Re: RARA-AVIS: Mr T's UK vs. US toughness.

From: Rene Ribic (
Date: 24 Jul 2002

> then Al said:
> Anyway, doesn't heroism transcend culture?
> ***************************
> hmm... now that is a damn good question! i don't know
> the answer to that. let me read up on carl jung and
> get back to you. i'm kinda leaning toward your definition
> of the hero as an archetype, but with the additional
> stipulation that he's gotta carry some cultural baggage.
> across the board, a hero is gonna be noble and do good deeds
> and be brave, and i'm thinking he sorta lives by a certain
> code of honor, but the definition of all these things is
> malleable. clavell's _shogun_ comes to mind as far as an
> example of cultural shock over the hero definition, but
> that's sorta veering off-topic. on-topic, hardboiled is all
> about redefining earlier hero definitions, isn't it? the
> big thing about the hardboiled hero is that "tarnished"
> element. he's been a bad boy, and he's not beyond being
> a bad boy again, but he's still the hero.
> Al continues:
> Quite apart from which, is Rebus anybody's idea of a hero?
> ***************************

I think the concept: "hero" is not exactly fixed. To most of us (& I'm sure Hollywood bears much of the responsibility here) a hero is brave & virtuous. The word comes to us from the ancient Greeks & their concept of a hero did not include virtue as a prerequisite. The heroes of Classical myth & legend were often very flawed individuals - what they did have in common was that they were larger than life & often demi-gods
(immortal father, human mother, etc). A couple of examples from THE ILIAD: Achilles - the greatest warrior of his time, was a practising homosexual - he shares a tent with Patrocolus & goes into a killing rage when his lover is killed in battle by Hector, the Trojan champion. Achilles kills Hector then desecrates his body. To the Classical Greeks(& presumably the Heroic Age Hellenes of Homer), sexual contact between 2 grown men was abhorrent (as opposed to a grown man & a young boy, considered by the Classical Greeks to be the highest form of love possible between humans). Achilles' defilement of Hector's corpse was also considered extremely poor etiquette. Despite these social failings, Achilles is feted because of his greatness as a warrior & the fact of being a "hero", someone greater than ordinary mortals.Similarly, the great Odysseys is shown at the beginning of THE ILIAD feigning madness in order to dodge the draft - not something the Greeks would've considered noble behaviour at all. The Classical Greeks had no trouble accepting that heroes had significant human failings, in fact, they could be what we consider to be evil people. I suspect the notion that a hero must be virtuous is, originally, a Christian concept. These days, with the power of the media to change (& cheapen) the meanings of words, anybody who survives a disaster & lives to tell the tale to the media, or indeed any local person who wins a big time sporting event, is automatically garlanded with the label "hero", so I suspect the word is still changing meaning, right before our eyes.


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