My Greatest Hits day 3 – my most read post:
And are there any heroes for us today?
Why do we have an innate attraction to the ideas of heroes? We ask people who their heroes are. Kids and adults both delight at the stories of superheroes, people with extraordinary powers who seem to save the world again and again. We always like it when a regular person makes good: the local hero who saves someone. Every story needs a hero, doesn’t it?
Our collective imagination seems drawn to the idea of people who have a greater power or call. A look at the top box office of all time for the US and worldwide shows the list dominated by familiar names: Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, Jack Sparrow. All of these stories feature larger than life figures who overcome overwhelming odds to triumph.
I’ve always day-dreamed of some cataclysm happening in my regular life, only to find that I could fly, had super something-or-other in order to save those in peril. It’s in the fabric of who I am. I grew up on Star Wars and Super Friends, and this summer I couldn’t wait until the latest Spiderman movie came out. Recently I’ve gotten back into enjoying comic books, which shows different aspects of heroes from when I was growing up. Nowadays these heroes struggle against inner darkness or temptation and deal with more real life scenarios over the classic comics when Superman never doubted what was right and was always there to save Lois Lane.
I know that some people prefer down to earth heroes in their entertainment – the cop, the spunky Nancy Drew type, people who don’t have a special ability. Others may even prefer the “anti-hero”, the character that may otherwise be very unlikable in a story, but is portrayed from a sympathetic viewpoint. However, in general we are drawn to those who are greater than us in both their abilities and trials. I could go on, reaching back to mythology and stories of Hercules, Achilles, and so on, but I think this point is coming across.
Having made the argument that this desire is there, now we may ask “Why is it there?”
Could it be, perhaps, that it speaks to who we are? Does it draw from our deepest heart and unconscious needs?
I would argue that heroes are so compelling because we need a hero. We realize, whether directly or subconsciously, that we cannot overcome all that we encounter on our own. Try as we might, we are not able to complete our own salvation. We may fight valiantly, but our struggle is ultimately doomed against the supreme villain.
In the end, this attraction to heroes points us to the one who fought evil without ever turning to temptation. He went toe-to-toe with our greatest foe on our behalf. He sacrificed himself in defending truth, justice, and mercy. And when all seemed lost, he rose in even greater power and strength for the ultimate victory.
Jesus is my hero.
The book that inspired this post – Fearless by Robin Parrish – may not be an overtly Christian novel. This is fine with me, as I don’t require every story to have an overt religious element in order to be a good story. I think Robin taps into this intrinsic need for a hero with his story. I can’t allegorize what he’s written, partly because that’s not his intention, and I don’t know how the story will work out. It still speaks of this great human conflict, the desire to rise up over the insurmountable odds. The heart of the gospel speaks to this, and that’s what makes heroes a powerful story element, especially to a Christian writer.