Saturday, August 04, 2018

The Monopolization of Heroes by the State

Television and movies are full of heroes. Drama could hardly exist without them of course, but have you noticed that nearly every hero in modern dramas is associated with the state? Here are dramas playing on TV in my town tonight, with the heroes following:

                       Hawaii Five-0           Police
                       Blue Bloods                Police
                       Whistleblower           Government justice officials (retired)
                       Without a Trace        FBI agents
                       Forensic Files             Government justice officials
                       Quantico                     FBI agents

And I haven’t even touched on the endless Law & Order franchise. Even if we venture into the realm of Star Trek, we still find heroes authorized by government. (The Federation.) The same goes for movies. Here are three showing near me:

                       Mission Impossible            Government agents
                       The Equalizer 2                   CIA operative
                       Skyscraper                           FBI agent

It’s all too easy for dramas to major on violence. That’s the most obvious and visceral type of conflict, after all. But to make the violence good in some way, to sanctify it, is essential. If not, we end up writing stories about very bad people who succeed, and that strikes nearly all of us as wrong. (Thankfully.) Why, then, should the sole agent of sanctification be the state? Historically this is a wild anomaly. Was Hercules state sanctified? Were Abraham or Moses or Jesus? Were the Wright brothers or Bell or Edison? Or the Curies? Where they not heroes as well? And what of Sherlock Homes or Huckleberry Finn or Robinson Crusoe or even Paul Kersey? And yet Hollywood produces almost no heroes without also presenting the state as the womb in which heroism is formed. Honestly, it’s an artistic disgrace…

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