The Perfect Hero

Only one street light breaks the intense darkness on the desolate city street. A sharp scream pierces through the illusion of tranquility. A woman runs, desperate for help or even a shred of hope. Behind her the sound of pursuing footsteps changes to the sounds of a struggle. She chances a glance behind her to see a masked figure grappling with her would be attacker. Terror is replaced with hope that this unknown vigilante may be her salvation.

That should be a familiar scene, a cinematic and literary cliché. People love their fictional heroes. Action heroes, super heroes and even anti-heroes. They make great entertainment. And I’m one of those hero loving people. Cliché or not, I love them. And all of my favorite heroic characters have on thing in comment, they are flawed.

Lets face it, (obviousness alert) perfection is boring. My husband and I were discussing how flaws make heroes more interesting and he brought up a good point. What creates a good story is the protagonist overcoming obstacles. If a hero has to overcome his or her own shortcomings as well as external conflict it adds more dynamic to the story. A part of me has to love Superman because, well, he’s Superman. He’s the original super hero. However (sorry Superman fans) he has the problem of being too perfect. He’s totally invincible and rarely has internal struggles. They had to introduce Kryptonite to give him vulnerability. He either has to be working to save someone who isn’t invincible (Lois Lane anyone?) or fight someone who has powers that rival his own. Batman on the other hand is only human (with cool gadgets and lots if training) and is pretty much a writhing mess of internal struggle. Superman is loved as an icon but Batman is more popular (according to Comic Resources). It’s not just in the DC universe. I mean who likes Cyclops better than Wolverine? Others have to overcome insecurities about their outward appearances, like Beast or The Thing. Still others have physical disabilities to balance their powers as in Daredevil’s blindness. Others look hideous and are completely insane, oh no wait, that’s just Deadpool (more of an anti-hero I know). It’s not confined to super heroes either. Action movies are filled with rogue cops and revenge seeking badasses.

Part of why people love heroes so much is because we like to envision ourselves as heroes. Just look at the popularity of cosplay and it’s obvious that people enjoy a respite from the real world into the fictional. Who hasn’t thought about what super powers they would have if given the choice. (I’d be able to turn into any animal, while keeping my human intelligence. Then I could fly, become nearly invisible, swim to the bottom of the ocean and kick butt as a bear or lion). It’s simply harder to relate to a flawless hero. Vulnerability not only make characters more interesting it also makes them more accessible.

Robocop aside, nobody wants to watch a crime fighting automaton. When a character is robotic or lacking humanity it usually becomes part of their journey to learn humanity. One of the most notable examples of this is Data on Star Trek (and really Spock before him). This brings me to my next point, if a character’s already infallible they have nowhere to progress. Character growth is important to good storytelling. The Buffy of first season is very different from the Buffy of seventh season (and I was starting to think I could get through this whole post and not mention my biggest hero). This growth is often most apparent in anti-heroes. Han Solo wouldn’t have been very popular if he’d been like “yes! I totally want to dedicate myself to making the galaxy a better place by joining the rebel alliance! I love self-sacrifice!” from the get go. We want to see that scruffy-looking nerd herder evolve from self-centered smuggler to self-sacrificing hero. We love to see a character and think “sure they seem gruff but I bet they’re actually good on the inside.” It goes without saying that we don’t want to see our anti-hero lose his or her quirky rogueness, we just want to see growth. That’s often a problem with TV shows in general, they get stuck not wanting to change the character too much but just end up with a stagnant boring character everyone has lost interest in.

I’ve just spent an entire post saying that heroes are interesting when they have room to grow and obstacles to overcome. I suppose that falls in the realm of obvious but I like evaluating it anyways. The point is the perfect hero is really imperfect (see what I did there). I also like my villains with a little good in them but that’s a post for another day.

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Yup, I totally just put a picture of my dog in a cape (I think it’s a vampire cape) to get people’s attention.

*It didn’t work. This has been by far my lowest viewed post.

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….You Might Be a Feminist

I have another confession ….and this one involves the F word. Yup, that’s right (hand raised) I am a feminist. Shocking though that may be, I have something even more shocking to tell you: you might be a feminist too. Now, I know what many readers are thinking “I’m all for equal rights and everything but I wouldn’t say I’m a….feminist.” Guess what? (Chicken butt). Wanting equality for women is the definition of feminism. It doesn’t mean you hate men or burn bras or insist on political correctness. (Although, you’re welcome to do any or all of those things. Actually, don’t hate men, that’s not very nice). It simply means you don’t think people should be treated differently based on gender.

All feminist aren’t the same. Feminist often argue over points amongst themselves, like whether certain things empower or objectify. We are doctors and teachers, lawyers and florists, stock traders and fast food workers and everything in between. And yes, even stay at home moms (like yours truly). Women fought for the right to choose whether to work outside the home or not. And there’s nothing wrong with choosing the latter. Although it makes me sad that most families can’t afford to have a parent stay home even if they want to. Now it seems like many women have a job and still get stuck with most of the housework.

Don’t feel left out if you’re a man reading this because you might also be a feminist. That’s right men who think women should be treated equally are feminists. Don’t worry just because the word has “fem” in it, it doesn’t make you less of a man. I would say it actually makes you much more of a man.

Why is the word feminist such a taboo? Because even in this day and age some people still want to keep women in “their place.” Most of them say they have nothing against women while simultaneously demonizing us. They call us radicals and (my favorite) feminazis. Because (sarcasm alert) wanting equal pay and an end to discrimination, so like the Nazis. These people want to tell us we’re wrong and shameful for standing up for ourselves or others. These people do everything they can to make us feel bad for something they are doing to us. And even some smart, independent women believe these lies.

Women are not a minority or a special interest group, we are actually the majority of people on this plant (albeit by a close margin). Of course it’s not okay to discriminate against minorities either. The problem is that sexism is so engrained in our culture that half the time we don’t even notice it. Women weren’t even allowed to vote in the U.S. until 1920. And that’s after fighting for suffrage for decades. That means when my grandmother was born her mother couldn’t vote. Although, many atrocities have been committed against many groups of people in our culture, I believe discrimination against women is the oldest and deepest prejudice. Before people discovered other cultures to look down on, most societies oppressed women. That’s why it’s so hard to change.

We’ve come a long way and in a relatively short time but those who say we’ve achieved complete equality are seriously mistaken. You only need look on the Internet for a few minutes to see chauvinism is alive and well. My favorite quote about women’s rights is actually from the TV sitcom Malcolm in the Middle and is said by the usually bull-headed Reese (after a change of heart near the end of the episode of course) “I guess what these protesters are trying to say is that women, real women, aren’t that different from regular people. They want the same things that men want. Only men don’t have to hold a big protest to get them. And women shouldn’t have to either.” We shouldn’t have to be feminists really, equality should just be expected. I shouldn’t have to tell my daughter that she can grow up to do any job even if its a stereotypical male job. That should be obvious to any little girl, knowledge that’s taken for granted.

Many will read this and think “yeah, but men and women ARE different.” And I can’t say that they aren’t, at least generally. Obviously men and women have biological, physical differences (talking about medical sex not chosen gender preferences). Most men are physically stronger than most women. Studies have also shown that women are more likely to look at details while men are more likely to look at “the big picture.” There have been numerous studies that have shown differences in the way most men and women think and handle situations. But these are all generalizations and don’t characterize all women or all men (well besides the difference in reproductive organs). Men are often seen as more logical while women are seen as more emotional. I’m not going to say that my husband is illogical (he’s really not) but there have been several instances where I have been the more logical one in a particular circumstance. Many men are also prone to losing their temper (yes, many women are too) and anger is an emotion. It drives me crazy when men with anger management issues tell me women are too emotional. Assuming a person likes certain things or acts in a certain way because of which naughty bits they were born with is ridiculous. I could write a whole post just on how stupid it is men and women are supposed to like different foods from each other.

So, I’m a feminist and I’m not embarrassed or ashamed. I don’t slap men for opening doors for me or fit into this made up stereotype of what a feminist is. It is absolutely never wrong or shameful to demand respect for yourself or others. So don’t be afraid to use the term feminist anymore (if you already used it, good for you). Stand up for women’s rights! Shout it from the rooftops “I am a feminist!” (Acrophobics are exuded from that last one but everyone else, grab your ladders and bull horns). I thought about ending this post with a sappy list about things women “are,” you know like “women are strong, women are smart.” But then I realized that would be going against the very point of this post. The only thing that all women are is individuals and we should be treated as such.

* I am happy to post comments that pose a different viewpoint than my own. However, remember that I have full moderating powers (mwahahahah) and will not post hateful or prejudice comments.

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