Heroes, Old and New

“When I talk of the triumph of Nietzsche, all I mean is that do-it-yourself morality, informed by personal passion rather than old-fogey morality, is the new norm.”

Jonah Goldberg in “Empty Integrity,” in the November 17, 2014, issue of National Review.

 

This article has some ideological and religious references you can skip over because they aren’t particularly relevant to the interesting discussion of heroes — what they were, what they are, how the cultural perspective on what constitutes a hero has (in the author’s opinion) changed from the “white hat/save the day” sort of hero to the “if it feels good, do it” sort of hero.

I don’t entirely agree. While I acknowledge the cultural ascendance of the anti-hero a la Dexter and Walter White, I think those characters are elevated in cultural primarily by cultural gatekeepers — not by the population generally.

It’s my opinion that, despite their elevation in social media chatter and New York Times/New Yorker-type media, anti-heroes like Kevin Spacey’s treacherous politician in House of Cards remain on the margins of mainstream public interest. When people claim “everyone is watching,” they suffer from confirmation bias and can’t see that, as a percentage of the entire population, very few people actually are watching.

When you see the broadest swath of the public respond to storytelling, it is almost always stories about heroes in the most traditional sense: good people making sacrifices for the greater good of their communities. For example, war movies about bad people doing bad things generally tank at the box office, while war movies about good people doing heroic things are generally successful — and often far more successful than cultural gatekeepers expect.

Your opinions?

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