The World Needs Heroes
By Tom Knighton
The world needs heroes.
If we learned nothing else over the last couple of weeks, it should be just how badly our world needs heroes. After all, the events in a church in White Settlement, TX illustrates just how important heroes are. One of that particular breed put the shotgun-wielding maniac down in just six seconds. Countless lives were spared.
Yet our society often denigrates the hero. Our fiction is filled with not just anti-heroes, but the non-heroic protagonist. Yes, I’m speaking to the male type of hero here, not because of some sense of sexism, but for other reasons which shall become clear in a moment.
And honestly, that’s perhaps the biggest reason we sometimes feel like we live in a world without heroes.
To be fair, we don’t. There are heroes out there aplenty. They’re your neighbor or co-worker, your husband or brother. They’re people who stepped up in the aftermath of 9/11 and went to war with the forces of evil.
But once those folks are out of the game, they often go back to being meek and mild.
That’s not surprising. After all, our society tells them that’s what they should be. Some reject that, but many more don’t. In fiction, that’s brought about by the fact that real, pure heroes are a thing of the past, something relegated to the dustbin of history.
Some will argue that art follows life, and to some extent that’s true.
However, life also follows art.
What’s more, we all know that the left knows this. They know it with a burning passion, which is why it’s so important for them to use art to undermine the institutions that they find antithetical to their Marxist positions. They undermine tradition, family, and yes, heroism.
They prefer moral ambiguity not because sometimes that’s part of life—it is, but not nearly as often as they like to pretend it is—but because it undermines the idea that sometimes life is black and white, that there are good guys and bad guys, and that it’s not always necessary to look at something from a different perspective.
As such, the push for years is the “morally-complex hero,” the guy who is neither good nor bad. He simply exists.
While it’s perfectly acceptable for a female protagonist to be unambiguously good, the same isn’t true about male protagonists. Then again, we live in a world where masculine virtues are denigrated and ignored. Whether this is a case of art following life or the other way around is largely irrelevant at this point.
What isn’t irrelevant is that a change is desperately needed.
The shooting in Texas illustrates quite well that a good guy can stop a rampaging scumbag if given the opportunity, but we never should have allowed our society to get to the point where we had any doubt that such a thing was true.
We need more heroes.
The easiest place to start that, though, is in fiction. Much as I love Liam Neeson’s character in Taken or the incomparable John Wick, both are men who do some pretty sketchy things in their lives. While I would never remove them from popular culture, there’s something to be said about the unambiguous hero as well.
I honestly think that half the reason Harry Potter did so well was that Harry wasn’t some little prat going on that he was the chosen one simply because Rowling wanted to give him some depth. Instead, he’s a kind, sweet kid who while less than perfect is still someone fans can root for.
Owen Pitt of Monster Hunter International isn’t perfect either, but he’s a genuine hero with little moral ambiguity. In the first book, his most jerk-faced moment was tossing Grant into shark-filled water. However, he’d forgotten about the sharks, so it was a mistake, but not a lack of morals that dictated the actions.
Our own esteemed hostess has a whole slew of legitimately heroic characters in her Shifter books (which I want to read more of [hint hint]) where they’re not perfect, but they’re not immoral simply because someone thinks that’s what it takes to make interesting characters. [The DST books too, Tom. Read that while you wait for Shifters to get rebooted somewhere around the middle of the year!-SAH]
The problem is, there aren’t a lot of them.
Now, I have little doubt this crowd can name a pile of them, both from the golden age and from more recent works. Please do, in fact.
However, the truth is that so many of our heroes aren’t just heroes. As a result, so many men aren’t valuing heroism.
So the place to start is in our fiction. Let’s stop vilifying men and making them less than heroic simply to score political points. The existence of strong men doesn’t negate the existence of strong women. The presence of strong men doesn’t immediately place them at odds with strong women either. The two can co-exist on the page just as easily as they do in reality. [In fact, strong men tend to like strong women and vice versa.- SAH]
We need them, though, because as Sarah has pointed out before, storytelling is an integral part of being human. Stories fill us and guide us. They teach us what is acceptable and what isn’t. Fable, parables, chivalric romances, are all basically just stories meant to instruct us as to the proper mode of behavior.
Stories do more than entertain us or inspire us, they teach us. They instruct us how to be better people. [Or, unfortunately, worse people, as we have proof daily – SAH] They always have, which is why holy books aren’t just dull lists of things to do and things not to do. They’re instead filled with lessons in story form because our minds are just simply better at remembering those.
As such, we need those stories of heroic deeds and heroic men as a way to help guide us as a people.
While I enjoy a good anti-hero as much as anyone, it’s time to dial that back as a society. Instead, let’s bring back the heroes of yesteryear. [And learn to be fearless and brave in defense of the people and things we love again. YAY – SAH]
You can click on the image above to buy Tom’s book, The Last Champion, or click on the title link.