Without a doubt, heroes are important individuals in our society. Without heroes, we wouldn’t understand how to succeed or enjoy life. There are many different types of heroes in society; although most of us recognize and have a soft spot for our local sports teams, there are many other heroes beyond that. What makes a hero?
There are two basic types of heroes in modern society. The first are classical heroes; these are individuals who perform amazing acts of heroism in the name of justice or truth. Our nation was founded upon the ideal that all men are created equal and that they should be treated with fairness. However, classical heroes receive no recognition in our society. The most prominent of these are teachers who shape the lives and future of young men. Other higher paying jobs might require more education but why don’t associate greater paychecks to greater heroic merit?
One type of contemporary hero is the fantasy hero; these are individuals who act out acts of fantasy to fulfill a need or to find themselves. For instance, Alexander the Great may have charmed the Greeks with his intelligence and tactical skills, but because he was considered a mythological creature, those who admired him were tortured and killed by their fellow Greeks. How different could our culture be with such a definition? Of course, we would never torture ourselves with stories about supermen or other superpowers, as those characters have no place in our society.
A second type of contemporary hero is the superhero, a person who acts in the name of justice. Though there have been many examples of this in history, the one that jumps to mind is Superman. Although not always Truth or Reconciliation worthy, Superman attempted to do the right thing and did so to an extent, at least when it came to preserving the integrity of mankind. While not all of us may want to live in a world where superheroes rule, it is still possible to create an alternate reality where such heroes exist, and through the lenses of a modern fantasy reader, we can play out our own fantasies.
Finally, another form of modern mythological hero is the tragic hero. These are the heroes who overcome great loss or tragedy, such as the tragedy of a marriage or of humanity at large. It is easy to forget how important this concept is to our sense of fairness in our culture, but it is a profound part of our psychology and indeed of the true meaning of heroes. In fairy tales and in popular fiction, these are the heroes that we celebrate and honor, since they rise above the ordinary to achieve something extraordinary.
All three definitions of modern heroes highlight the central point that each of us is capable of heroic acts, and that all of us have an extraordinary ability to make the world a better place, through our strength and our skill. Thus, all of us should recognize the importance of heroes in our lives, whether in the classical heroes of Greece and Rome, or the modern, contemporary heroes of our time. Through their selflessness, their courage, and their bravery, they all deserve our praise. Indeed, we all need heroes to help us realize our potential!