What is a Hero?

So let’s begin with the question: “What is a hero?”

Is the hero that dashing guy with the square-ish jaw who dives into trouble whatever it may be, saves girls and becomes a model example for the people? Is a hero that noisy kid who’s always trying to do good deeds so that the people will warm up to him? Is a hero that guy struggling against cruelty in his society and dreams of bringing down the status quo so that his people may finally prosper? Is a hero that guy who gets beat up at every turn by his enemies but struggles to do what is right anyway so that people can at least live decent lives?

superman_philippinesIn this modern age that’s saturated by wrong messages by the media, it’s almost hard to tell. The examples given above are simply the heroes (or the people called “heroes”) as told to us to by the mass media. Indeed, while they may indeed have heroic traits of their own, each hero probably has unique abilities and motivations from one another. Also note that no hero, or even saint, is without flaws as all of them will have one kind of disadvantage or more.

Take for instance that Oskar Schindler was a womanizer and would probably sit up there alongside Hugh Hefner when it comes to sheer promiscuity. Also note that George Washington, despite his noble acts was still a slave owner and didn’t seem to include them in his plans for the country. Then you have guys like Vlad the Impaler or Nobunaga Oda who are horrible people but somehow used their more monstrous aspects intentionally (or unintentionally) to improve the lives of their people such as by uniting them under a single banner or horrifying would-be conquerors with their frightening reputations.

So just what goes into being a hero? If you look at a lot of western media and shows from more developed countries like Japan or South Korea, you see that many film and series crews struggle to make their heroes as believable and realistic as possible. A lot of their heroes are often flawed individuals, similar to actual historical heroes which are mentioned above. They do this not only because of drama and ratings but because this is often what happens in real life. Take for instance Rick Grimes from the Walking Dead who goes from being an idealist to a man who is willing to commit reprehensible acts for the survival of his comrades or Gon from Hunter x Hunter who starts as your typical idyllic shounen hero but becomes a murderous and vengeful sociopath in the end of the Chimera Ant arc. There are many more examples but listing them here will probably make this article too long and boring.

Anyway, among readers and writers of fiction, there is a trope or cliche called Mary Sue or Marty Stu. These are characters, often protagonists, who are deemed too “perfect” to be believable. While they are very subjective tropes, Mary Sues and Marty Stus are often avoided in mainstream stories overseas because they fail to be intellectually entertaining and may even project the wrong values in the people who read or watch it. Now, ideal characters were quite popular back in the 1800’s but people gradually lost interest in them in the course of the 20th century because everyone knows that they probably don’t exist in real life. The two World Wars and the many mini-conflicts that took place during the Cold War showed proof to the world that any kind of struggle could turn ugly if one wasn’t careful and that very seldom do people escape unscathed from them.

Unfortunately, here in the Philippines, since the mid to late 2000s, I began to notice the trend of unrealistic heroes and heroines being featured, praised and worshipped throughout many shows. I mean before that, I got to see characters like Pedro Penduko (the Gano Gibbs version) and the likes of Don Robert from Ober da Bakod, who were flawed but nonetheless endearing characters. Well, of course there was the Panday which I mostly find funny when I look at some of the more glaring faults of the film series but its more recent incarnations definitely serve as one of the greater examples of Mary Sue-dom.

So okay, let’s go back to my first question: What is a hero?

With our local media grinding out cliche after cliche, I think the people’s idea of a hero have been muddled by escapist thoughts and ideals. Most Pinoys aren’t looking for a hero like George Washington, Jose Rizal, Harry Dresden or even Kamina (may the Spiral bless us all), they’re looking for a hero who will do everything for them. In Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, the titular swordsmen train the villagers in defending themselves against the bandits and, in the end, imparted something greater to the community as a whole. They taught the people how to fend for themselves in a merciless world which will probably not just ensure their survival but also allow for them the opportunity to improve themselves and perhaps even others along the way. These are not the kind of heroes Pinoys look for, instead, their kind of heroes are the ones who will do all the work for them and make all the difficult decisions for them. They want someone else to do all the thinking for them instead of making choices for themselves and choosing what kind of future they want for themselves and their children.

Worse yet, in more developed cultures, the idea of a hero is a man or woman who does what is right despite the odds and the consequences that their decisions entail. Like with Oskar Schindler, he was given the choice of either helping victims of genocide or risk bankruptcy and possible arrest and execution but chose to do what was right anyway. Harry Dresden, the hero of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files is often beaten within an inch of his life for meddling in other people’s business such as when protecting innocent people from vampires and demons.

I have always believed that being a hero meant making decisions that are painful but are for the good of all or many. By choosing to stand up for what is right, we will likely be hated, beaten or outright killed but go through with it anyway because that is what’s right.

Let me make this clear: Being a hero is NOT about doing what’s right only because it’s what is easy or convenient. Being a hero is NOT about who has the biggest guns or the sharpest swords. Most of all, being a hero is NOT about being related to pop culture figures.

So no, just because your parents died somewhere doesn’t make you a hero. Just because you’re a church-goer doesn’t make you a saint. Just because you’re on TV all the time doesn’t make you a role model for people.

It’s not really the circumstances that one lives in that makes them a hero, it’s what they do in the face of those circumstances…


Post Author: Grimwald

I came that you may know PAIN and have it in abundance...

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22 Comments on "What is a Hero?"

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Robert Haighton
What is your obsession with helping others (plural) as stated here by you: “I have always believed that being a hero meant making decisions that are painful but are for the good of all or many.” Why cant I just save one guy’s life who just plunged with his car in a canal (or river), then walk away and mind my own business? Does this make me a hero? No. I just wanted to save somebody’s life. Thats all. Jesus fucking christ, you all seem to think that doing good to others (plural), is the only thing that counts. You… Read more »
My examples of flawed heroes: Light Yagami from DeathNote had the good intentions of giving the people absolute justice that they deserve, but the too much powers he had made him crossed many lines and paid a heavy price. Lelouch from Code Geass was somewhat similar to Light Yagami. But was willing to give everything to the world for his sister to live in it. He made hard, even terrible decisions but did not let corruption stray to his original goal he had planned. THe Super Sentai series Pirate Sentai Gokaigers started as a group who were just bypassing locals… Read more »

If by chance BS Aquino would contemplate of doing something heroic, it would narrow down to two choices:

– Do the “ultimate heroic sacrifice” of stepping down from his “job”, or

– become AN hero.

To quote David, best known as Solid Snake, “There’s not a lot of difference between heroes and madmen…” Who you see as a hero or as a villain really depends on your perspective. One group’s “hero” can be another’s “villain”. It really depends on whose side you want to be on and what kind of evil they entail. For example, Joan of Arc. To the French, she is a hero fighting for the oppressed and for freedom. To the English, she is a scourge upon the land and must be stopped. Things ended badly for Joan. She was captured, raped,… Read more »

A HERO is everything you want him to be….and maybe everything you wish you were.

Hyden Toro767

If you look deeply in yourself:you are a Hero. Surviving life itself, in this merciless world…is heroic.

The little boy who pushes his cart, day in and day out , to find scraps to sell for food is a hero.

The Politician who refuse to steal from the national treasury; and tell us the truth is a hero…

Heroism is found in all situations in our lives…

Here I go bursting bubbles again. No such thing as hero among us anymore. If you look ‘deeply in your self’ and find a wimp residing there and still think you are a hero, that’s delusion. Surviving life is not proof of genuine heroism for a lot of survivors are cowards in fact. If you pushes cart for food day in and day out you’re not a hero, you are simply dirt poor. The politician who do not steal and tells the truth is not a hero. He is a good citizen that may not win the next election. You… Read more »
Sick Amore

You’ll find heroes everywhere at any day in most unlikely or dire situations. What we’re lacking are visionary leaders and people who wanted self-respect.

Sick Amore

To answer the question, What is a Hero? Perhaps, they are just these regular people who would right away or have second thoughts but still act super when the situation asked for it.

Presidente Emilio

Damn, I wish I have a chance to talk to Rizal. I will ask him if he consider himself a hero.

His answer might have been interesting.


Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their greatness goes unnoticed. It is all part of the fairy tale. Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.