Heroes change. Heroic acts change.
When I was a kid, an heroic act was catching or shooting the bad guy. If the guy was shot, he always confessed to being sorry he did wrong before he died a bloodless death. Of course, you may recognize my heroes were Zorro, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and the Lone Ranger.
I had lots of imagination as I rode my imaginary, or sometimes real horse named Babe, around the yard and pasture, saving the barnyard from desperadoes. I served justice. Unless my cousin came to play.
When my cousin (a boy) came, we were the desperadoes, stealing cattle, and driving them across the Rio Grande (a very small creek running through the pasture). One time my mother came to the barn to check on us, and found us playing poker in a wagon, which in our world right then was a cowboy bar. The cards were imaginary too.
We played at being bad, but we grew up to be productive, law-abiding citizens. We knew reality from fantasy. There were guns sitting by our back door, with bullets on the shelf. They were for protecting the animals, or hunting. Never once did we think of them as something to play with, or even monkey with them for the fun of it.
So who are the heroes now? There is a science fiction TV show called “Heroes” which deals with superhuman powers. Spiderman, Captain Marvel, Zorro, Wonder Woman, and Captain America all known as superheroes, have been around a while, some close to 100 years now. Is “the Survivor” a hero?
Female superheroes like Wonder Woman, Power Girl, Black Canary, Ms Marvel and many others are over-built (in my opinion) and look like they just walked out of Victoria’s Secret (whose clothes don’t always encourage secrets). A sexual element is introduced into fantasy.
I don’t remember ever seeing warnings about the heroic acts on our TV shows, for example “do not try this at home.” (Which is probably why I jumped off a chicken coop roof onto a horse, just like the Lone Ranger or Gene Autry could jump off a balcony onto Silver’s or Champion’s back).
Today we have video games. Shooting games or killing exercises are plentiful in these games, killing as many villains as possible, often with bloody, gory graphics. A repentant death, a glimpse into the villain’s humanness is missing.
According to the website, http://www.life123.com/, “Parents, pundits and psychiatrists have named these violent games as one of the potential causes of school shootings, including the Columbine massacre of 1999.”
Fairy tales were often violent too, yet easily seen as fantasy, even though the emotions they touched on were real. How have we allowed fantasy to look so real, that some integrate it into their reality? How can we have staged and extreme experiences, labeled reality shows, and not expect people to confuse reality and fantasy?
Mixed in with my fantasy, was real life: Holding an orphan lamb who nibbled my ear with its velvety mouth; milking a cow and having a not-so-nice tail swished across my face; losing a special pet to chasing cars once too often; and growing in relationship with friends and family. There wasn’t a lot of vicarious experience. My grandkids now experience the reality of raising, loving and receiving love from animals, a great way to decipher reality from fantasy.
Of course, I had to grow up to recognize the true heroes in my life—my parents, whom I didn’t know were working. I thought we were just “living.” My definition of work while growing up was “working the fields,” (plowing and planting). Troubles? Sure we had them. But joys were present too. Reality was on the doorstep, not in a box. And schools were a safe place.
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