Character Portraits: The Hero

This is the first in a series where I take a look at different character types investigating where they come from and why we have them.  I thought I would start off with the most obvious; the hero.  I’d like to take a moment to say that I don’t differentiate between the masculine and feminine here, a hero and a heroine are just the same.  I will be using hero simply because I’m lazy, having less letters than the latter.

Why do we have one?

Well that can be boiled down to one word; injustice.  The hero needs something to fight for whether that be against crime, environmental concerns, defending the weak, etc.  There has to be a driving force for a hero to take that step into danger.  We see injustice every day and we think that it would be great if someone could right that wrong.  Secretly, we may even revel in the thought that the wrongdoer will get hurt in the process.

This character is easy to conjure up, so much so that we even have different categories; the superhero, the anti-hero and even the reluctant hero.

Where do they come from?

Going as far back as Ancient Greece there were stories of people, gods almost (sons of deities at least), like Heracles (now Hercules), Achilles, Hector et al.  Classical heroes were considered as warriors who live and die in the pursuit of honour.  Now though we like them a little more complex, more human.  Heroes are no longer perfect, they must have a flaw.

Anger management pops up frequently as does alcoholism, drug addiction and anything else that could potentially disrupt the course of events.  If our hero had an addiction to knitting we would hardly consider that a flaw.  Unless, during the final battle our protagonist proceeded to pull out a ball of yarn and start knitting, but that isn’t really going to happen.  It would certainly break by suspense of disbelief that’s for sure!

We need those flaws to show that these people are just like us, an altered version sure, but us nonetheless.  I believe the hero was created to help us fantasise about what we would do in a given situation.  We don’t want to be like them, we want to be them.  We see a part of ourselves in them.  We are however afraid of repercussions.  We are afraid of being weak at the wrong moment and being unable to vanquish the foe.  Instead, we let our heroes do that for us.

Is it wrong to have them, then?

No.  If anything they are needed to show us the way, to do what is right.  Injustice has to be stopped and if it means stepping up to be counted, then so be it.

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