16 February 2009

Heroes and Such

Although it will no doubt cause a great deal of bewilderment among my peers, I'll say this anyway: I have only ever seen one James Bond film and I really have no desire to see any of the others. The problem is that James Bond (along with the dozens of other characters of the same ilk) is essentially a wish-fulfillment figure for the garden variety heterosexual male: he drives absurdly nice cars, employs a limitless arsenal of weapons and gadgets, is surrounded by an endless parade of beautiful women and is almost never defeated. The same can be said, by and large, of most other action heroes.

Such superhuman wish-fulfillment figures are rampant in the media. The past several years have seen one overblown superhero movie after the next, and Heroes is among the most popular shows on television. This is partly, I suspect, because comic book nerds are now adults to whom products can be more effectively (and therefore more profitably) marketed, but that still leaves unanswered the question as to why hero characters are so popular to begin with. As I understand it, hero characters are popular because they often represent ethical or moral convictions that are held by most people and can overcome whatever obstacles they might face--even death, in some cases, is a temporary setback.

Yet the insurmountability of the hero that makes me so averse to them. In other words, the problem is that he is simply too perfect. James Bond and his sort are not characters with whom I can sympathize or empathize in any meaningful way--I cannot identify with the action hero, largely because the action hero is neither the kind of person that I am, that I aspire to be nor that I realistically can aspire to be. More profoundly, my inability to relate to the human society of which I am inextricably a member naturally begets an inability to relate to the icons of that society.

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