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Confessions of a Hero Whore

30 Mar

dresdent_files

More often than not when you ask me who my favorite character in a book, film, or television series is, it’s the hero. Not that I don’t appreciate the grayer characters, the morally ambiguous types–tricksters, shady allies and informants, double-agents, self-serving baddies with sympathetic pasts and motivations. But I think sometimes those grayer characters get overvalued, proclaimed “way more interesting” than the heroes, who are decried as boring and predictable when the do the right thing, and lambasted when they make a mistake. Similarly, fans who like hero characters are made to feel like throwbacks to 1952.

But where would we be without the heroes? A story full of characters whose primary motivations are self-serving or up for grabs may make an interesting read/viewing experience, but an abundance of stories like that leave me feeling ungrounded. Morally gray characters are like icing without the cake. I need to have someone in the story who I can root for without feeling like I washed myself with a dirty rag. Someone far from perfect, but who shows genuine courage, and who I know is trying to do the right thing, even if they mess it up a lot along the way. Even if, in the end, they fail.

An engaging hero character requires work on the part of the writer. Many heroic characters face odds so steep that their success, or the traits they possess that allow their success, make them larger than life and difficult to relate to. Giving them flaws that humanize them, though, is tricky. If a hero character is flawed in ways that make him or her unlikable, a reader/viewer can feel manipulated by the narrative–as if they’re “supposed” to like them, even if they don’t.

One thing to remember, though, is that there is a difference between the viewer/reader rooting for the hero even though s/he’s a better man than you, gunga din, and being able to “relate to” him or her. I often don’t relate to the heroes that I find myself rooting for. I can’t imagine being them. But I root for them nevertheless, because the writer has made them sympathetic, human, and likeable.

It’s a bit embarrassing, though, to be asked who your favorite character is and have to “admit”:

Oh, Highlander? Duncan Macleod
Harry Potter series: Harry Potter
Merlin BBC: well, Merlin, of course
Angel the Series: Angel
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Ben Sisko
Once Upon A Time: Emma Swan
Harry Dresden: Harry Dresden

…and so on.

It’s not always the case though. My favorite ST: TNG character was Data. But of course, he was the epitome of the awkwardly sincere trying-to-be-the-best-of-humanity. And my favorite character on Lost was Hurley, but y’know, Everyman with a Heart of Gold, he was. On ST: Voyager, I liked Be’lanna Torres. I have a thing for the fucked-up tough girls. But I’m not sure I would have stayed glommed onto the angry, screwed-up babes if they weren’t flawed-but-trying-to-be-a-good-person. To wit: Faith on BtVS/AtS. Although she was never my favorite character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I never really had one, except possibly the foursome of Buffy+Giles+Willow+Xander. The collective heroic.

Do I get points if my favorite Anne Rice vampire was Armand? He was no saint. I could never stand Lestat, but I liked Louis quite a bit. I prefer my vampires with a soul.

The kinks: stories and our emotional response to them

4 Mar

A friend and I were discussing some of the more “interesting” fannish speculation we’ve encountered while out and about on the interwebs for various reasons re: Once Upon A Time. We both agreed we have no plans to participate in general fandom again. It is a hairy quagmire of divergent points of view and divisive passions, and we have both been there, done that with the bruises to prove it. Best to stick to the discussions we can have with our immediate internet friends.

But that got me thinking about why fandom is the way it is. Anything that makes us equally passionate–hobbies, areas of expertise, particular people, things of beauty–can lead to divergent points of view and divisiveness. We form strong opinions about those things, then the realities of internet communication exaggerate them: a degree of anonymity makes us bolder, ruder, rasher. The visual and aural cues that come with face-to-face or telephone communication are not there, which leads to unintended ambiguity and misunderstanding.

But there’s an additional element to fannishness about fictional books, films, or television shows that also contributes to the potential turbulence of the fan experience: our human response to stories. Continue reading

Once Upon A Time: On Henry

24 Jan

Emma-Henry

I got the first season of OUAT on DVD for Xmas and have been doing a rewatch. Simultaneously, I’ve been plotting the second draft of my novel using the hero’s journey as a rough template, so I had the concept of the Guide archetype in my head while watching.

Assuming Emma Swan is the Hero of OUAT, the first Guide she encounters, at least in season one, is her son, Henry. He has the “Once Upon A Time” book, and he is constantly interpreting events and people for Emma (also, for Mary-Margaret/Snow White, and Graham/the Huntsman) in terms of the book so that she can see herself in the larger picture of what she is supposed to accomplish as the “savior.”

Spoilers through the end of season 1, with some unspoiled speculation

Oh, BTW, your boyfriend is the boogeyman

3 Mar

The thing about Grimm is, even though it is a bit banal and repetitive (although getting less so as it develops its mythology), it hits a lot of my story kinks, like secret identities, hidden subcultures, and family legacies. I’m liking it more and more as the season progresses.

Life in the time of dragons

29 Dec

Hey! I’m writing essays again! (or meta if you prefer)

Being an analysis of Merlin Season 4 embedded in a review of Merlin 4.13 with speculation about Season 5

No hero’s journey for Harry?

27 Jul

I was wondering what other HP fans on my flist think of this article:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20070725/cm_csm/ysawyer_1

“J.K. Rowling’s towering achievement lacks the cornerstone of almost all great children’s literature: the hero’s moral journey. Without that foundation, her story – for all its epic trappings of good versus evil – is stuck in a moral no man’s land.”

Personally, I feel it’s dead wrong, but I can’t quite put my finger on why.

Star Wars!

25 May

gehayi reminds us that today is the 30th anniversary of the opening day of the movie “Star Wars” (now called “Episode IV: A New Hope”). I was one of the little dweebs standing in those lines that wrapped around the block, waiting to see a movie that had dazzling, ground-breaking special effects even in the TV commercials. But it wasn’t the special effects that made the movie. That was icing on the cake. It was the use of mythos, of the most ancient story-telling tropes mixed in with a futuristic, sci-fi setting that made it special. Combining religious mysticism, heroes and villians, good and evil, space battles and explosions, intelligent humor, humanistic, personal character struggles, amazing cinematography, musical themes that followed each character (the “Peter and the Wolf-esque theme in the initial scenes where the droids wander Tatatooine was inspired), and a butt-kicking babe who could rescue her own rescuers…what was there not to love?

Just wanted to mark the moment, because it had a big impact on me and still does.

ETA: Oh yeah, and Han shot first. Make a note of it.