Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Need For Heroes, Regular And Super

One of the types of stories that get regularly refuted by the people at Snopes and other organizations are ones based on the hero motif. One example of this can be found in a posting called "Pentagon Daycare Corral" from Snopes.com. In this story a group of marines is falsely given credit for rescuing 40 children from a Pentagon day care center on Sept. 11, 2011 in the wake of the crash of Flight 77 into the building. In another Snopes story called "Home Invasion Thwarted," a false story about an 11-year-old girl killing intruders is revealed.

There are surely thousands, maybe millions, of stories like this we humans have been sharing with one another since we began to tell stories. The need to come up with heroes seems to be innate, driving us to believe them to be true, even when they've been discredited. We want heroes to praise and in some cases even worship and stories allow that to happen.

When thinking about this I can't help but also include all of the religious tales humans have always been telling. Not all hero stories are religious--stories about Paul Bunyan and George Washington are two common examples--but I don't think there's a religion that doesn't contain a plethora of them. They seem to be required to form a religion, and so much so that hero stories will be concocted from scratch to support the religion. And because we tend to like these stories enough to believe them without too much scrutiny, their connected religions become believable too.

With that being said, the reason I thought about writing this short piece on this topic that has been covered over and over by many others, is my thoughts about the relatively new phenomenon of the superhero. What is probably a 20th century invention seems to coincide with the growing acceptance of science in the 19th century, which got another big boost with Albert Einstein's discoveries in the early 20th century. Even if it was only at a subconscious level, people must have had a sense that insurmountable evidence was being accumulated for religions and their heroes to continue being taken as truthful. This is a guess, but in response I suspect that some people came up with the superhero--figures like Superman--to leap over the new scientific evidence that was killing the old heroes. A "super" hero could withstand the attacks of science, and maybe even integrate into a new society that was abandoning old myths and the heroes contained within them.

Even if this notion is true, we still create "regular" heroes like the ones mentioned in the two Snopes stories above. For whatever reasons, we just like heroes, super or not. And if there aren't any real ones, we'll create them when we feel the need.

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