Lights, camera, action. An explosion like a blossom opens into the sky showering the world with debris. There is fire and noise and smoke. The heat of the explosion, you can almost feel it. Except, you're sitting in a cozy, butt-forming chair with your head leaning against the head rest of luxury cinema seating. So, you cannot actually feel the warmth. In fact, it's quite cold around you. That's why you brought your sweater. It is always cold at the theater.
I am as much an action movie fan as the next person. Believe me. I like the spectacular explosions because they are not real so nobody got hurt. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is not real either. Or should I say fortunately? I have come to a few conclusions about society and movies which I would like to share. Since this is where I spout off, well, just hear me out.
The word hero immediately conjures the image of the current version of a hero. Some total bada$$ with a need to save hundreds of people from certain death. Just because. Well, because he's damn cool and kinda ruthless and a badguy and women like him. Oddly enough, he has not noticed the fact that he has no life and no friends and no reason to want to save people and he's a stereotype. I think if you were to ask most people who their hero was they would not mention someone they know who blows things up and always has a snappy comeback before leaving to let others bag the bodies. No, they would probably mention a friend or relative who helped them through a tough time. I would talk about my husband because he has supported me through all of the changes I've made over the past year and a half -- despite the fact that some of those changes were inconvenient to him. An abused child might bring up the teacher or friend who gave him the courage to go to the authorities. An alcoholic might remember the friends or relatives who pushed her into rehab even after she messed up their lives.
What am I talking about? Am I seriously saying that heros are everyday people? That's so cliche. Isn't it? I do not think so. Because for every one of those small time heros there's a person who would not have done the same. Let me compare two fictional people who wanted to achieve greatness. Perhaps you can judge which of them was more of a hero.
Person No. 1 is Batman, portrayed so brilliantly in the recent flicks. He's obviously a special guy given everything from day one, but deciding to learn what he can despite his privilege. We see him use his money and power for good although it would be so easy to do otherwise (right?). He goes out at night and rescuses people from common criminals. He makes the world a better place and by the way he has a really cool car. No one quite notices the fact that his life is empty with no family or close friends. I mean, he's out doing cool things all the time, why should we care that he's all alone? Surely, the cool things must be more fulfilling than human interaction. Surely, depriving himself of human brotherhood must be working for him.
Person No. 2 is George Bailey from the Christmas movie It's a Wonderful Life. He's just an ordinary guy with dreams who grew up in a loving, supportive family. We watch George as he is trapped doing a job he hates in a town he wants to leave, surrounded by his friends and family whom he kinda takes for granted. At the same time he's all about doing good things for the people around him. George does not allow his complaints about the life he's had change the fact that he's a caring, compassionate person willing to sacrifice for others -- even to the detriment of his own reputation. It is not until the end of the film that life's frustrations build to a head and George finds himself angry at everything he loves. He is about to be ruined as far as he can tell. Despite the fact that he has given his all no one seems to have come through for him. And then it happens. They all show up at his house and promise to help him no matter what the cost. Heavenly intervention aside, a person cannot help but tear up at that ending. Or at least, I can't and I've seen that movie almost once a year since I was a young child.
It's clear to you that I think George Bailey is the true hero between the two characters. Perhaps it is because I too have delusions of grandeur. I would like to be a cool, loner like Batman. But I don't want to miss out on the greatest part of life. I don't want to miss out on companionship, family, and the connection that comes when an ordinary person helps another ordinary person in need. A cool car and an explosion are unneccessary for courage. Courage is just the simple will to live in the moment showing compassion to everyone you meet. George Bailey will always be a greater symbol of heroism to me than Batman. Not because he destroys evil, but because he nurtures goodness.