Breaking Cliches: Heroic Grievances

Inspired by the discovery of A Villain’s Complains last month, Kirin has stepped in to write his own take on the grievances he believes heroes are forced to suffer due to stereotyping. 

Everyone likes to throw the word hero around. Saving the world. Very heroic. Saving a nation. Heroic. Saving a city. Generally heroic. Saving a king. Heroic. Saving a tiny lamb from drowning in a flash flood. Maybe heroic. Saving chocolate. Not one mention, thank you very much. (It’s a long story and one I’m not going into today.)

The term ‘hero’ seems a bit subjective if you ask me.

In this realm, a hero is a man (or woman, in which case it’s apparently a heroine. Because why not make English more confusing?) of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds, noble qualities, and who has performed a heroic act. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. You get the idea.

Anyhow, I do generally agree that saving a nation is heroic. Though there’s a difference between doing something heroic and being a hero, and lots of people miss that. Anyone with power can do something heroic, and the weakest person can be a hero.

But for some reason, people always expect the hero to win. Sure, they tend to in books, because who wants to read about a hero who fails? But in reality…we can’t do everything, you know. More on that in a moment.

You’ve probably all heard the common quote about how some heroes are born, some achieve the position, and some have heroism thrust upon them?

I want to mention this first, because each of these heroes comes with their own flavor. And it’s the last sort of hero that I really want to focus on, but I need to acknowledge all three.

Heroes who are born (to the heroic part I mean; all heroes are born) tend to be a bit smug in my experience. They exist to fulfill a prophecy. They are the long-awaited one. They’ve been raised and pampered and trained and beefed up and go on their quest…etcetera, etcetera.

The heroes who become heroes vary. Why anyone would want the position is beyond me but apparently they didn’t do their research on the work involved. Or maybe they really, really, care about people and have no one close to protect.

Then, of course, there is the most common hero who remains ‘normal’ until events come tumbling down on his head demanding he shoulder the weight to survive and save the nation, king, lamb, chocolate, or whatever else is in danger.

In reality though, birth and circumstances matter way less than you’d expect.

It’s the spirit which makes the hero. Sure, circumstances and events bring the spirit to light so everyone recognizes him or her. But the will and determination and strength were already in place. This is what makes a true hero.

Character, not results.

Of course, results are affected by character. On this note, there are a number of common misconceptions here that ought to be rectified.

Like death starting the hero’s story.

We, I mean, heroes, don’t lose a father or child or family or village, and then change the course of our lives and become a hero. Sure, death is sometimes involved simply because those are the situations that bring a hero to light. But the kernel of the hero was already in place (otherwise what keeps them from turning into a villain?)

Besides, characters can start acting heroically before they lose something they love. It happens.

And their poor mentors. They’re smart. They’re strong. They’re generally wise. That’s why they’re mentors, after all. And they don’t die all that easily, despite what this realm’s stories try to make it sound like. More often they stick around long after they’re needed.

Also, as far as training is involved, heroes don’t automatically gain accelerated learning, allowing them to take down a fighter who’s been practicing for years after only a week of training. A pity, really; it would be helpful. But real skill takes months. Years, even.

Heroes have to learn the long hard way like anyone else. Or they die. Or they learn trickery, which I recommend as the better option if they’re short on time.

Also, all heroes don’t have broken families. Some do, of course, but many have normal lives. It’s just that many transcribers of stories don’t talk about them because who has the time?

Oh yes, and as far as wounds go, we bleed and hurt and take as long to recover as any other person. Whippings, a shot to the shoulder, or being beaten within an inch of life ISN’T PLEASANT. And we will lie abed recovering like a decent human being. You can’t throw us through physical and emotional death-mills and expect us to continue operating as if everything is still fine.

On which note, back to that earlier thing I mentioned.

Heroes don’t always survive. They don’t always win. But when they don’t win, they get back up and keep fighting. When they don’t survive, their memory keeps others going.

Of course, there’s a reason the records where heroes die aren’t as popular. I don’t generally read them myself. Sure, it happens, but I’ve seen it enough in life around me. I know about it. I don’t read to get more of the same. I read to know victory is possible. Theoretically, of course.

Victory aside, please, please, please, don’t expect heroes to dodge bullets, break into unbreakable compounds, rescue everyone, save the dog’s life, go days without sleep, and still have the brain-power and strength to save both their girlfriend and a busload of kids – who happen to be hanging off opposite ends of a bridge. Try it yourself sometime and tell me what you think.

Heroes can’t do everything and they will make mistakes. Not the least because they’re driven to exhaustion by those who think they have don’t limits.

Sure, there are qualities most heroes have, like courage and never giving up and loyalty, and all those noble things. But we do get angry (especially at people who could have done something but didn’t because they expect to pull all the weight). Or sometimes we don’t want to get out of bed in the morning or share the last piece of cheesecake

Also, remember. Just because we’re willing to give our lives doesn’t me we want to die. I mean, come on. Life isn’t that bad. Even with villains on every side who refuse to tell you their evil plans.

If we treat death carelessly, that’s only because that’s how we deal with it. Please don’t think we don’t care and send us into more danger. Seriously, sometimes it’s like ‘oh, he survived, well here’s an even more dangerous mission. Let’s see if he makes that one.’

Basically, we’re human. Amazing humans, yes. With overwhelming expectations placed upon us.

Like expecting us to do everything.

While the lives of our loved ones are on the line.

But we have to stay strong. And be kind to everyone. And rescue everyone. And have witty comebacks.

And have a quality romance on top of all that without actually talking about any important communication problems. Go figure.

We try our best, but we get thrown at overwhelming odds sometimes. Sleepless nights, awful food, pitiful pay (fame doesn’t feed anyone.). We snap and we cry and we want to give up.

But we don’t, and that’s what matters. Victory or defeat, heroes are heroes because of why they’re fighting and what they are fighting for. Even when they’re ignored by those they save.

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  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this, Hope. It really made me smile.

  2. Definitely a fun read! I smiled all the way through.

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