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“Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.”
What is your favorite type of hero to write about?
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Three Types Of Heroes - Op-Ed Piece
Heroes are at the core of any story. It doesn’t matter the genre, whether it is for children learning (or not learning) Dr. Seuss or young adults with their wizards and spells. It doesn’t matter the time period, whether it is set in the past of colonial days with wagons or the future with robots, flying cars, and advanced spacecraft. Even the author doesn’t matter as much as the hero; a classic like Austen or modern bestseller is not the heart of the story; the hero is why we are there. When you pick up a good book, watch a movie or see a play, you are there to follow along with this character to see how they deal with the problems and dilemmas facing them.
There are three types of heroes that I have come across in my times of late research into literary books that are supposed to help my writing, youtube videos that only waste my time, and my general observations on life that involved too much driving and coffee. You are welcomed to disagree with this list. That is why this is called an Op-Ed Piece and not a Greg Is Always Right Piece. (That would be an interesting topic to start, although I am not sure how long that would be.)
Greek – the strong hero. I mean quite literally. This hero is the hero cause they have the most power among the people. Think Hercules when you think of this. Why is he the guy that nobody messes with? Because he can kill the scariest lion in the jungle and then wear it as a coat. We view him as the hero because time and time again, this hero shows that they are the strongest among all. They are the best, so they are the hero. Sportsmanship be damned with this hero. You got to wear his coat to get that title.
Examples – Greek gods, anti-heroes
Christian – the moral hero. This hero is known because of the sacrifice that he gives to help others. Think of Jesus with this. The guy wasn’t really that strong physically speaking. His stories are not about him fighting and destroying large monsters that showcase his ability and strength. His act of sacrifice makes him the hero. He was the one that was willing to endure the most pain so that the ones that he loves can continue to win. He beats evil by giving himself up.
Examples – Jesus, modern superheroes like Superman
Asian – the journey hero. This hero is not the strongest or even the most moral, but this hero learns from the journey that they are on. They travel the most miles, sometimes literally. They gain the most insight of the three heroes. You see these heroes in many Asian stories where the hero is not because he is the strongest, like the Greek, or willing to sacrifice, like the Christian, but because he learned the most on his way. Think of Goku when you think of this. We can relate the most to this hero since his strength is not from some higher being or special act, but from his own wit and training. Because of that, this hero can be full of valuable lessons for the audience to learn.
Examples – Goku from Dragon Ball Z, heroes from manga
Now let’s get into the problems that each hero has with their character. Despite the notoriety each hero has, they all have major issues when trying to write about them.
The Greek hero’s problem is obvious, I think. He doesn’t have to be a good guy. By claiming that the hero is the strongest, we are not considering that the hero has to have some moral code or ethical behavior behind his actions. What is the difference between the hero and the villain if all we are using to determine them is their own strength? Also, the message of “I am only trying to be the best” grows old with us after a while. As compared to the Asian hero, the Greek hero is not about the journey or the lessons.
The Christian hero’s problem is that he doesn’t have to learn like the Asian hero. He is the hero. He is the one. At the end of the day, or episode, or series, the Christian hero, will always win. It doesn’t matter how big the bad guy is or how hurt the Christian hero is; his main purpose is his sacrifice, and that doesn’t require much learning on his end. The Christian hero can be the same guy we meet at the beginning of the story that we see when he is giving himself up because it is not about the journey for him. His power also doesn’t have to be the best either, unlike the Greek hero. You see this a bunch in modern stories, where we are following the hero that is not even the strongest among his own group, like Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter. Neither of them was especially gifted when we meet them, and they don’t show any particular skills that make us think they are the hero. Why are they the hero then? Because they have a deeper understanding of defeating evil, and strength has nothing to do with that.
The Asian hero’s problem is that he may not be justified in identifying himself as the hero. You know how the Greek hero makes it pretty clear he is the hero since he is the strongest, no one can oppose, the Asian hero is not like that. He must learn lessons and life along his path to becoming a hero. This matters because some characters can learn the messages and gain knowledge and insight into the world around them, but that does not make the hero the hero if he is still weak when coming up against the villain. Just because the hero gathered the most information along his journey does not make him the hero. Also, by having the hero learn everything along his journey, we are left to wonder what he has that makes him so special. What is the difference between the hero we are following and someone else who learns all the lessons, if the lessons are at the core of the character, not any innate traits they bring without the lessons being taught? Also, once the Asian hero learns of the Christian hero’s point of view, he becomes a Christian hero since his sacrifice matters more than the lessons.
Now, on to what kind of hero we all go crazy over today.
What do you think before I give my opinion? Do you think that we all love the Greek hero, the hero that is so strong and powerful that others fear him, despite his questionable morals? Are we enamored with the Christian hero whose whole being rests on his death? Or are we going nuts over the Asian hero who is the epitome of “it is not the destination by the trip that matters”?
Personally, I think we have very different views of the three types of heroes in our media-obsessed, story-telling fanatical society.
We don’t like the Greek hero. His lack of humanity makes us feel awkward when we put our faith in him. We are not happy hearing a story of a hero against evil, and then the hero kicks the crap out of him, with no problem, because the hero is that good. We have gone so far against this hero that we have the hero become corrupt after awhile. As if the power is too much for him. In the democratic world we are in, we are not comfortable with stories where the main hero is always the most powerful and no one can oppose him, and his reason is nothing more than because I am the strongest. If you consider our interest in anti-heroes, then you can say that his type of hero is doing very well. But I do not think that is the original purpose of this type of hero. The Greek hero became the anti-hero since we are not satisfied with the guy saving the world to have no moral code.
I think we all can’t get enough of the Christian hero. You wouldn’t know that the faith was doing bad going by the popularity of this type of hero. We like the message that the hero died for the cause. We like when Superman dies saving the day or that Iron Man doesn’t live when he beats Thanos. We like when the strongest are not strong enough. It feels right to us, for some reason. We want our heroes to give their all. I mean, literally, we want them to die. There aren’t many stories that are around today that are at the point where the villain is destroying everything, and the hero can win because he is too strong. Sacrifice makes this hero, and we like that. We deal with the lack of journey the hero goes on if he saves the day. It is pretty funny that in a time where Christianity is being mocked and criticized by anyone, not of the faith, we all love heroes based on the hero of that faith.
Now the Asian hero is somewhere in the middle of the other two. We don’t hate the Asian hero like we do the Greek hero, but we are not as drawn to him as we are the Christian hero. We like the journey of the hero. That is the best part of this hero. The writers of these heroes can then take us along the path of the hero, and we do enjoy this process. It makes for good character development and stories. What gets people is that, at some point, the story escalates where the world is going to be destroyed, and then the hero transforms into a Christian one. Then we want the Asian hero, who was not based on sacrifice, to die for a greater cause, throwing out all the valuable lessons that he learned along the way.
The hero’s story is the best story to tell. When I went to church, I would see a sign with Jesus on a cross with this hands open, with the title, “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” And after writing this piece, I am starting to think that maybe that is not as much of hyperbole or marketing as I once thought. If all the hero characters we have today take from the Christian hero, then it is not a stretch to say that the original story is actually the greatest story ever told. Down the road, I’ll write a piece asking this very question.
I personally love to follow a good hero, as he overcomes the obstacles in his way. We all want the hero to win, whether he is similar to the hero from the home of Plato, like the Lord with his martyrdom, or has an Eastern philosophy in his life. That is what matters more than the type of hero; we got to enjoy learning of the hero. If a hero can tell the reader a message that they wouldn’t get otherwise, then the hero has not only saved his own world, but the reader’s as well.
As long as the world needs heroes, the world needs stories to tell of those great heroes.
We hope you enjoyed this piece. Got any other types of heroes that we missed?
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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 that the reader shares that same passion.
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