Why We Need Heroes

Steve MedallionI’m a geek at heart, I’ll admit it.

I grew up watching Star Trek, Star Wars and the original Battlestar Galactica. I once won a contest for tickets to a science-fiction convention by answering a Star Trek trivia question on a radio show. I have a Next Gen costume that I made despite the fact I possess no sewing skills whatsoever. That’s what fandom love will do for you. πŸ™‚

I graduated to Babylon 5 (which I still say was among the best sci-fi television ever on the air), the X-Files, and Firefly. When ‘television’ became live-streaming and broadband, I was there, watching my shows: Torchwood, Doctor Who, the Stargate series…

What attracted me to these shows was something I am finding scarce among television shows today. It’s the sense of Team. It’s the group of people who somehow, together, supersede their individuality. It’s the notion that this group, be it the Pegasus expedition, or the crew of the Enterprise, or Misfit Toys band of characters on Serenity, are people you want at your side and covering your back. They are better together than they are alone. I miss that in this wave of reality television, gritty cop shows, and post-apocalyptic, Lord-of-the-Flies type shows that are predominant today. I don’t want to see back-stabbing and small-minded pettiness. I get plenty of that in real life.

Peggy's CompactI know why this kind of show is the driving force in television right now. Science fiction television is expensive to make and usually has a fierce, but smaller than national average of viewers. We are a jaded and cynical audience as well. It is easier to believe in the dark universes of fairy tales and vampires than the optimistic universe of Gene Roddenberry. But there is little out there that can make me drop everything and tune in week after week. Little that compels me to weave further stories about these characters or that universe. That makes me fly across the country to meet the actors, that drives me to spend months putting together a costume.

I think it is because science fiction and fantasy lend itself more easily to people spinning off their own stories in their minds. I’ve been writing ‘fanfiction’ in my head for as long as I can remember–I just didn’t know that’s what it was called. In fact, I thought I was strange because I did this, and on more than one occasion, tried cutting it out of my life. Little did I know that I was purposely uprooting my passion and throwing it in the dust heap. Fortunately, the roots of true writers are tenacious and tough, and the little bastard of creativity kept sending out new sprouts.

But I also think it is because science fiction leads itself more to role models I can identify with myself. Strong female characters who can take names and kick ass along with the boys. Strong male characters that are a little bit better than you are. That give you something to look up to, to strive to be. I don’t want a hero who’s perfect–but I don’t want one with feet of clay, either. I don’t fall in love with characters that are like my boss, or my co-worker, or me.Β  I want something better than that. A higher standard to hold up and live up to. I can deal with heroes that need redemption–as long as you show me that spark worth saving is there.

Peggy Carter's ShoesRight now my current hero is Peggy Carter from the 2011 Captain America movie. She is the embodiment of everything I love in a heroine: she is tough as nails but she never loses sight of her femininity. She plays by the rules, even though she doesn’t agree with them, unless something so important comes up that she willingly breaks them. Actress Haley Atwell, who played Peggy Carter to perfection, is quoted as saying this about her: “I likened her character to that famous Ginger Rogers quote. ‘She can do everything Captain America can do, but backwards and in high heels’. She’s an English soldier through and through, although she always looks fabulous. She might stand there with a machine-gun shooting Nazis, but she’s obviously gone to the loo beforehand and applied a bit of lipstick. She doesn’t need to be rescued. That’s exciting to me – her strength. I think she’s quite stubborn, a slightly frustrated woman who struggles with being a woman in that time. But more importantly she’s a modern woman and she sees something in Captain America that she relates to, and becomes kindred spirits. He treats her very differently to how she’s been treated by lots of men, in this kind of dominated world she lives in. So she’s very much a fighter.” (Wikipedia)

Victory RedI adore Peggy Carter as a character. I loved her relationship with Steve Rogers in Captain America–she liked him before the transformation, but she was a little gobsmacked by the transformation, you could tell. Still she kept her cool and downplayed her attraction until the point at which she saw another woman flirting with him. Just after she catches him being kissed by the aggressive flirt, there’s a scene in which Rogers and Stark showed her the shield they were testing. They ask her what she thinks and she pulls out a gun and shoots point blank at the shield while Steve is holding it. She puts the gun down and says the shield seems to work just fine to her. Simply. Awesome. She is a wonderful character. I was sorry to realize that we probably wouldn’t see any more of her as the series franchise has left WW2 behind and moved into our own time frame now.

Then I heard that Marvel had made a short film with Atwell reprising the role of Peggy Carter as part of the Blu-Ray DVD extras. Well, I don’t have a Blu-Ray, and my ability to see the film was nil, but it got leaked on the internet and thanks to an eagle-eyed friend, I did get to see it. You know what? Peggy is in mourning because she thinks Steve is dead–but she is going on with her life too. She is fighting a system that doesn’t value her because she’s a woman, yet she is not only doing her job but better than everyone else too. This is what women have been doing for decades to make it possible for women like me to work in the profession that I do. And though I know she is a fictional character, wondering “What would Peggy do?” helps me straighten my skirt (when I happen to be wearing one) and lift my chin and get on with my life.

Maybe that makes me the geekiest of geeks. But I’d rather live my life with my fictional heroes to guide me than a dark, colorless existence without them.

Peggy Carter Sun-2_resizedNo, I’m no Hayley Atwell. That’s not the point. The people who celebrate International Walk Like Beckett Day are not trying to look like Stana Katic. They are embracing the power that the character of Kate Beckett gives them. For you, it might be Ivanova from B5, or Brenda Leigh Johnson from The Closer. Maybe it’s John Sheppard from Stargate Atlantis or Mal from Firefly. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that if your heroes give you the strength to make it through the day, if you are a little better at the end of the day because of them–embrace the power they give you. πŸ™‚

 

I do think in small part the reason Peggy Carter resonates with me so much is the amount of time I spent researching WW2 and the Battle of Britain in particular, for my most recent M/M romance, The Boys of Summer. If you’re looking for a hot summer read, then you might want to check it out!

The Boys of Summer400x600

6 thoughts on “Why We Need Heroes

  1. Because often life is soooo…dull! ;P
    No seriously. There are aspects in a ‘character/hero’ (most likely an unconscious desire) that reflect something we desire in a person or for ourselves.
    Strong female characters who can take names and kick ass along with the boys. Strong male characters that are a little bit better than you are. That give you something to look up to, to strive to be. I don’t want a hero who’s perfect–but I don’t want one with feet of clay, either. I don’t fall in love with characters that are like my boss, or my co-worker, or me. I want something better than that. A higher standard to hold up and live up to. I can deal with heroes that need redemption–as long as you show me that spark worth saving is there.
    Without ‘that spark’ I would not have interest in him/her…ok…more HIM! lol
    For example. I would not have seen Star Trek Into the Darkness movie without Benedic Cumberbatch (Sherlock and more!) Yes. I saw the old TV series but I was not a fan. I was curious to see it and it was like a BANG! Khan is an amazing villain! The Anti Hero who wanted to save his family/crew! ;P

    • Khan is an amazing villain! The Anti Hero who wanted to save his family/crew! ;P

      True, but not the sort of character I’d want to base a weekly television show around. πŸ™‚ But they do–Dexter comes to mind–there you have a hero who does unspeakable things to guys that also do unspeakable things–and no one can catch them. I watched Dexter and enjoyed it immensely at first–but not something sustainable for me.

      If I have to ask myself if I’m in the mood to watch a specific show after a hard day at work, then it probably doesn’t go on my ‘watch regularly’ list. πŸ™‚
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Why We Need HeroesMy Profile

  2. I devoured James Herriot’s books when I was young, reading them over and over again, then watching the BBC productions. (Then Dr. Who!) I don’t know which book it was, one of the last ones he wrote, but he point-blank said he regretted pushing his daughter away from being a vet, and being a doctor. He didn’t think, because of the time period mindset, that she could do it. By the time he died,he saw he was wrong, and that he helped her to give up her first love.

    Ever since I found out you are a vet, I think of him, and how your life shows it’s also the little battles like him understanding his mistake, that win the war.

    • Aw, thank you! Herriot’s books greatly influenced me when I was growing up, so it is an honor to be linked in your mind with him. :-

      I think, however, he’d roll over in his grave if he knew what kinds of stories I write! *coffs* I tried keeping diaries about work when I first started out with the idea of writing stories like Herriot, but re-reading my journals was too depressing. The bright spots were far outweighed by the stories that broke my heart.

      I think part of what made Herriot’s stories so magical was that he was writing about a time that no longer exists as well. His stories were a love story to Yorkshire of the 1930s. πŸ™‚
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Why We Need HeroesMy Profile

  3. God,yes, they were a time and place long gone. Someone taking years to go through the schooling? No threats of lawsuits, because life happens?, etc. Such wonderful tales, and I’m sure he never wrote the hard things about being a vet.

    No one wants to read the heartbreaking things, and it doesn’t sell books, so, between that and his confession of suffering depression in his lats book, I’m sure he edited a lot. He was an amazing storyteller.

    (No, I don’t slash him and Tristan in my mind. That would be wrong, and RPS usually repulses me.)

    • He did write about some of the hard things, but it was so tempered by the good things–his successes with Tricki-Woo, and his romance of his wife. πŸ™‚ The background of being a large animal vet in the 1930s in Yorkshire was another character itself. It’s just not the same today. Not at the pace we’re expected to work. TBH, when I come home, the last thing I want to do is write or think more about the day I’ve had. πŸ˜‰

      No, no RPS for me either. That crosses a line that I don’t think should be crossed. Pity that social media today seems to be erasing all sense of boundaries for some people–I’m thinking specifically of fangirls who howl with fury when a celebrity announces an engagement or a new birth. I just don’t get it.
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Why We Need HeroesMy Profile

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