People We All Look Up To #4: The Hero (The Anti-Hero, The Hoarder)

You're not the only one, Bonnie.

You’re not the only one, Bonnie.

I remember being young and seeing movies or television shows with peole in them I could look up to. I knew, even as a child, that I could never be as cool as the people I looked up to. That didn’t make looking up to them difficult or something I didn’t want to do. Apparently I was the only one, though, as the rest of North American entertainment decided it was a little bit too hard to strain your neck to look up to someone who’s a real hero. People don’t want to watch a person who’s better than they are do things they could never do. What’s inspiring about that? We had to drop to the anti-hero for a while but it became rapidly apparent that even the anti-hero was aiming too high for our audiences. The anti-hero is defined on wikipedia as being a protagonist who lacks any heroic virtues or qualities (such as being morally good, idealistic, courageous, noble, and possessing fortitude). As you can see, it’s hard for a lot of us to admire a person like that. It’s hard because they’re actually apparently still a little too hard working and determined.

Anti-heroes now are the people we wouldn’t want to be, until we get to know them (we still don’t want to be them), but they’re someone we can identify with and that’s much better than admiring. It’s also a lot easier. When we see an anti-hero struggle we feel for them because their struggle is really our struggle. I suppose a hero’s struggle isn’t ours if we never try to stand up for something we believe in, but I never thought it was hard to identify with people who were striving to do the right thing. If they’re awkward and don’t have any friends and people pick on them and I don’t ever want to live their life, then what a great hero they are! I can watch a movie about them, feel bad for them in their struggle and then leave knowing that my life is better than theirs and I didn’t even have to really risk anything. It doesn’t send people home feeling like they should strive to be more, as that’s much too inconvenient. I don’t take in a story to compell myself to be better, I take it in so I can feel comfortable stagnating as I am now.

Obviously this is not enough. Thank goodness we can bring Reality Television in to hammer the final bits of dignity out of our souls. Hoarders? America’s Worst Cooks? Canada’s Worst Drivers? Why is it we now have to watch shows about the people who are the worst at what they do? It wasn’t enough to identify with the anti-hero, now we have to wallow in the disgust of the people who define terrible just so we can feel good about ourselves. Bring on the Hoarders! What about people with a drug addiction? Why does an intervention only work when it’s on television? More to the point, if you know someone who has a problem like that why are you having a television crew come in and film them? Sadly, I think it’s so the non-addicts can be on tv looking like they’re a hero because they televised the misery of someone they loved.

I want the hero back. I looked up to James Bond when I was a kid and there was nothing wrong with that. He dressed well, he travelled the world, he had really cool gadgets in his watch and various other accessories and he didn’t have an entire apartment full of old newspapers and repeat-use heroin needles. I looked up to Batman, he was in good shape, he solved crimes and he beat criminals with his fists. He was also rich on money he inherited but he still wanted to fight crime. I know I’ll never be either of them, but that doesn’t mean I can’t strive to be better because I looked up to the things they did. When you watch shows about people who have a mental condition to feel better about yourself you lower the value of humanity across the board. When you watch something that inspires you to be better, you raise the bar for all of us. Bring back the Hero. Where’s Bonnie Tyler when we need her?

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