering if there isn’t an anti-hero lurking inside a number of us? Keep on writing, I’m keen for the follow up to your last post.

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      1. How can one be free without exercising independent thought? How can one think without being a contrarian? I think the anti-hero in all of us sees through the play and the parts, and despises it for what it is. It’s just that the play and the parts are necessary for a functioning society. But just occasionally, not exaggerating what is already grossly exaggerated seems like a moral obligation. This was an excellent post which gave me plenty to think about. I think it’s my favourite of yours so far. You’re a really good writer.

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  2. This is lovely written but I miss the white hat. It gave us someone to aspire to We have flaws if heroes have them to then they reflect us and just are The white hat image makes us want to be better than we are to want to beat our flaws. One crazy man’s opinion
    Stay well and laugh a lot

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    1. Thank you for taking time read and comment. I sometimes wonder if we give up wanting to beat our flaws, having failed many times, and want to fight the fight of the hero despite our flaws? Like, I have this damage but still can achieve that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post full of challenging ideas. Considering the true anti-hero, I think of Sisyphus. He angered the gods and was sentenced to forever pushing the rock up the hill only to have it roll down again. Repeat ad infinitum. Nobody wants to be like Sisyphus yet we engage in Sisyphean behavior daily. Camus believed that Sisyphus was happy because he alone pushed the rock up the hill. He owned his destiny. Perhaps we are all antiheroes.

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    1. Thank you for the comment. I’ve thought about what you’ve said and whilst accept we are all flawed I’m not sure everyone wants to own their own destiny. Too much responsibility for most I suspect. I remember Clint Eastwood commenting on the bad arse cowboy he played and saying the character was so popular because he lurked in each of us but only a very few ever found the courage to let him out.

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