Sih Dlrow Seid Gnimaercs
We all have them. The shining light that you aspire to be, that graceful figure, standing so proud and resolute. That strong stance, ready to protect and pulverize, and that wise mind that knows when to do the first and not to do the second. That firm voice and soft hand, reaching down to pull others up when they don’t even have the strength to open their eyes. A hero. A protector, champion, savior, a Superman, a protagonist. They’re necessary to literature and life. Without a hero, we’d have no story, no one to idolize, or hopelessly hope to be. And without a hero, we’d have no hope at all. Real or not, a hero inspires us to believe that someone out there can truly be good. And suddenly, the streets aren’t so scary, the night isn’t so threatening, and walking home alone doesn’t seem as stupid of an idea as it really is. The hero makes things interesting. Even in this very instant, hundreds around the world are skipping meals to keep the pages glued to their fingers, to watch the hero save the day and possibly, the world. Maximum Ride, The Circle Trilogy, The Faery Chronicles, Daniel X, Pendragon, Landon Snow, even the Bible itself boasts of heroic and daring tales of courage. All centered around the hero.
Everyone knows this hero. The Idealist, sometimes annoying at the very least, but the most familiar. This hero sees the world for what it can be, what it has in store for itself. He sees the gentle nudges he’ll have to give and the roadblocks he’ll have to destroy, but trudges on nonetheless, with a savvy smile and a well-kept, iconic costume. A Superman, in every meaning of the word. He fights for truth, peace, and justice, and still handles a nine-to-five on the side, paying his dues and his taxes like any other citizen. He knows right from wrong, and sure, he’s thrown a curveball everyone once in a while, but nothing he can’t handle. Sometimes he’s rich, above-ordinary from the start, but still relatable (till he’s bitten by a radioactive spider) and easy to admire. Never a bad-looking guy, sometimes young, sometimes aged, but attractive in every sense of the word, with a strong jaw and a firm grip. Kids love him, women want him, and men want to be him. Whether it is his job or his social life, there’s always that rival that fights to be above the hero but never quite makes it. Usually, the rival nearly makes it but by means of deceit. In the end he’s exposed, the schemes brought to life and the hero fixes the problem created by the rival’s mistake, being praised in turn. But here’s the kicker, the slap to the face; the hero is as humble as ever.
There’s the Optimist. Practically an accidental comedian, he’s exaggerated and a borderline annoyance to anyone and everyone. He attempts to save the city and save the world in the splendor of an overcomplicated plan that generally falls flat on its face but he either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care, because he’s just “that awesome.” He’s the Cat Man, the Tick, Captain Underpants, basically the village idiot. The police generally face his plans and his presence with exasperation and the women he flirts with would probably prefer to smack him onto the ground. The only girl who would even consider this man is usually a dopey blonde and even then she’d probably hit him, if he wasn’t the savior of their city. Well, not that’s he really is. Because usually, the police or the hero’s sidekick or just some random nobody saves the day and the hero only believes he did. Even the villain himself stops the diabolical scheme, so annoyed by the hero’s melodramatic ramblings of overconfidence. The hero might even trip and actually arm the weapon of mass destruction himself but the quirky villain that always comes with the even-quirkier hero would give up and leave. Just like that. He “saves the day” with sheer luck alone and deludes himself into believing that it’s skill.
Then we have the Realist. He’s the doctor that saves the girl on the table, the cop that catches the gang member about to murder the family, the detective who found the serial killer, the fireman who ran headfirst into the flames and never looked back. They fight for truth, peace, and justice like the Idealist but their nine-to-five is one and the same. But what makes them Realists is not the fact that what they do is real. It’s the fact that they know it will never be over. The hope that people feel when they see the Idealist is there, just not as potent. The people saved know that their torment is far from over, that nightmares will plague their minds for longer than they’d like. But the Realist hero, ever the caregiver, takes their hand and leads them out of their (sometimes) figurative pit and pulls them to safety, all the while talking them through it. They’re supportive and understanding, they’ve seen enough of this to know what to do and what to say to make the victim believe that it would all be okay. Realists are the heroes that take care of the Optimist’s issues and even stay behind to clean up the mess after the media’s had their buzz. They’re professionals, they know what to do in any situation and know how to do it well.
And then there’s the Pessimist, the tortured soul. The traumatized brother, the orphaned boy, the beaten-bloody corpse that somehow keeps stumbling aimlessly onward. His world dies screaming, and it’s all he can do not to break down and end it. Not with fighting or defeating the villain or seeking solace in warm arms, but ending it with an empty, dead-end hotel room, a chair, and a rope. No one’s even sure what’s kept him going, kept him moving, kept him alive, and kept him sane. He defeats the villain, eventually and usually at some great, inconceivable length, and almost never without a price that seemingly outweighs the victory itself. Maybe it’s a Faustian Bargain, maybe it’s the soul of his closest friend, or maybe it’s a piece of his mind. It’s almost never worth it, not in his eyes. And after his “triumph,” a happy ending is just as ridiculous as the fact that he even was able to beat the villain in the first place. He can’t live a normal life, if the cost of winning wasn’t his life in the first place. The memories and the senselessness would keep him from human interaction, he’d be a helpless wreck, swimming in a haze of paranoia and guilt. But he miraculously retains the image of a hero because of his inability to blame anyone but himself. Even if it isn’t his fault in the first place, there’s always some roundabout way that it was. Even if he gives up his life. No matter what he becomes, the guilt weighs on him, and him alone. But even then, it doesn’t end well. Heaven’s gates are locked to him and Hell is waiting with open arms. And should he ever escape Hell itself, he’d be less than human and hunted. One Hell for another, one fire for a different flame. The others, the Realists, Optimists, and Idealists, they all might just have to hunt him themselves. The Antihero, the Antichrist. There’s only so much someone can handle before he cracks.
The world needs heroes to hope, even if the heroes can’t hope themselves. If not for anything else, people can realize how much worse it can get by analyzing how bad it is for someone else. A hero gives advice, without even saying a word to anyone directly. A hero is made to personify the possibility of actually being able to fight back against the things that go bump in the night. The prospect of things not being as bleak as they seem becomes so tempting that people write of a world with the ultimate protection and sell it on wooden shelves to survive. Consumerism is so widely based on novels and movies and just stories of heroes doing what they do best, even if by questionable means. The Idealist is the purity, and the Optimist is the product of cynics. The Realist is the rationality and logic and the Pessimist is the slap to the face everyone tries to ignore. And they all try to say the same thing. Once things are bad, everything has to work harder to make it worse.