When the term ‘hero’ is heard, people tend to give meaning to it based on the time that they were raised and born to understand what heroism means. For instance, those who were born in the times when the World Wars were evidently affecting the society, it could be understood that their heroes depict the characteristics of soldiers or military men who ought to have brought about hope during the said era in the human history. On the other end, those who were born after the said era might be noted to have a great essence of seeing heroism to be based on the fantasy-defined conditions of being an extraordinary individual who is able to mandate his actions to provide what the society needs. Others might handle the perception on the matter based on a religious context practically following Christ’s example. However, it the way humans define heroism is based on its impact in the being of each person has affected the human community for many years. Media, being the most affective source of information has become one of the primary source of representation on understanding what heroism means to the human community within a specific era. In the discussion that follows, a definition of heroism and how it changed throughout the years shall be given particular attention to. This discussion shall be defined according to how the human society perceives the being of each hero as it influences their own being.
What is Heroism?
Heroism is basically defined as the manner by which a person is able to provide more for others while sacrificing his own welfare. Most often than not, human individuals are considered heroes when they are able to manifest a sense of self-sacrificing character (Seger). Notably, it could be understood that this condition is based on what they do and how they intend to complete their tasks accordingly. There is however a line of distinction by which heroism is presented in a way that it is pushed towards what is more than just the ordinary situations humans engage with.
Media has provided the human society with another option of perceiving what heroism is about. The creation of comic stories that represent extraordinary characters gave way to noting heroism to be more than just the ordinary way of saving another human being through the natural way of doing so. Sacrificing one’s self for others became a great source of incompetence for some, while on the other hand, fewer individuals began to realize the true heroism could be easily found. Hence as a response to this, story board creators were able to establish a new generation of heroes who can do more than just the ordinary. People were given the idea that there are those ‘special ones’ who were given the ‘special chance’ to be different giving them a sense of understanding that not anyone could be a hero like these special ones (Ray). Unbelievable and unrealistic, this is what the heroes created by media producers are like. Nevertheless, the wonders that they provide the viewers made them the center of attention in the society for many years up to these days. Although media was able to establish a sense of distinction as to what heroes are like and who they are, it could be understood that their condition of characterization changes over the years to cater what the society needs and how the society perceives heroism.
Heroes Then and Now
As noted in the previous section, there was a time when the heroes were presented in media as individuals with special being and special capacities. Relatively, such special characteristic cannot be passed on to just anyone. Most of the heroes like Spiderman and Wonder Woman had their own secret identities. Later on, the birth of Spiderman spearheaded the connection of heroes with the element of animal instinct. All these elements were combined to create dominant characteristics that would identify the being of heroes that the media presents to the society. The special powers are even unreachable for an ordinary person. Doing good was not the only reason behind the heroism of these individuals. Some of them have become special because of the fact that they met particular accidents involving extraordinary situations hence making them different at many cost.
Relatively, such presentation of heroes changed through the years. From being extraordinary because of particular incidents that changed their lives, other heroes with specific opportunities emerged. Individuals like Batman and Tony Start [Iron Man] became heroes because they were rich and they have all the resources needed to create extraordinary technologies that could enable them to become heroes. Relatively though, the feel of extravagant uniforms and costumes was not removed from the story plots at all.
The transition of the representation and perception of heroes in the human society could be noted to have a great dependence on the idea of realism. Back in the days, although most of the heroes were really amazing and practically doing unbelievable stunts, the new age heroes are more realistic, having their weaknesses as humans and having fortunes as real humans do. This made it easier for the society to perceive that there is really a possibility for a real hero to exist (Soprano). There just needs to be a clear motivation for one to be pushed to become a person who is ready to spend time, effort and even money to help others and provide them a better chance to have a better welfare in life.
When it comes to behavior, the perfect idea on a hero being a martyr when he is living life as an ordinary person has changed as well. The keeping of the identity of the heroes was slowly changed. For instance, Tony Stark is known by the society as Iron Man as he is. The constant consideration on this idea is that the world today is notable affected by self-ratification. People who want to be heroes need not cover their identities anymore. Relatively, Stark has his own weaknesses that is very human, which makes it easier for the viewers to relate to his being. Other heroes to note are that of Ben10 and Generator Rex [one being a kid and the other being a teenager]. Both heroes have a distinctive attitude that is common among youths. Somehow, they both share a particular level of confidence that is somewhat over the edge sometimes. Unlike the classic heroes, they do not make proper decisions all the time. Most often than not, their decisions are based on impulse and that most of their actions are defined by their being young and all the controversies linked to it.
Overall, it could be understood through this discussion that heroes were considered differently through the different transition of generations. From time to time, their characteristics, their capacities and their attitude reflect the kind of hero that the current society needs or at least aims to believe in. Media has specifically created several pictures based on what the society understands and what they could actually relate with. It is through this approach that heroism and the idea behind it became more relatively connected with realism instead of the fantasies that is carried on by classical heroes at the time.
Ray, R.B. The Thematic Paradigm. http://ac-support.europe.umuc.edu/~mmacdona/Documents/291%20PDF/RB%20Ray%20Essay.pdf. (Retrieved on April 30, 2013).
Soprano, T. (et al). Why we love TV’s anti-heroes. http://consortentertainment.com/news-details.aspx?newsID=24067. (Retrieved on April 30, 2013).
Linda Seger: Creating the Myth. http://prezi.com/8d22m-caz6du/linda-seger-creating-the-myth/. (Retrieved on April 30, 2013).