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The Idea Of A Hero – Op-Ed Piece

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Introduction

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In this op-ed piece, we talk about a recent trend we have seen in stories and how we feel about it.

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The Idea Of A Hero – Op-Ed Piece


There is a modern trope in storytelling where the main character, on their adventure, reflects upon their journey and that they are to become something else entirely by the time they are done with it all. Sometimes there is quite literally a conversation between the main character and someone else about their role in their world, which is kind of weird when you take a step back and view it from a real-world perspective. What is going on over there? Oh, nothing. Just a man talking to another man about how he should be an idea in order to help people. Yeah, nothing strange about that. No one in our world has those types of conversations. Even the very people who you can say became ideas probably never sat down on a bench with a friend to discuss the ramifications of their transformation.


“Hey, what do you want to be today?”


“An idea.”


“I was thinking more in the line of administration work or maybe clerical duties. I heard there was an opening for a job with the town you can look into. But yeah, if you want to be an idea. Then go right ahead. I don’t know how that is going to pay the bills, but who I am to judge.”


“I will inspire people when I become an idea.”


“Right… You say that like it is a thing. I am going to apply for the job in the town because I feel like being in a job that pays me is better than what you are trying to do. Good luck with the whole being an idea thing, though. I hope it works out for you.”


Do you know why no one ever talks about becoming an idea? Because most of us regular people have a hard enough finding the plug to our cell phone despite living in the same spot all the time, keeping up with gas prices (and even comparing them to get a better deal), and resisting the urge to have another doughnut, even though our doctor says it is wrong. I am over here struggling with my income, my career, and basically everything in life, but yeah, yeah, go on about how you want to become an idea. That idea wouldn’t happen to include making the parking lot larger for the grocery store down the block because I swear that place keeps growing, and yet the spots are shrinking. I know it is not only me here either because I just spoke to a guy about this very problem. You used to be able to open your door all the way, and you had room to back out of the place, and now you don’t. If you ever meet someone who seriously tells you their life goal is to become an idea, then you should flip some food at them. Perhaps some bread and chips, or if you are feeling frisky, you can throw some chili at the moron. Wait, never mind. That is a waste of food. How about you don’t listen to the weirdo who thinks it is normal to talk about themselves as if they are an idea? You know, the guy who thinks seriously of that is the same guy who talks about himself in the third person, like it is normal. Which it isn’t.


“Oh yeah, Greg is going to write an article today. Greg is then going to find the plug to his phone and not have another doughnut. Greg is going to have a good day.” That is what I say to myself every morning, or it would be if I was a freaking weirdo.


But wait, wait, wait, why are characters going around saying they want to be an idea anyway? That is not right. The first problem I have with the main character stating they want to be an idea one day in their own story is that they are not actually talking about an idea. Yeah, so it is not bad enough that they are out of touch with reality; they are wrong with their direction in it. They are talking about a myth, a legend, or some story that is told about them after they are long gone.


What’s the difference between an idea and a myth? The lightbulb was an idea. The story of George Washington chopping down a tree and then not lying about it is a myth. AI is an idea, one of which I will probably write an article on in the future about the effect that computers can have on writing. The Labors of Hercules are myths, each an individual story of the character. So let’s get that out of the way right now, when a character in a story tells others they want to become an idea, or something larger than themselves, they are really saying they want to become a myth.

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For anyone paying attention, becoming a myth is not necessarily something you can control. It is not like becoming a fan of a certain sports team where all you have to do is wear a particular pattern of colors at the arena to be in or joining a specific club where you are allowed in if you can afford the costs. Even if you wanted to be a myth, no one knows how to become one since the very thing is abstract. George Washington’s myth is not about a kid chopping down a tree but the lesson of honesty. Hercules’s Labors are about man's obstacles and overcoming them. Sure, the stories may seem simple, but they are to teach us something about ourselves. How the hell are you supposed to know, as a main character in a myth, what your role will be in the myth?


Yeah, because that conversation with that weirdo who talks in the third person and only pays for the food they bought wasn’t dumb enough, (I don’t know why I made this person really cheap, but you just know that when the time comes to pay, after all that talk about ideas and being more than themselves, they are only looking at the exact amount for what they ate, and the appetizer is a debate) Anyway, the original conversation of wanting to become an idea wasn’t stupid enough, but now change that to wanting to be a myth, and you know what, throw the food at the guy. Just throw it. People that stupid deserve to have food thrown at them. And the type of food that leaves stains and ruins clothes.


The most glaring problem I have with the character’s approach to their own legacy is the lack of any appreciation for the one individual who will probably be the reason they are remembered; the author. Say what you want of noble heroes and cunning villains, but they are nothing without the talented person telling the audience the story of the tale. A great writer can make or break the legacy of a person seeking a lasting legacy just because they decided to write about them. Did it help that many of the Greek gods were a part of many myths, that they were composed by Homer, one of the best writers of all time? I mean, yeah. If they don’t have the delivery boy to give the message to the people, then there is no message at all. The hero should be on a mission to find a great wordsmith as much as accomplish their task. What happens if they do a great thing, but then there is no writer to record it in a way people like? Tough luck, hero.


A proverb reflects this; “Many heroes lived before Agamemnon…” In other words, one of the chief characters in the tales of Homer was not only helped by his own achievements but by the recording of them by another. Go ahead, Harry, kill Voldemort, but who is going to write about it? Go and save the world Ender, but you better find someone to talk about it. Sure, Sherlock solves those crimes, but you should find a good writer afterward to spread the story of your success.


There is never a moment in the hero’s journey where they acknowledge that they have to get lucky in regards to the storyteller who chose them as the focus of their myth and not some other random person. Also, stories never take into account that the myth of the hero will change over time since the word of mouth and importance of the people will change, making the significance of the myth alter through time. According to the hero, their own greatness within the story they are staring in, their idea, which isn’t even an idea, will be told the same way for many years to come, with no help whatsoever.


I also have another issue with the hero’s quest for an idea in regard to morality. What I mean is that you can’t tell the difference between the hero and the villain if you only associate them through their own myth. Heck, if you are aware of some myths, then it won’t take long for you to name a few of them that are not good and are remembered as warnings as much as the ones where we are meant to be inspired. Think about it like this; the villain character can have the same conversation the hero has at the beginning of the story and not necessarily be wrong in their assessment, which puts an unusual amount of power with evil.


I want to become more than myself. I want to be remembered and change the world. I want to have the world to know my name.


Those are lines that can be said by a villain trying to corrupt the world as much as a hero saving it, and the messed up part about it is that the villain may have a point. They may be able to be one of the spooky things we hear creek during the night, a scary story we tell our children before bed, or a warning of how not to live. Becoming a myth is not a moral subject, and yet the modern story is more than happy to have us believe it as so.


There is an obvious paradox to the whole idea (ha, see what I did there?) If myths, or ideas as they are called in modern stories, can be created either from good or bad, then none of them are really the ultimate hero or villain since the good myths are never good enough to rid of the evil ones, and the evil ones cannot beat the good ones, then does that mean there is one great myth that will come to end it all? Isn’t that the myth that really matters? Isn’t that the character that matters? Even the character in their own story knows of myths that are now a part of our large lexicon of myths, and guess what? There are still other myths being created, but if each myth is just about someone teaching us a lesson for us to take with us, then isn’t there one major lesson in one myth that can trump all the others? (I am not saying I know the myth, but in a world full of myths, we are left to wonder if they are all created equal)


A lot of villains today present themselves as if they are the ones that are correct, for their acts of cruelty and horror are not their own but of a crazy world, one they just so happen to live in. Nobody is really good, as the villain is always quick to point out the hero, so what is the problem with what they are doing? Do you understand how they spin the situation to fit their twisted needs? The modern hero knows the world is bad; some may say he knows it more than the villain, but the hero can still see that the world can be saved. It is not that the world doesn’t understand the villain; it is that the villain is too narrow-minded or disturbed to see the horrors of their own acts. Just because you can inflict pain and harm upon another person doesn’t mean you should.


The hero’s quest is one of the longest literature story models. As long as there have been words to write down, people have written about heroes who can fight the evil in this world. After the burdens of taxes and accounting, heroes, and stories were what people wanted to hear, and why? So we can learn of ourselves and of the world and prove to each other that the good in the world can win, despite the consistent good PR evil obtains from all the terrors inflicted from it. In our understanding of the hero, we have given this hero a little too much knowledge of the story they are in and perhaps taken away one of the things we love about heroes to begin with. The hero doesn’t have to tell everyone they will be a myth (or idea) one day since we know that can happen through their actions. Let’s give the heroes of our modern stories more to do rather than filling each tale with this silly concept of self-awareness.

 

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About The Blogger

Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes the reader shares that passion.

 

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