The Heroes of Our Times
I love the movies. I do believe in their power beyond entertaining the audience. Movies capture stories that can excite us, inspire us, even depress us. Movies are also the reflection of our times. Sure, the movie industry is probably lopsided with Hollywood dominance and its American values export, yet you can’t deny that movies still affect how we view the world, and how we view the world also affect the movies.
I find the concept of “heroism” in movies particularly interesting. “Heroes” are enduring archetype, from Greek’s mythology to present day’s Katniss Everdeen. The Hero endures as long as civilization exists, at the same time its concept and personality changes over and over. Perhaps reflecting the changing times and values as well.
It all began this morning when I found myself wondering, who are the enduring (movie) heroes of present days?
I don’t know whether this is the age factor, but I feel like there were more enduring heroes back when I was teenager than now. By “enduring” I mean movie heroes that last for many years, even decades. It is not enough to have a single blockbuster movie. Enduring movies become role model, reference point, jokes, even fashion inspiration for years. I grew up with Indiana Jones, Star Wars, John McClane (Die Hard), Rocky, Rambo, Terminator, Ripley (Aliens).
They were hardass. They answered to call of duty, often times naively without questioning. They lived by the old code of honor, courage, and loyalty. If they cringed in pain it’s because a bullet just shredded their tissue and blood spilled out. They were smartasses, ready to crack a joke even as their lives hung by a thread. This is how they become immortals.
Perhaps, they became so because their world needed them so. Back then, we only knew a black & white world. We lived under the fear of nuclear war. The bad guys were easy back then, mostly state-backed (like the evil Soviet empire), or just money-driven robbers, some future homicidal robots, or gross, slimey aliens. World was simple. Evil was simple. My teenage world was simple. And heroism is simple.
Who are our enduring heroes today?
We could cite Jack Bauer, but that was a decade ago already. So was Jason Bourne. The Fast. & Furious bunch were perhaps the closest we could get. Taken’s Liam Neeson was also a badass, too bad the second and third installment effectively made him look like an idiot.
Today’s teens might say Katniss Everdeen. I don’t mind her. She kicks ass and shoots arrows. But boy does she “galau” too much. She is wallowing too much in her doubt and angst. Girl, do you want to have a boyfriend or save the USA? Sometimes I want to scream, “Bitch, your world would have been much better if you just picked up your bow NOW and SHOOT ASSES!”
And please don’t even mention Edward/Bella. These are the douche couple responsible for teenage marriage phenomenon, I’d say. Thank Zeus and Odin we are past them.
Perhaps Harry Potter was very near to joining the enduring heroes. Unfortunately, I’m not so much into wands, spells, or noseless weirdos. Those sorcerers and witches were in such a messed up world exactly because they never used good ol’ M4 Assault Rifle to settle things down. Oh, and Harry Potter was also having teen angst a bit too much.
Even my childhood Batman was different in these times. He is obviously better than the spelling bee’s Adam West, but you can’t help noticing Batman just broods too much. Dude, you are rich, handsome, got kickass car, and have a BUTLER and THE Morgan Freeman working for you. Why are you so sad all the time, man? And enough with that childhood trauma or the lengthy speech on morality and shit. If we want to be preached on life, we watch Oprah and Dr. Phil. We watch Batman because you kick ass.
When today’s heroes cringe and cry, it’s no longer because a bullet almost missed their spine. It’s because they are thinking of their boyfriends, their ethics, their identity crisis. They doubt their calling, their morale standards, their cause. For every 10 minutes of action, they put 30 minutes of contemplating, whining, and heart-pouring.
I wonder which one comes first. Are present days indeed more complicated for teens, and hence we have complicated, “galau” heroes? Or is it because we have complicated, confused heroes, we end up with “galau” teens who aspire to these characters? If John McClane ever caught his daughter reading/watching The Fault In Our Stars, he would kick her out of his house. (By the way, McClane’s daughther was as feisty as her dad in ‘Live Free or Die Hard’).
A strange coincident, a few days ago I was having a chat with a senior advertising guy who is also a good friend. He was complaining about today’s new professional breed who just couldn’t take the heat. Young first jobbers would quit after only working a few months because they couldn’t handle criticism or difficulties. My friend compared them with his generation where they would just suck it up for the first few years at work, earning their scars, and yet what didn’t kill them only made them stronger. He didn’t see it yet with today’s early 20s at work.
Maybe his story has a relation with the heroes of our times, I don’t know.
Katniss Everdeen, I give you one more chance to redeem yourself. And today’s young generation.