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.

Nerd is the New Cool

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The other day I read a Cracked.com article entitled The 7 Most Ridiculous Things About Calling Out Fake Fangirls. I largely agreed with the article although I can understand how it can be frustrating when someone takes something you love, that they know nothing about, and calls themselves a fan. (Major run-on sentence alert). Case in point, I had to roll my eyes at a girl I used to work with, who in the past had proudly declared “I don’t read,” (not everyone has to be a bookworm but I don’t think not reading is something to brag about) when she came over to me while I was reading a Harry Potter book and said “I just became a Harry Potter nerd.” I told her that was cool then she said “yeah, I saw the third movie and liked it, then I saw the first two and liked them too.” It was all I could do not to full on face palm right in front of her, so I get that can be frustrating but who’s the judge of true fandom? The whole article got me thinking, what constitutes a “fake” fangirl/boy or nerd and am I one?

Before we proceed I should clarify a couple of things. I’m going to use terms like geek and nerd interchangeably, even though many argue there are differences. I’m also talking about geeks/nerds in the sense of being fans of things deemed geeky (which I consider myself) and not in the really smart, good at math and technical stuff sense (which I am not). These different definitions often overlap but you can certainly can be one without being the other. Also, I’m apologizing in advance, it’s going to be really hard for me to stay focused on the point and not just go off on a million tiny nerd tangents (maybe “a million tiny nerd tangents” should have been the title of this post). I should also apologize to those readers who may not be predisposed to geekiness, hopefully you won’t get totally lost in all the references.

The above article mostly focuses on the claim that there are “fake fangirls” who go to conventions in revealing costumes just to get attention. Most the complaining about poser nerds only calls out girls and women (sexism anyone?) as if only girls pretend to be something they’re not to fit in. This assumes that being geeky is now cool. I’m not going to say that’s not true, the stigma attached to nerdiness has definitely diminished in the last several years. It’s hard to argue that things that use to be considered nerdy aren’t popular now, when comic book movies are often the highest grossing movies now days. And graphic tees that use to hard to find outside of Hot Topics are sold at department stores like Macy’s. However, there are certainly those who still look down on all things geek and many people think there’s only an acceptable amount of nerdiness. Some people might enjoy comic movies but would still consider collecting said comics beneath them. Also, certain types of things are often considered nerdier than others, example being, World of Warcraft (and other MMORPGs) is generally considered geekier than Halo (and other first person shooters). I still get occasional sideways glances when I show up to a mommy and me class sporting a Firefly tee-shirt. That’s not to say geek sheik hasn’t come a long way, 15 years ago I doubt anyone would be trying to defend their nerd status.

I can say with some certainty that I am not one of the aforementioned scantily clad girls at conventions (whether they are seeking attention or sincere fans). Mostly, because I’ve never been to a convention (hold for gasps of shock). Unless you count Disney Hollywood Studios’ Star Wars Weekends as a convention. Do you need to go to conventions to be a nerd? It’s not that I have anything against conventions, I would probably really enjoy them, they’re just expensive and before becoming a stay at home mom, I usually worked weekends. I do regret that we were in Orlando during two Star Wars Celebrations and didn’t make it to either. I’ve also never cosplayed out side of Halloween. Again, it looks fun but I’m just not a crafty sort of person that is good at putting together awesome costumes. I’m lucky if I pull together a half decent Halloween costume (usually with a lot of help from the hubby). I’m also a perfectionist and it always drives me crazy when I can’t get my costume to be exactly like the original character’s and I’m too cheap to spend the money it takes to make a costume look just right. The picture at the start of this post? That’s from a Halloween party at our house.

Oh, side note, I did go to A Comic Shop in Orlando to get comic book writer Daniel Way’s autograph. There we are, pictured below (it was St. Patrick’s Day and I’d just had a root canal).

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There are so many different things to geek out about now days. Some people have a wide variety of interests while some tend to focus on one. For example some people are science fiction and fantasy fans, while some are just one or the other. More specifically, some people are just into Anime while others love Anime and Star Wars and comic books and possibly ten or twenty other nerdy past times. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being focused or more broad in your fandom. I tend to dabble in a lot of different things and to focus on individual things I like and not broader genres. I wouldn’t consider myself a general Anime fan but I am a big Cowboy Beebop fan (I like a few others too). I do read comics but only collect a few titles (although, I’m about 18 months behind on reading them, guess how old my daughter is?), mostly because there are just so many titles. I’m sure some would ask me to turn in my nerd card just based on that.

I’ve seen so many comments on the above article and others with people boasting about “knowing their s#%^*.” I often wonder how much knowledge you need about something to be a “true fan.” Do you need to stay up nights studying so you can prove your love of something to others? I really love Star Wars, they’re just plain awesome movies. My knowledge of Star Wars is somewhere between your average casual viewer (you can’t be married to my husband and not learn something about Star Wars) and your hardcore, always wins Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, fan. Does that mean I’m not a Star Wars fan? I know there are much, much bigger fans but does that somehow negate my fandom? I don’t believe it does. Even with Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and no one, I mean No One better question my Buffy fandom), I don’t know the name of every random side character in every single episode.

Another criticism I often see and hear is the “you jumped on the bandwagon late and I’ve been a fan for years” argument. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to brag about how long you’ve been a fan of something. I love to tell people how I started watching Buffy first season (although it was part way through first season and I stopped watching for a while but that’s another story). Now I’m not new to nerdom, I grew up watching Star Trek The Next Generation and remember watching old school Dr Who when I was so young all I really remember (vaguely) are the beginning credits. I watched X-Files from the very beginning (although not through the bitter, terrible end) and kept up with all the black oil twists and Krycek turns. Granted it’s been so long now I wouldn’t know The Smoking Man from Sunday (note to self re-watch X-Files). I’ve always been a fan of fantasy literature, long before Harry Potter. However, I’m not very good at keeping up with the latest thing and am often late to watch/read something amazing. There have even been times I’ve seen a movie and then after loving it read the comic or book (Scott Pilgrim, Watchmen). Sometimes, I even love a movie without ever reading the book or comic (scandalous, I know). I also have a long list of things everyone tells me I’ll love that I still haven’t tried (new generation of Dr. Who). My point is (I know this post has a lot if rambling), when someone discovers something really doesn’t affect how much they love it. I mean, I wasn’t alive when The Lord of the Rings was published, it doesn’t make me like it any less. All those people just discovering Joss Whedon after The Avengers? I welcome them and hope they watch and read some of his less recent works. If anything, his new popularity makes me feel vindicated, like “see, I told you he’s awesome” (whoever took him off Wonder Woman must be kicking themselves). Even if you didn’t discover the joys of hardcore fandom until yesterday it doesn’t make you a lesser fan in my opinion (although perhaps a tad less experienced). One of the best things about nerd culture is that it has always provided a place for the social outcasts to be accepted, so let’s not start turning people away at the door.

Sometimes I question if I’m some kind of nerd wannabe. I occasionally wonder if I’m a poser for wearing my Batman shirt when I don’t collect any Batman titles (although, I don’t wonder about my Harley Quinn shirt since I love Batman the Animated Series and she was created for the cartoon originally). I see people who really devote they’re lives to fandom and think I might fall short. One of my pet peeves is when people pull the “if you were a real fan…” card. At one point Logo had a fan voted top 100 Buffy episodes count down. Of course they listed the result on their website as well and many people including myself were leaving your typical “I think this episode should have been on there instead if that episode” comments. Then someone had to chime in with an “if you were true fans you wouldn’t be arguing about this. You would see that all the episodes are masterpieces…blah blah blah” comment. First off, I believe I’ve been clear about how I feel about people questioning my Buffy fandom. Second, real, true fandom (like friendship) isn’t about blind devotion but about seeing the faults and loving something anyways. So feel free to cast aspersions in the comments as to my nerdiness. I may not be the biggest baddest geek around but I love my obsessions passionately and isn’t that what fandom is all about? So (wokka wokka alert), can’t we all just geek along?

And now just because it’s fun, here’s a picture of Boba Fett with refrigerator magnets stuck to him.

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