It’s Okay to be a Hero

Legend of Zelda Link Picutre

Lets chat for a bit about heroes.  The new, modern, trendy, super cool, trench coat-wearing thing nowadays is anti-heroes.  Batman, Joel from The Last of Us, Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn.  All these characters are dark, mysterious, brooding, kind of morally ambiguous, and dreamy.  It seems that the media and critics are obsessed with the anti-hero and anything even remotely resembling a hero is a boring trope that’s obviously been done before.

But you know who I love?  The hero.  I love Link, Mario, and Captain America.  I love the brightness, the hope, the radiating goodness that pours out of a hero and into our lives.  Heroes are absolutely still relevant and, especially in these dark times, still necessary in our games, movies, and media.

So what’s the exact difference, you may ask?  Well let’s check Wikipedia – because that’s what we do nowadays.

A hero is defined as a “person or main character who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through impressive feats and ingenuity, bravery, or strength, often sacrificing their own personal concerns for the greater good”.  Let’s break it down.  A hero is someone who utilizes their natural abilities to overcome evil.  They are always found giving up what they want to help others and are good, true, honest, and kind.  These characters always do the right thing and have a fantastic moral compass.

An anti-hero is a “protagonist who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, or morality.  Although anti-heroes may sometimes do the right thing, it is often for the wrong reasons and because it serves their self-interest rather than being driven by moral convictions”.  So these are the people who fight against the system, break the rules, live by their own code, and do their own thing.  And somehow they usually end up doing the right thing for the people around them.  But it’s not always the best way to do it or the best reasons.

Because anti-heroes are much more flawed and much more like us they tend to be more loved.  They appeal to us because we relate to their circumstances, they struggles, and dilemmas.


Just because a character is a hero doesn’t mean they’re flat.  Or outdated.  Or boring.  It just means they are a good person with good morals who does good things for people.  It’s because they are heroes that makes them people we should emulate.  I mean, add a couple of cut scenes of Batman sneaking through a window with an ax and this just became a horror film.  Instead of focusing on the parts of a hero no one feels they can relate to, lets focus on the fact that these are characters we can strive to be!

My sister-in-law and I have this debate semi-regularly.  She is a hard-core anti-hero fan and I am a die-hard hero worshiper.  It’s why she loves Brontë and I love Austen.  Why she loves Rogue One instead of Force Awakens and I… well I love both.  And I wish I could help her understand that a character doesn’t need to be an anti-hero to be worthy of praise or positive critique.

Lord David Cecil once said (when talking about Austen’s novels, but let’s be honest, it can be applied to any hero character, “There are those who do not like [heroes]; as there are those who do not like sunshine or unselfishness”.  These character’s can bring light and happiness into our lives and into our perspectives.  Instead of focusing on the flaws and negativity and selfishness we are given the option to look at the selflessness, the integrity, the courage of characters doing the right thing because it’s the right thing.  Link saving Hyrule in every iteration simply because he’s in the right circumstances.  Mario rescuing the kidnapped girl and freeing countless worlds from the clutches of tyrants.  These are the people with hope and the ones who can teach us to hope.

The website Literary Devices explains that “in modern society when we are presented with a character that is overly righteous and upright, we find it too good to be true. The social turmoil that the entire world as a community has been facing recently has disposed us to be skeptical of almost everything. . . So, we relate better to a character that has suffered through life and has both good and bad sides than a character that is only seen doing good.”  And maybe that’s true, but I like to believe there’s some good left in this world and that heroes exemplify who we can become in order to make things right!

Who are your favorite heroes?  Or, if you prefer anti-heroes, which is your favorite and why?

P.S: Special shout out to the artist Kurama805 on DeviantArt for the artwork I used as my featured image!  This is a downloadable wallpaper and is gorgeous!

10 thoughts on “It’s Okay to be a Hero

  1. I don’t mind the anti-hero when it’s done well, but I feel the industry has been rather hit-or-miss when it comes to writing them this decade. It’s entirely possible to have a flawed protagonist in a video game – it may even succeed at giving them an interesting arc. However, at the end of the day, I feel an anti-hero, especially one who is the lead of a video game, still needs to be likeable despite, or maybe even because of their flaws. As it stands, the industry feels two decades behind, as the anti-heroes they create are of a distinctly nineties variety (i.e. heroes in name only). The archetype died in every other industry for a reason, and it’s a shame video game writers haven’t caught on.

    To wit, one of the several things that disappointed me about The Last of Us was how unlikable Joel was by the end. I thought they were going to go in interesting directions with his arc, but the ending nullified all of the goodwill they built up. It’s one of the rare instances where I actually regretted helping the protagonist succeed, which could have been interesting if that was intentional, but the Naughty Dog staff never really struck me as skilled enough writers to be able to pull off moral ambiguity without creating a treasure trove of unfortunate implications.

    I think writing Joel the way they did was to give him a degree of depth, but I’ve felt that characters such as Link, Samus, and Mario have way more personality despite having no visible dialogue. Actions speak louder than words after all – especially in an interactive medium. I’m going to side with the plumber who can leap several feet in the air over the brooding survivalist every time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Can I just say that this comment completely blew me away. I think it’s interesting that you point out the anti-hero archetype in other media industries and the ways that it has been reshaped. I don’t play enough anti-hero games to really understand how the gaming industry is writing them nowadays but I tend to agree that hero’s in name only isn’t exactly a good basis for a character. People need someone who ultimately is good in order to give them someone to aspire to become. If we don’t respect our characters what point is there to playing them?

      I wonder how much of characters like Link, Samus, and Mario having personalities is us projecting our own selves into these characters. Because they have little dialogue and only a modicum of backstory we tend to imbue them with our own flaws and attributes. Something that makes perfect sense, since our flaws and attributes are what help us make decisions by playing as these characters. I’m planning on writing a post about that concept in a few weeks. I’ve been exploring it a lot recently.

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  2. Excellent post! I agree that Heroes now a days are being overshadowed by anti-heroes. For me, i have always liked the side kicks rather than the main hero. Take for example, I don’t like Sonic but I loveee Tails, I don’t like Leonardo but I loveeee Michelangelo and so on so forth. There are a few heroes and main characters that I do enjoy, say The Starks in Game of Thrones. My Co-worker was telling me that I’m like a Stark, I’m so good that I would get killed off if I were in that scenario lol.

    I’m also fond of some villains. I’ve read a quote the other day from a blogger mentioning the “You live long enough to die a hero or to see yourself become a villain…” or something line that. I feel that some villains can be redeemed and that some are just pretty cool (I.E. my pick for the Blogger Blitz, The Joker).

    -Luna 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love side-kicks, as well! They are a great way to help tell a story! I bet you love playing as Luigi!

      And, appropriately enough, that quote is from The Dark Knight, which stars your favorite Joker! Can’t wait to see what you write for the blogger blitz!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Here, here! I think anti-heroes are popular because they make us feel okay about the things we do that we don’t like—but why seek to justify and settle when you can look to a hero and be inspired to be better? The clear good versus evil in something like Star Wars doesn’t negate its intellectual value or make it shallow but provides healthy inspiration to be better, kinder, and more selfless.

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  4. I think there’s a right and wrong way to do four-colored hero characters like this. Link, obviously, is awesome, but it’s because he makes the right choices in spite of his circumstances. Take any iteration of Link and look at what he goes through – it’d be easier to give up or compromise his morals to get what he needs. Instead, he takes the high road.
    Heroes who are goody two-shoes but don’t have to earn that, those are the boring ones. It’s not EASY to always do the right thing. If a show or game or whatever honestly demonstrates that, it makes the hero interesting. At least in my view.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree. I don’t particularly like heroes for whom everything is easy.

      I think the keyword for me is sacrifice. If it’s a real story and not a Greek mythology it generally involves the Hero sacrificing something. Even if there’s no moral dilemma he’s still giving something up! That’s what I love about Link. And Rey. And Luke Skywalker. And Frodo Baggins… And the list goes on and on.

      Liked by 1 person

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