Monday, August 18, 2008

Heros - Aarsen

I write romance novels and one of the main criteria is an easily identifiable hero and heroine so the reader doesn't get confused. And from time to time, I have been corrected on my depiction thereof when I've been told that my character's actions, either the hero or the heroine, are not heroic. And not in terms of death-defying and mountain leaping, but in terms of - will the reader be able to cheer for this person? Will the reader be able to identify with this hero or heroine? Will the reader be emotionally invested in seeing the hero/ine attain their goal?

As well as writing romance novels, I love watching movies. And again, the same rules apply. Identifiable, heroic lead that I'm emotionally invested in. It is by this criteria that I decide whether a movie is 'good' or 'bad'. Sometimes ambiguity makes things interesting and there are times that I like to indulge in a bit of that myself, but overall, I stick to the rules.

Then we bought and started watching Planet Earth. An amazing series of movies that show animals in their natural habitat, doing what comes naturally. Surviving. The announcer, with his plummy British accent, narrates the harrowing life of the beluga whale, struggling to hold on in the harsh northern waters, circling and coming up to breathe in a tiny open spot of water in the arctic ice. The whales all have huge scars on their back from polar bears trying to catch them. I feel desperately sorry for the beluga whale. Cut to a cute, cuddly little polar bear cub, a baby, stumbling through the snow. Again the narrator breaks in with dire news. If the mother polar bear does not get anything to eat, her milk will dry up and her baby will starve. As a mother, I am cut to the quick. BUT in order to live, guess who the polar bear has to eat? Right. The whales that I was cheering for mere minutes ago.

So who do I cheer for? Who is the hero of the piece?

Not so easily identifiable in nature and confusing for us as humans who, as I said before, like clearly identifiable heros. And something that we as humans have been dealing with in some odd ways. I have seen a tendency to elevate certain species. Noble eagles, wolves, grizzly bears, polar bears, killer whales. And where do these heroic animals sit? Firmly at the top of the food chain. But what of their prey? Don't they deserve a hearing? A role in their own story? And if we do write a story about the poor mother sheep, struggling to survive, suddenly the wolf will become the villain of the piece. So then, what is this wolf, really? Hero? Villain?

And then we have the Olympics. We have been inundated with stories of our Canadian athletes - the sacrifices they made to win an berth in the Olympics. I want them to win. But if they do, someone else, who has worked just as hard, made just as many sacrifices, will lose. And if someone from the Netherlands is watching and my Canadian hero beats their Dutch hero, my Canadian hero is, in their eyes, a villain. An adversary. So what is my noble Canadian? Hero? Villain?

This truly does depend on your point of view, doesn't it? Depends on who you cheer for. It has the potential to make one a little goofy.

That's nature. My husband, a country boy, has pointed out these inconsistencies to me since I, as a city girl, came to the farm. And I've never known quite what to do about them. About the sin in this world that has created an ambiguity about what is heroic.

In my own writing I have struggled with how heroic to make my hero? I want people to identify with them in other ways as well. To be able to see that my heros are human with faults. That sometimes my heros mess up. So are they truly heroic?

Thats why I am always thankful for my assurance as a Christian. That in my life, I do have a hero. Someone who has done everything right and has done everything well. And that my Saviour is worthy of all honor and praise.

And that someday, in His perfect world, we will be perfect heros and heroines. And that in that time the wolf will lay down with the lamb and the leopard will lay down with the goat.

And I'll know exactly who to cheer for.

1 comment:

N. J. Lindquist said...

Loved this post, Carolyne!!!!!!!!!! I think about things like this too. So true.

Popular Posts