Personal Definition of a Hero
The definition of a hero I have in mind does not correspond much to the gallantry of a particular person or group shown through doing honorable deeds amidst a given problem. Rather, a hero, in my view, is a socially constructed character. There is an understanding that a hero for a particular group of people may be a villain for another; such depends on the roles the personality in question imparts unto society. In this study, I seek to detail with support from the available literature what a hero is for me. Emphasis on the American (US) society prevails throughout the succeeding definitions, given that it has become a major force in shaping what a hero should be in the modern world.
A hero, at least in the eyes of the American public, is a social creation based on the commission of acts deemed as gallantry. Although the American public has come to accept, eventually, that the hero may be a male or female, it is still inevitable among various social circles and cliques to specify what a hero is for them through the strong details provided by stereotypes. The American public mostly derives their varied conceptions shaping a heroic person from everyday experiences. Factors such as conventional speech and communication between people, comic creations such as jokes and humorous antics and popular culture spanning from television shows, books and other publications, help contribute to the conception of a hero for the Americans (Klapp 56-62).
Americans would most likely not consider a person or a group of persons a hero without the factor of collective agreement. A hero, for most Americans, is one that falls under the requirement of popularity, in which he, or the group, must generate popular appeal from the public based on the social goals set in order. For instance, in storylines where rampant crime is the common problem among the public, the hero that emerges therein is the person or group that prioritizes the elimination of such crime. The antagonizing factors, of course, would fall as the villains. The villains are the personalities whose roles seek for the ultimate destruction of the hero and his goals. The American public, in this case, see villains not as factors that bear personal grudges against the hero, but rather as personalities who are generally interested in maintaining the deranged status quo causing victims among people. Between the hero and the villain, the fools emerge as characters that tend to transact to and from conflicting sides. Throughout typical heroic stories, the fool does not necessarily have a stand towards the main problem. The job of a fool usually comprises of having to transact between the hero and the villain, with his intentions mostly naïve or self-centered in nature (Klapp 56-62).
Moreover, most people among the American public consider a hero as a personality that meets the requirement of having multiple achievements. Greatness, in the eyes of the American public, is mostly material in nature – medals, positive news coverage, the presence of large cheerful crowds all characterize what a true hero should have and generate. The behavior of a hero, in this sense, does not translate merely to unrequited accomplishments, but more on the recognition and adulation given to him by the people. The villain, on the other hand, serves as quite the complete opposite of the hero. Whereas the villain may find portrayal under the backdrop of a personality ruined by preeminent social forces, he considers the hero as the cause of his maladies and therefore feels strong entitlement towards bringing him and his goals to destruction. Collectively, the American public would not recognize whatever kind of social malady causing the villain to become an actual victim of society, but rather they would always see his negative side that causes them trouble. In this case, members of the American public themselves are biased towards the hero, in the sense that the two sides gain mutual benefits from one another – praise and adulation from the public for the hero, and the elimination of problems affecting society for the American public (Klapp 53-62).
The foregoing details aided by existing literature duly provide formidability to the perspective that the hero is a socially constructed concept, inasmuch as the American public is concerned. Popularity is a guaranteed requirement for a person or group to become a hero in the eyes of Americans; it does not necessarily matter whether a hero contains masculine or feminine elements. Moreover, it is not enough for a socially defined hero to come from the definition of just one individual. Satisfying public appeal requires the fulfillment of commonly held goals and values, and a hero stands as a figure reciprocating said requirements. Everyday life is instrumental for the American public to define what a hero should constitute. Popular culture, for instance, is a factor enabling social connectivity that provides insights on what a hero should possess. Given the foregoing definitions of a hero based on the common perceptions of the American public, the applicability of said notions to other societies would actually vary based on culture. Hence, a hero is, in the most basic sense, a personality defined by the positive aspects of the observing society, which in turned is shaped by their respective cultures.
Klapp, Orrin. "Hero Worship in America." American Sociological Review 14.1 (1949): 53-62. Print.
Klapp, Orrin. "Heroes, Villains and Fools, as Agents of Social Control." American Sociological Review 19.1 (1954): 56-62. Print.