Sunday, February 1, 2015

What Makes a Hero? My Take ...

Sorry for the delay between posts - been a rough month!

So my question for consideration today is: What makes a hero? For you? What kinds of heroes do you like to write or read about?

It seems the idea of what makes a good hero changes over time. Yes, of course there are some constants, and, as people like Joseph Campbell will tell you, there are some basic types of stories that are told and re-told. But I think the kinds of guys we like to follow as main characters in our genre fiction do tend to morph over the decades.

What do I mean? Well ...

I've realized I like to write and read about a type of hero (by the way, not intending to slight heroines here ... I have written from a female point-of-view at times, and hope to again, but, being a man, I'll admit I slip more easily into the male viewpoint when writing) that's kind of out of vogue. My kind of hero was more popular in the 1970s. Which is really no surprise, since my formative years were in that decade. These were the sorts of heroes I read about and watched back then:

They tended to be flawed. They tended to be sensitive and/or vulnerable - not really "larger than life," but approachable. They weren't flawless of body or face. But they were also Good guys, trying to do the right thing by everyone, even when they got dumped on by their friends for doing so.

Some examples?

Luke Skywalker, I think, is one. Han Solo was the more traditional hero in "Star Wars" - confident, handsome, skilled, and "badass." Luke was wide-eyed, hopeful, nervous ... but also pure, willing to believe, and easy to hurt. He won me over. Yes, by "Return of the Jedi," he'd become confident and powerful, but he still seemed to have that real Good about him, a sensitivity.

Of course there's Peter Parker/Spider-Man. I realize he came out of the 1960s, but I started reading his adventures in the '70s, and I really related to him. Again, he took as much crap from his friends as from his enemies, but he always tried to do the good and right thing, sure that it was worth doing, even if he failed and was laughed at.

Been re-watching "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," and, while Buck (played by Gil Gerard) is a pretty confident ladies man type, he's not the heroic ideal of today ... the actor was kind of pudgy and imperfect looking ... he got by on charm and sincerity a lot.

Even Indiana Jones ... yes, he was skilled and heroic, but his plans blew up in his face a lot, and he had to improvise. He could be hurt by women and by cutting remarks from his father.

Okay, so how do these compare with later heroes? You get into the '80s, and you get musclebound guys like Schwarzenegger and Stallone, and you get seemingly indestructible ones, too. Even later, you've got guys who are downright mean, dark, anti-heroes, really ... look at the differences between the 1970s Superman and the more recent one. You might consider Chris Pratt's Starlord from last year's "Guardians of the Galaxy" to be a throwback, and he was, in some ways, but even he had to "buff up" for the role. No more doughy, soft guys in heroic roles!

So I'll admit it ... my heroes in my stories tend to the nerdy, the flabby (at least at first), the friendly, the messed up ... can I succeed writing stories like that? Will people accept these "dinosaurs," or has the time of those sorts of characters passed?

What types of heroes do you like?

1 comment:

  1. My heroes, when I write, tend to be flawed anti-heroes, not that I write heroic epics all that often. My protagonists are usually unlikable. But in popular culture my favorites are a you've mentioned, the sensitive type. Luke Skywalker is a great example as you've noted, and even David Banner. (Yes, my formative years were the same as yours)