Who Wants to be a Hero?

Okay, I admit it; I am a Science Fiction geek, and I loved Farscape.  The whole premise excited my imagination —which is normal, considering I write futuristic Sci-Fi Romance when not dealing with lords and ladies.  However, as much as I enjoyed the show, it’s the beginning—available in the music video above—that really spoke to me.

“Look, I can’t be your kind of hero.”

“No, you can’t be. But each man gets the chance to be his own kind of hero. Your time’ll come, and when it does, watch out. Chances are, it’ll be the last thing you ever expected.”

Nobody wakes up one morning and says, “I’m going to be a hero today.” Heroism tends to be the product of unforeseen events, unplanned incursions of circumstance, or simple happenstance (being in the right place at the right time).  When any of those things occur, ready or not, the truth of a person’s character is revealed. There is no time for prevarication, dissembling, or projecting the desired image. There is only now. And a hero does what the now demands without regard for anything—or anyone—else.

In the now, a true hero has but one goal:  Save the maiden.  Rescue the colonists.  Protect those within the fort.  Brave the fire.  Face the bullet.  Find the threat and eliminate it—or die trying.

Heroism is about risk.  Whether that risk is physical, psychological, or emotional is irrelevant.  Whatever the root, the perception must be one of threat or danger.

Heroes put themselves in harm’s way for others.  Were there a handbook for heroes, that would be Chapter One.

As writers, we write all kinds of heroes, and in doing so, must escalate the risk, elevate an ordinary man to heroic heights.  How much is our hero willing to give?  What is he willing to lose?  His life?  His heart?  His beliefs?  To be a hero, he must be willing to disregard something he believes necessary to his existence.  The numismatist who has dedicated everything to procuring a unique coin only to sacrifice it to ransom a kidnapped child, or the accountant who, despite fears of professional suicide, ferrets out the truth about his crooked boss so the innocent bookkeeper won’t go to jail is just as much hero as the brawny Scot swinging his bloodied claymore to defend the lady he is sworn to protect.

It’s how we write him that gives him his chance to be his own type of hero.

Of course, most of us would prefer the brawny Scot—at least between the covers (that’s book covers, ladies).  Still, the most unassuming person, given the right circumstances, can be a hero, while those to whom our perception ascribes innate heroism can turn tail and run.

Along those lines, the first movie that comes to mind is The Incredible Mr. Limpet—which could easily be subtitled Casper Milquetoast Saves the World.  No, I’m not kidding, and here’s the original movie trailer so you can see for yourself.

Among types of heroes, one can’t forget the unwilling hero, thrust into a situation better avoided but doing what’s necessary because there’s no alternative.  Atticus Finch is a good example of an unwilling hero.  A quiet man, he goes about his life without raising much dust until he’s forced to choose between his preferences and his principles.  Principles win, and as a result, he, his daughter, and his entire community discover his innate strength, courage, and conviction.

Then there’s the anti-hero, cynical and self-serving, forced by circumstance to do the right thing.  Rhett Butler anyone?

There are other types of heroes, of course, but I’ll let you fill in the blanks while I give you one more video.  (You really didn’t think you’d get away without something historical did you?)

Now it’s your turn.  What’s your favorite type of hero?  Alphas?  Betas?  Gammas?  What do you think makes a good hero?  Have you ever read a book with an unexpected type of hero?  Is there any one thing that makes you fall in love with a fictional hero?  Do you have a favorite hero?   Anything you want to share about heroes, feel free.  Let’s celebrate heroes!

52 responses to “Who Wants to be a Hero?”

  1. Great post, Gwyn! A friend of mine had a role in a handful of Farscape episodes. 🙂

    I must admit I had to look up ‘gamma’ heroes (alpha + beta = gamma, it seems). My favourite type of hero, both in real life and books, is the beta. I’m such a fan of friends-to-lovers stories.

    • Gwyn says:

      Lucky friend! I loved that show, but then, I’ve been a Trekkie since forever. Not a fanatic, but definitely a fan. Add Battlestar Galactic, Buck Rogers, Andromeda, Firefly, SG1, SG Atlantis (which starred our friend from Farscape), and it’s obvious I’m beyond saving.

      Betas, like good old Mr. Limpet, take a deft hand to draw them into the realm of heroes, but when it’s done well, what’s not to love?

      Thanks, Vanessa.

  2. Great post, lady! I sat for a few minutes, thinking about the heroes that really stay with me. The list was long but the first ten to come to mind are;

    1) Alex Baldwin in Red October
    2) Sean Connery in Red October
    3) Kevin Costner in Dancing with Wolves
    4) Mel Gibson in Braveheart
    5) Jack of 24
    6) Christopher Reeves in Some Where In Time
    7) Harrison Ford in the Air Force One
    8) Richard Gere in The First Knight (Sean Connery again)
    9) Kevin Kline in Dave
    10) Cary Grant in Mr. Bladdings Builds His Dream Home

    Some Alphas. Some Betas. Some Gammas. All gave of themselves for the right reason.

    • Gwyn says:

      Great list, AJ. So many heroes, so little time! And I loved Red October—both the book & the movie (an unusual occurance!)

      Several Bruce Willis characters fill the bill, too, most with a touch of snarky humor that is appealing in an arrogant, you-can-kiss-my-butt kind of way.

  3. Elizabeth Langston says:

    My favorites are Leo in TITANIC and Jane Austen heroes, like Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightly, Colonel Brandon.

    I like my heroes who walk in a room and turn chaos into calm–who act smartly and quickly to help others. Totally sexy. And a great voice doesn’t hurt either (I’m talking to you, Alan Rickman.)

  4. Rita Henuber says:

    Great thought provoking blog Gwen. You are eloquent as always.
    For me defining heroes is like catching fog. They come at us from so many levels. A hero is certainly someone who puts his life on the line for the rest of us. What about the man who wants to stay home and watch what may be the deciding game of the World Series but goes to his little girls dance recital and loves every moment of it? Melts my heart. I also think a man is a hero if he can see past a woman’s flaws and love her completely. Geeze! Think I’ll go try to catch fog now.

    • Laurie Kellogg says:

      Amen, Rita. I love me a hero who’s a good daddy.

    • Gwyn says:

      Good points, Rita. A man doesn’t need to save the world to be a hero, he just needs to make things right in his or the heroine’s world. Elements that make heroes are often ephemeral. And it’s not always the fight-to-the-death moments that define his heroism. Take-charge businessman, decisive and implacable, morphing into a “horsie”, crawling around with a toddler on his back? That will soften any woman’s heart. Fireman jumping into an icy lake to rescue a helpless animal? Oh, yeah. The list is extensive.

      If you watched the Farscape video above, you see Vala saying, although she’s marked for death, she needs to return home to her destiny. Everything in her life makes it so. That’s who she is. Very softly, looking right into her eyes, the hero tells her, “You can be more.” Yep. Let’s all melt together.

      • Rita Henuber says:

        Stationed in Hawaii we were at a Change of Command ceremony. Very formal. All the marines standing in strict formation on the parade deck. A pregnant mom with a little one in a stroller and a toddler were standing watching. As she was tending to the one in a stroller the toddler made a break for it and headed into the formation calling “daddy” and tugging on pant legs. With each marine she passed the call for her daddy got more frantic. Mama didn’t know what to do. The child was out of sight when we heard a delighted squeal of “daddy”. Through the line a marine appeared carrying the tiny thing who had wrapped herself around him. When he reached his wife who was in tears and apologizing like crazy, the gunnery sergeant with three rows of battle ribbons, smiled and kissed her forehead. She muttered something like she was worried he was going to get into trouble. He said, “Nah. What are they gonna do? Shave my head and send me into battle?” He gave his daughter a kiss and stood next to his wife for the rest of the ceremony.
        I will never forget that. He stands as a hero to me.

  5. Tamara Hogan says:

    Great post, Gwyn! The hero that it most brings to mind for me is James T. Kirk – specifically, young Kirk from the fabulous Star Trek 2009 reboot. There’s a pivotal scene where a cocky young Kirk, carrying tons o’ emotional baggage, fights with Star Fleet officers in a bar. The fight’s stopped by Capt. Pike, who Star Trek viewers know becomes Kirk’s first captain.

    The movie opens with the scene that kills Kirk’s father, giving this scene extra heft and emotional resonance. “I dare you to do better,” Pike says. The next morning, Kirk enlists with Star Fleet.

    Gawd, what a great movie.

  6. Laurie Kellogg says:

    Great post, Gwyn. What makes a man a hero in my eyes was summed up best by Percy Sledge in When a Man Loves a Woman

    He’ll give up all of his comforts and sleep out in the rain
    If she says that’s the way it oughta be

  7. Kate Parker says:

    I like physically wounded heroes rising above those wounds. There’s something incredibly noble about that.

    • I agree, Kate. A man who disregards self, puts aside his own pain for the woman he loves and rises to overcome the challenges necessary to claim her—and in doing so, himself—just speaks to a visceral part of us. *Swoon*

  8. LOVE IT!!!! What a great post. I agree with Tammy on the 2009 Captain Kirk. Fantastic! I, too, love Mr. Darcy like an addict and he’s crack. I think Alec Baldwin in Red October is amazing. Such a great movie.

    I am currently in love with all of the Avengers, especially Hawkeye. So heroic. But I love the more subtle heroes too, like Autumn said, Kevin Kline in Dave. Oh my gosh, that is the greatest movie.

    And talk about your drool-worthy heroes, Bones in Jeaniene Frost’s Cat and Bones series is to die for. Such devotion!

    I just love this post and that song by Bonnie! Now I’ll be happily singing it all day. 🙂

    • Hawkeye! {*swoon*} 🙂

    • I love that song, too, D, but while searching for a blog-appropriate rendition (I’d intended to use only that visual), found the Farscape video, and its opening hit me like a sledgehammer—again—defining the nebulous idea that became this post.

      The working of a pantser’s mind. It’s amusing to watch.

      I saw The Avengers in 3-D. Talk about a great flick. I’ve loved Thor since his flaxen-haired, mega-muscled comic book days. Apparently, I still do. 😉

  9. Elisa Beatty says:

    Oh, yes!! Heroes who are reluctant, who have to sacrifice, who have the best pulled out of them almost against their will…I love those.

    My favorite heroes? Hard to say, but I’d definitely put in a vote for Snape! There’s one who’s all about the self-sacrifice, and who does what he does with no hope of reward or thanks. Everything he cares about is already lost, but he puts his life on the line regardless (and loses it). Sigh.

    • I never thought of that, Elisa, but you’re right. Willingness to sacrifice all (eliminate the threat—or die trying) is a quintessential heroic trait.

      Talk about an unexpected hero!

  10. What a fabulous post, Gwyn. You’ve got me energized this morning. I’ve always loved that Bonnie Tyler song, and that first song is fabulous, too. Thanks for the energy boost! 🙂

    As for heroes, I write RS, and am typically an alpha kind of gal. I grew up as a military brat, so give me a man in uniform anytime… But I digress. I particularly like the wounded heroes, the ones who need healing by that strong heroine made only for them. Love that.

    • I prefer alphas too, Anne Marie, (which could explain why my stories occur in two such diverse genres), and love me a man in uniform (married him, too! *G*) Warriors, regardless of era, make great heroes. And those saved by the love of a good woman (who could also be a warrior), will never go out of style.

  11. Heidi Luchterhand says:

    No one’s mentioned him yet, but what about George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life? He was a hero and didn’t even know it. In fact, if memory serves, he only thought of himself as LUCKY at the end of the film.

    • Few heroes see themselves as heroes, Heidi; they’re just men doing what needs be done. And George Bailey is a great example. Time after time, he put his dreams aside for others. When it all came crashing down, he cried out at the futility of his sacrifices. Enter Clarence and realization. Sometimes I wish I could have a similar epiphany, but I fear I’d find I did more harm than good. Wouldn’t that be the pits?

      Thanks for adding another unwilling hero to our list.

    • Yes! Great example. Love that man.

    • Laurie Kellogg says:

      Great hero. I just wish Frank Capra would’ve changed the character’s name to anything but GEORGE. I have a lot of Georges in my family, and none of them are very heroic. 🙂

  12. Such a fun post Gwynlyn!

    And you took me on a ride straight to the past with that last video. But WHAT WAS THAT SHOW? I’m remembering some late 80’s Robin Hood/Green Man story, but I seem to have forgotten everything but that I thought that boy was seriously HAWT!

    Thanks again!

    • Gwyn says:

      It was called Robin of Sherwood, Elizabeth. Yeah, he’s rather pretty, isn’t he? Glad you enjoyed the post. I had to tear myself, quite literally, from YouTube. Looks like I Need a Hero has been used MANY times!

  13. Hope Ramsay says:

    What a great post, and fabulous comments. And seeing as I’ve been wrestling with a hero all day the blog is most timely.

    I love Frank Capra heroes: George Baily, Jefferson Smith, Mr. Deeds. There is something about the common man who is either forced into heroics, or whose every day heroics make a difference. There is a difference between Jefferson Smith and George Baily, but both are common men.

    I would say that Atticus Finch falls into this category as well. As does the Ransome Stottard in the movie “Who Shot Liberty Valence,” which is a very interesting study of what it takes to be a hero. Ransome (played by James Stewart) is the book learned lawyer who stands up to the bully. And Donophon (played by John Wayne) is the typical alpha man who’s cynical and good with a gun. The girl (Vera Miles) gets the beta hero, but the beta is not the man who shoots liberty Valence, just the man who stood up to him.

    As you can see I’m a huge James Stewart fan, but I think it’s because he played that common man hero to perfection.

    • Mr. Smith goes to Washington. Yes. Great hero.

      How about Matthew McConaughey in a Time to Kill?

    • Gwyn says:

      The love of a girl can make a man stay on when he should go.
      Stay on.
      Just wanting to build a peaceful life where love is free to grow.
      But from the moment a girl gets to be full grown
      The very first thing she learns
      When two men go out to face each other
      Only one returns.

      Yeah, I’m a fan, too. Jimmy Stewart played everyman so well. Cary Grant took the lead in The Philadelphia Story, but Jimmy Stewart’s frustrated novelist character made it so much better without taking anything from Grant or Hepburn. Talented man.

      • Hope Ramsay says:

        Well, in the opinion of many critics James Stewart stole the show in Philadelphia Story. And that movie was his first big break. 🙂 And, BTW, the heroine in the book I just finished is desperately seeking a man like James Stewart. And the hero is a man like that masquerading as a big-brooding-alpha-male-cowboy-sports-type character.

  14. Addison Fox says:

    Oh wonderful, fabulous post, Gwyn!!! ::sigh:: To just stop and think about heroes… Ahhh….what a pleasant diversion 🙂

  15. Ginger Robertson says:

    Yes, I can fall for an alpha hero. SEPs heros, I love all them. I can like a hero with a sense of humor. I just like a book well written. It can make me cry, laugh or cheer. Now I’m a person who prefers to read contemporary romances, I have my books and I’m good to go.

    • Gwyn says:

      Humor in a hero is always a good thing, no matter the era, and I agree, SEP writes some of the best around. Thanks for stopping, Ginger.

  16. Kelley Bowen says:

    Give me Indiana Jones in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. ***Sigh***

    Seriously, can anyone get him for me?

    • Gwyn says:

      I think the line starts somewhere near Mars, Kelley! An intellectual sort with a penchant for danger. Be still my heart. Thanks for adding another kind of hero to the list.


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