Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hero Schmero

Especially since the OJ debacle, I've given quite a bit of thought to how casually the word "hero" is bandied about. We hear so many people say that various sports players, movie actors, singers, and celebrities known only for being famous are their heroes. I wonder in what way. How so?

It's one thing to enjoy watching Steve McNair, Tiger Woods, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Serena and Venus Williams, Roger Federer, Michael Phelps, Anton Apolo Ono, Shaun White, and hundreds of others at the top of their games but another to idolize them as role models. Some of them might hold up under that, but they are human and have faults. We need new words for all this. Because someone sings, performs, and entertains in ways that have an impact on us isn't reason to call them heroes. We are fans. What are they? Idols? Doesn't seem quite right, either. Not heroes. Maybe role models if they have qualities and actions we want to emulate.
Here's the Mirriam-Webster definition of hero:

1. mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability, an illustrious warrior; a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one that shows great courage
2. the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work; the central figure in an event, period, or movement
3. submarine sandwich
4. an object of extreme admiration and devotion, idol
Some of those definitions apply to celebrities and stars in terms of achievement, but to me, a hero is someone who takes risks and stands up for the betterment of others. Some of them save lives, some lead movements, some bring hope, some change lives, and some expose truths. I have a list of those.
Definition of idol:

1: a representation or symbol of an object of worship; a false god
2: pretender; impostor
3: a form or appearance visible but without substance — P. B. Shelley
4: an object of extreme devotion; also ideal
5: a false conception; fallacy
What do you think about all this?


David Dust said...

I don't think people should generalize about "heroes", because everyone's individual set of heroes is different.

frogponder said...

Maybe get back to the core for most folks who have been put in the hero/idol mold - he is a great football player, he is a great singer, she is a great tennis player.

True heroes, and heroines, are all around us and slip past unknown and, for the most part, unsung.

Ms. Moon said...

I don't think you will ever hear about the people whom I think of as heroes.

Joy said...

Same with mine, Ms Moon. They are often unsung, as you said, FP. Some people I consider heroes and heroines are well-known.

Which brings us to individual preferences, DD. But hey, David, don't take away my fun and stop me from judging! xoxoxoxo

Beth said...

I'm with you. I admire athletes like Tiger and Peyton, but my own personal heroes are my parents and my husband, because they have inspired me to be a better person. They raised the bar in the examples they have set and have made a real difference in my life.

Howard said...

At this point in the history of life, we have lost touch with the concept of hero. It is bandied about as if it was a warm compliment, or out of admiration. 2000 years ago, Heroes were called that because of some superhuman feat they accomplished [and were often not real nor human, but instead legends and the stories used as the basis for some mythology/religions. Those at one time we might admire have now become heroes, which is a real shame.

Joy said...

I know what you mean, Beth.

Well said, Howard!

Berry Blog said...

In mythology the definition usually includes someone who sacrifices themselves for the greater good, but allows that all heroes being at least part human, suffer from hubris( that certain gift that rises us to the top also brings us down).

I think the word that is being bandied about a lot now is "icon" which leaves an implication less than human in a technological world.

Mark in DE said...

I think "hero" should be reserved for extraordinary acts of selflessness and/or bravery, NOT for singing, dancing, acting, or athletics. That's my opinion, and you asked for it!