The very word makes my cynical heart go ‘pffffft’. Or think dreamily of Ryan Reynolds aka Green Lantern, in spandex.
See, I love the whole comic superhero thing. I love the comic books (wavin’ the ol’ geek flag high as usual) and I love the movies with their fairly simplistic story lines, massive amount of visual effects, and token main-character eye-candy.
Why? Because it lets me check out of gritty hard thinking reality and escape to a world where there is good and evil, everything is in black and white and always with someone (preferably Ryan) to save the day. Who doesn’t love that? Who doesn’t hope for that? What do we do every time something goes wrong and we feel hopeless? A: we wish for someone to come and make it better.
And yet, even if someone does, the cynical part of me cringes at the general use of the word ‘hero’. Like “my husband is my hero because he is such a hard worker and takes care of me and the family” – something I heard on an American TV series playing this Saturday. This line made me puke in my mouth a little bit. BUT looking beyond this made-for-TV-corniness, ultimately I realise, this husband character IS a hero. He’s a hero to his wife because he ‘makes it better’ in her life, and would probably seem a hero to someone in a family where their father had abandoned them.
So what do I think makes a hero? Not the spandex, not the spider webs, not the ‘I go to the gym twice a week’ physique. At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card – it is not the possession of power that makes the final cut, it’s what you do with it. Some of the geekier among you would have added a ‘young Skywalker’ onto the end of that sentence. That’s okay. We all do it sometimes.
I believe a hero is someone who ‘makes it better’ for someone. A hero is someone who helps people, who does things that most people wouldn’t like to do simply, but does it because of the need to do it. My parents are personal heroes of mine; they worked long hard hours to put my sister and I through university and to make our lives better. That kind of self-sacrifice is amazing to me and, I think, completely deserving of the title hero.
To be a ‘Hero’ goes instinctively with making sacrifices. Whether it’s the fireman who runs into a burning building to save someone, or the dad who works weekends so his daughters can have riding lessons, or even Batman lying in a gutter in pain because he was trying to save the world from The Joker. Fact or fictional, they all sacrificed something for little or no personal gain, in order to make someone or some people’s lives better. To the observer and especially to the people they’ve helped, they are deserving of the title Hero.
This article was a response to Philippine Generations’ call for perspectives on ‘What does it mean to be a hero?’ in relation to Philippines’ National Heroes’ Day. Many thanks to our guest writer, Ali Cochran. Ali is a marketing professional working in London, graduate from the University of Manchester. Half-Filipina, half Mancunian, 100% Canadian.