A great man said people watched movies because they believed in heroes. Decades ago when that same man lit up the screen with his signature walk and no-nonsense talk, he was one to me and many like me.
In the true sense of the word, John Wayne was a hero, the likes we may never see again. He was a hero on screen and a gentleman away from the camera. He had a no-nonsense way about him and when he spoke, you knew it was the truth . . . as he seen it. There was no deep thinking or pussy-footing around a problem. He shot it, punched it or threw it off its horse. In his case, action spoke louder than words, but when he spoke, people listened because they knew what he had to say was important.
I’d like to believe what John said still holds true: people believe in heroes. It does for me. I watch movies and read books because I believe in heroes. They don’t all have to be as tough as that ol’ cowboy; heck, no one can be that tough. However, they must be honorable and true. They must fight for the good of all people. Great heroes can make a bad movie good. Of course, a jerk off screen can turn an on-screen hero into just a costume freak.
When I read, I want every pound of my heart to cheer for the hero. I want to care for him, so that if he dies, I shed at least one tear. When he’s in the thick of things with his life on the line, I want my sweaty hands to grip the book and my breath to come short as I turn every page until I know he’s safe. In the end, he must triumph. And I don’t mean in a symbolic way. I want him to defeat the antagonist, drive him into the ground so he can no longer do harm.
Heroes don’t see victory without a few scars or broken bones. They don’t mind the dirt or losing their favourite hat when they struggle for what’s true. They’re focussed on their task. Nothing can stop them.
Of course, heroes must triumph. After all, who’d go to a movie to watch evil win? Where would the story be if that large rolling stone had crushed Indiana Jones into a pancake? Who would watch Princess Bride again and again if Wesley had been killed in the torture chamber?
We need heroes now more than ever. Everyone, adult and child, need people to look up to, people to cheer for. There are too many bad examples of living out there. I’d rather my children admired and emulated John Wayne or Spiderman (the original cartoon) or Indiana Jones instead of some twit whose claim to fame is drugs, outlandish behaviour or just making an ass of themselves.
Personally, not only do I love to read stories about heroes, I like to write them. You might say that I write hero-driven stories. Hero-driven . . . I like that.