H is for Hero

When my son was small I remember being a bit appalled at the dolls — err — action figures marketed as toys for boys.

 

transformer         hulk and friend

The bodies were grotesque exaggerations of the male form. Actually, very few did represent the human form. Many of the action figures were cyborgs –men melded with machines. The rest were simply monsters. It was almost as if all their humanity had to be melted away as they were shaped into plastic.

What messages do boys receive about who they are and what it means to be a man or a hero when they play with these kinds of toys? Seems to me the primary message is that a person’s problems are best solved with violence and oppression.

Who Wants to be a Super Model?ironman

BatmanToo many super heroes are just fascists/authoritarians wearing tights and a curtain. I am looking at you, Batman. Ironman is pretty much the representation of capitalism. Power and control in a variety of form. Spider-Man is one of the few super heroes able to retain a shred of decency but a lot of the problems they give him to solve just aren’t worthy.

I had to turn to older stories for my son.

sam
Sam Gamgee, master gardener

When I think of a hero, I think of someone like Sam Gamgee: an ordinary person coping with an extraordinary situation or problem. He doesn’t solve his problems with violence but through the strength of his character.

Jim Butcher explains it better than I can in Changes:

“… he faced far greater and more terrible foes than he ever should have had to face, and he did so with courage. That he went alone into a black and terrible land, stormed a dark fortress, and resisted a most terrible temptation of his world for the sake of the friend he loved. That in the end, it was his actions alone that made it possible for light to overcome darkness.”

That was my Hope for my son and all the little boys of the world: that they would want to grow up to be as Honorable as Hobbits.

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18 thoughts on “H is for Hero

  1. I think boys would be more open to adopting Hobbits as a role model instead of superheroes, if they were just made aware of the numerous meals that Hobbits eat. What young boy wouldn’t want to have two breakfasts before elevenses? :)

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  2. Wow. Your post moved me. My son is 22 and I worry exactly the same kinds of things for him. Thank you.

    This is A. Catherine Noon, visiting from the Noon and Wilder blog for the A-Z Challenge, #1554 on the list. We have under 100 followers too and I wanted to stop by and share some bloggety friendship. Happy blogging!

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  3. When I was little, I wrote a letter to Barbie, telling them that they shouldn’t all look the same and so fake. I told them that if we were that way, we’d just have a world of robots. ;) Yes, I had very strong opinions at a young age! Hehe But I definitely agree. The world is getting worse and worse about warping heroes and giving children bad role-models.
    http://bonniegwyn.blogspot.com/

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    1. hahaha I wonder what the people at Mattel thought. I would very much have liked to have been a fly on the wall that day.

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  4. H is for honor! Who wouldn’t love the hobbits and everything they stand for!? I think a lot of the older comic book heroes at least are a lot more nuanced as presented aside from the feature film genre. I suppose it is up to all of us as parents and grandparents to try and help our sons and daughters see the stories and struggles underneath all the Slam! Pow! and Boom!

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    1. Yeah. I just remember having a moment walking down the toy aisle and thinking: I don’t want these things for my son. Even though the aisle was full of toys there seemed to be no real choice: just an iteration of plastic violence. I totally agree that the discussions that follow stories are awfully important.

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  5. Amazing post! Never thought about this point of view (I don’t have kids), but you are absolutely right about the image those characters project. I love the Jim Butcher quote also. Sam Gamgee is indeed a very worthy hero and role model.

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    1. Thanks. I had been thinking about Barbie and how some people worry about her image as a role model for girls. I wondered why there isn’t a similar discussion about the kinds of role models we present to our boys.
      Everyone loves Sam I think =D

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