Holding out for a hero

Posted on Jun 13, 2011 in #writing | 3 comments

I miss heroes. The real ones, not the surly, lip-curling badass on a motorcycle, the alpha male who treats a woman like a helpless idiot, but the real ones. You know, the good old-fashioned kind of hero, the average guy just trying to do what’s right, or who finds himself caught up in a situation he can’t turn his back on.
What brought this up? Someone mentioned the difference between the (relatively) new Cape Fear movie with Nick Nolte and Robert DeNiro and the old version with Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum.
In the new version, under the frequently misguided decision to add ‘flaws’ to the lead character, they made Nolte a shadier character than Peck was in the original and that took some of the edge away for me right off the bat. In the original, Peck is a lawyer trying to do a decent job but Mitchum blames him for not getting him off. Right away, you’re rooting for Peck. And the burly Mitchum is clearly a tough guy, while Peck isn’t. The odds are clearly stacked against him, setting up the ending.
There are some who would argue that heroes should have flaws and I couldn’t agree more. But most of the true life heroes you see aren’t six foot six biker type dudes in leather. In most cases, those are the bad guys. The real heroes are the firefighters, the policemen, the citizen soldiers. If you look at them, they come in all shapes and sizes. All of them have problems and issues, the same kind many of the antiheroes do.
Our society sometimes almost seems to encourage our helplessness – you can’t fight city hall, don’t get involved.
There’s a TV show out of Canada, called Flashpoint, that epitomizes what I’m talking about. Oh they’ve got a pretty guy, but the two leads Enrico Colantani and Hugh Dillon aren’t your classic hero types. Both are follically challenged *grins* but Hugh could park his shoes under my bed any day. Just don’t tell my husband that – although to tell the truth what got me a little about him was his slight resemblance to another ‘everyday’ hero – Michael Biehn from Terminator.
I think of the volunteer firefighters in most communities, who risk their lives to save those in burning homes. And I think of the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan or the men who ran INTO the Towers that day. You look at their pictures and you see extra-ordinary men – who put their lives on the line every day. We should celebrate, and write about, those heroes. And remember the ones who inspired them.


  1. I haven't seen the television show that you mentioned, but I know what you mean about needing what I term as old fashioned heroes.
    One that comes to my mind is called "Big Top" and it had 3 heroes as I recall. There was Charleton Heston – the great guy with his emotions hidden. Cornell Wilde was the playboy who truly loved on girl but it took an accident before his true self became apparent. And my favorite played by Jimmy Stewart. A doctor, wrongly accused who plays a the part of a clown to disguise himself safely. When the point comes of either letting a fellow performer die, or showing who and what he truly is,he saves a life at the expense of his anonymity.

    I could go on but any of the older films – now called Film Noir is what I mean. And yes, Valerie, we could use more heroes.

  2. I'm a sucker for heroes too, Valerie. I'm especially fond of the average guy who's doing what he has to do to survive because of his code of honor. A friend of mine's great-uncle received a posthumous Medal of Honor for storming a Japanese gun emplacement at Iwo Jima. He didn't think it was anything heroic. He was doing what he had to do to protect his men. He didn't set out to be a hero.
    I think Han Solo in Star Wars is one of those old-fashioned types of heroes. Despite being termed a "scoundrel," he heroically comes back to help Luke because of his loyalty to his friend.
    And speaking of old movies, I'm SUCH a fan of Frank Capra movies. Give me an underdog making a speech that puts the "important people" to shame despite the risk to himself and/or his reputation, speaking out for what's right, and I just melt into tears.

  3. @anotherexcusrions – yes Frank Capra was one of the best and of course when you mentioned the underdog my thoughts went right to Casablanca and Rick's ending speech. The movie Shane is another example of the silent hero who does what honor tells him to do regardless of the end result.

    As far as 'real' heroes go, my Dad was in World War Two and came home with five silvers and one bronze star – he didn't talk much about what he did to deserve those medals except one time where he crossed enemy fire to bring two of his wounded buddies to safety. So I grew up with a hero and witnessed the consequences of being one – and sometimes the consequences are as horrific as the actions that they performed.

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