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likeabulldozer ([personal profile] likeabulldozer) wrote2012-12-20 11:23 pm
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Fictional Heroes Paper

This is a paper I wrote in advanced comp. We were supposed to used mixed media. I *think* the links are still working.

Wizards, Space Cowboys and Teenage Girls
Why fictional heroes matter

We live in a society that is quick to raise people to hero status but is just as quick to let them fall. The sports stars, movie stars, musicians and politicians cheat on their spouses, take steroids and generally behave badly, tarnishing the honor of hero that we grant them. We need someone to tell us how good we can be; someone fallible but someone fallible who gets back up so that we're inspired to try again when we fail and we need those examples to be larger than life. That's a tall order for any person no matter how heroic, how worthy or how good. Sometimes it's easier for a fictional person to fill those shoes.
“Someone has to speak for these people. Y'all got on this boat for different reasons, but y'all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything, I know this—they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They'll swing back to the belief that they can make people...better. And I do not hold to that. So no more runnin'. I aim to misbehave” . [Click Me] Malcolm Reynolds spends most of his time in the television show Firefly and in the movie Serenity running from a corrupt government. He's more of a good guy just trying to scrape by in the world than a hero. This makes him someone we can relate to and it makes his actions hit that much closer to home. When the corruption runs deeper than Mal can tolerate he stops running, bucks the rules and does what's right not because he thinks he can win or walk out of this alive but because it's the right thing. Because we can relate this a hero we can also emulate. Most of us aren't going to take on corrupt governments committing genocide. We're not going to face assassins, fleets of ships or monstrous foes but there are people who need to be spoken for and defended. We can make that decision to stop running from conflicts and face them head on. After all if Mal can defeat a fleet of ships and bring a government to its knees then surely we can muster the courage to help out in a disaster zone or stand up against a bully.
Fictional heroes battle villains that we will never encounter but they do so through experiences that aren't so foreign. In a battle to save the world it looks like Buffy Summers is down for the count and the villain recognizes this:[Click Me] “Now that's everything, huh? No hope. Take all that away...and what's left?” Of course this is either the moment Buffy gives up or it's the moment she shines: “Me”. She then goes on to kick some vampire butt and save the world; something that none of us are ever going to do but that doesn't make her experience any less applicable. There are very few of us who haven't felt alone, without hope, without means to dig ourselves out of the hole we're in. Buffy reminds us that when we've lost everything we still have one thing left: ourselves and with that one thing we can save our own personal day. As a character, Buffy shows us throughout her show Buffy the Vampire Slayer that just because the world sits us down doesn't mean we have to stay down. She shows us that the world sucks and life sucks, sometimes literally but we can make it better. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry Potter is in complete agreement with the lesson Buffy has to show us:
“If it is not love that will save you this time,” said Voldemort, “you must believe that you have magic that I do not, or else a weapon more powerful than mine?”
“I believe both,” said Harry (739)
Harry, like Buffy had friends, weapons and teachers to take him that far but in the end it was his belief in himself and his power that defeated Voldemort. Belief in ourselves is a powerful weapon against vampires, evil wizards and apocalypses but it's also a powerful weapon against real life. It gives us the strength to achieve our goals when things a little more real than fangy boyfriends and pouty dark wizards beat us down. Belief in ourselves can take us long way but these fictional heroes don't exist in a world that is solitary. They've got a support system that may include friends, family or mentors. If the fictional heroes are very good, as Malcolm Reynolds is in the television show Firefly then they remind us: “If you can't run, you walk. If you can't walk, you crawl and when you can't do find someone to carry you.”[Click Me] In an episode entitled “The Message” we go through a journey with Mal that spans several years. The viewer really finds out the meddle of this man and how far he will go to help a friend out. Even when that friend would appear to be beyond help. He teaches us an invaluable lesson about determination, the ability to move forward when we don't think we can and that when the only way to keep going is less than graceful, less than heroic that it's alright. All that matters is we keep going.
In the television show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy spends a great deal of time (seven seasons) coming to terms with her power. She deals with great power in the way that most of us would and do. She keeps it to herself, takes the task of saving the world all on her own shoulders and it nearly destroys her in a way that all outside forces have been unable to do. This isn't any different than the personal struggle we all go through every day. We insist upon doing everything ourselves. We don't want to burden our friends, our family; we don't want to give up any of our power in order to get a little help because we can do this all on our own. In the series finale Buffy realizes that she can't conquer seemingly insurmountable problems alone. She has to step outside of herself and share her power. In doing this a fictional heroine gives us permission to take her power and make it our power:
“So here's the part where you make a choice. What if you could have that power... now? In every generation, one slayer is born... because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power... should be our power. Tomorrow, Willow will use the essence of the scythe to change our destiny. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a slayer... will be a slayer. Every girl who could have the power... will have the power... can stand up, will stand up. Slayers... every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong? “ [Click Me]
With this permission, either from a fictional heroine like Buffy or a real life one like Somally Mam, we can gather the courage to stand up and say 'No, you can't treat me that way (or any other person that way) because I won't let you'. Maybe it's as simple as someone that takes advantage of you at work or maybe it's as complicated as domestic abuse. In any case heroes, fictional or otherwise, give us the power, the permission and the inspiration to stop being polite and start standing up for what we want, deserve and believe in.
Fictional heroes provide for us the same thing that real life heroes give us, but because of the distance their fictional status creates sometimes we can relate in a way that doesn't carry over to real life heroes. Perhaps it's because we know when fictional heroes fall they're just bits of writing; someone else's imagination and because of this their victories aren't sullied by their defeats. If life imitates art than we need fictional heroes to show us how to be real heroes so in the words of another iconic fictional hero: “Let's go to work”. [Click Me]

Works Cited
Serenity. Dir. Joss Whedon. Perf. Nathan Fillion and Summer Glau. Twenth Century, 2005. DVD
Whedon, Joss. "Becoming II." Buffy the Vampire Slayer. WB. Los Angeles, CA, 19 May 1998. Television.
Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York City: Arthur A Levine, 2007. Print.
Whedon, Joss. “Not Fade Away” Angel the television series. WB. Los Angeles, CA, 19 May 2004. Television.
Whedon, Joss “The Message” Firefly. Fox. Los Angeles, CA , 15 July 2002. Television
Whedon, Joss. "Chosen." Buffy the Vampire Slayer. UPN. Los Angeles, CA, 20 May 2003. Television.