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Monday, July 15, 2013

Heroes with Clay Feet

What is it about heroes that is disappointing when we discover they have flaws? We tend to put people who do heroic feats on pedestals then become disheartened when they don’t always act like heroes.

Last week, Hubs and I saw The Lone Ranger. Keep in mind that when we were kids we watched his adventures every week. In those adventures, he always did the right thing, always the hero who saved the day. While I enjoyed the movie—loved the humor—I came away feeling a little disappointed. This was not the Lone Ranger of my childhood.


I’m reading Jack Campbell’s sci-fi novel Dauntless. When the main character, John Geary, is rescued after a hundred years of hibernation in space, he discovers history has made him into this phenomenal hero. His efforts at trying to dissuade others that he isn’t the Great Black Jack Geary fall on deaf ears. John Geary reminds me of Zephram Cochran in the movie Star Trek: First Contact, who discovers he’s been made into a hero by history with high schools named after him and statues built in his honor. It’s enough to drive him to drink.

Here we have three characters that “history” deemed Heroes. In actuality, they were men just doing their jobs under extreme circumstances. History magnified their (sometimes) lone feat into such proportions that the rest of their lives were ignored or glamorized. While the Enterprise crew has to chivvy Cochran into making the first faster-than-light flight, Geary uses his fame to unify the fleet that is in disarray.

In our youth, we tend to see things in black and white. We idolize heroes. In our eyes, they can do no wrong. When we discover their flaws, we topple them off those pedestals—even though it wasn’t their fault we put them up there in the first place.

As I write this, my attitude toward the movie The Lone Ranger has changed. The Lone Ranger of radio and television of long ago had a backstory that was skimmed over. The movie showed that backstory. He was just a man doing his job under extreme circumstances.
How do you feel when you discover your hero has flaws?


  1. It's easy to feel disappointed in your hero, but you make a great point when you say that we're the ones that put them on a pedestal in the first place. Great reminder for both real life and our fictional ones!

  2. Thanks, Kristen. Although I was only talking about fictional heroes, I'm glad you pointed out our real life heroes.


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