Who’s a Hero Now?

105182105411111CDPby Neva Bodin

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.

Honeydew, Halfpint, Boulder and Trigger are all anxious for a taste of my granddaughter

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.

http://www.nevabodin.net, Facebook, Twitter @NevaBodin1



17 thoughts on “Who’s a Hero Now?

  1. Good question about the distinction between fantasy and reality, Neva. It’s complicated, isn’t it? I think we are drawn to fantasy (at least some forms of it) because of the same need for “something more” that fuels spirituality. But sometimes it’s just an escape. In the days of “reality TV,” as you point out, what does “reality” actually mean? In the case of “reality TV,” that’s more fantasy, or if not exactly fantasy, at least not reality. Plus, what are the thoughts that drive us? If we get too trapped in our heads and our spinning thoughts, we create our own reality about what others are thinking and doing or the way the world works that can bear little resemblance to what those others are actually thinking and doing or how the world is actually operating. What a good point you make about the grounding provided by animals and physical work (“I thought we were just ‘living'”). I love the image of the lamb’s velvety lips on your ear. I grew up on a farm too. We didn’t have lambs, but we had calves. I have very fond memories of bottle-feeding them after they were weaned and watching their little tails swish, and then having them suck on my coat tail or my fingers looking for more when the bottle was empty. Thanks for this!


    1. Thanks for commenting and reading. You picked up on my thoughts exactly. Its so easy to be lured into reality TV and video games and in our culture, it can be hard to find real-life character building experiences that are true reality.
      Aren’t those growing up farm memories fun? I think those experiences kept me grounded. Interesting thought about some forms of fantasy fueling a need for spirituality. I do believe there is an inborn need for spirituality as all cultures have some form. And holding a baby lamb who trusted me and felt comfortable enough to lay that soft little head on my shoulder and nibble my ear was a spiritual experience aside from reality.


  2. When I was growing up, my heroes were Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, The Shadow, The Lone Ranger, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Six-Million Dollar Man, and the Bionic Woman. My late husband Bill is my greatest hero because he inspired me to follow my dreams.


    1. It’s great to have superheroes to inspire us, if it’s in the right direction. But how wonderful to recognize our heroes who are real and in our lives in flesh and blood. You are a wise woman. Thanks for you comment.


  3. I think you’re right, Neva, about the perceptive view for many (maybe too many) people that what they see is real life when all it is is a mock version of wannabe reality. Maybe the phrase’ It’s just a story’ that I heard often enough while growing up has been forgotten and not enough emphasis put on what is realistically reasonable. Acting out is good for children and is a way of learning, so long as it is eventually seen for what it is- play acting and not reality.


    1. I think it’s similar to becoming adrenaline junkies to some extent in wanting to experience–through watching others have the actual experience on TV, or perhaps by having fictional characters carry out our wishes in video games–exciting and dangerous situations. Or the fantasy of it transports us from our own life for a time. But true reality is so much more life-affirming, even though it might be painful. I think play-acting is good too, it helps kids explore different feelings and even contemplate consequences maybe. Thanks for reading and commenting!


  4. When I was a kid, Mom always kept a loaded shotgun by her bed. We never dreamed of touching it. It was Mom’s gun for protection. The worse thing that happened in school was shooting spit-wads. My reality was different than a reality show. In my day, you knew who the good guy and the bad guy (gal) was, it’s not so clear now. Great blog, interesting thoughts. Cher’ley


    1. Thanks Cher’ley. That is true about it being easier to tell good from bad in the past. We have swung the other direction (that old pendulum again), and blurred the lines. There are so many pieces to the issue of separating reality and fantasy for some in our culture, as Stephanie said, it’s complicated. Thanks for the comments.


  5. It is not easy to grow up, and when the lines between good/bad – fantasy/reality are blurred it becomes even harder. There were always those who went the extra step and committed the crime, but they were seen as making a bad choice. We felt for them, but it was their choice, not someone to be allowed to excuse their behavior.

    A very good and thoughtful post. Doris


  6. Neva, heroes today seem so much different than in our day of Zorro, Lone Ranger, My Friend Flicka, Sky King, Maverick brothers, Cheyenne, oh gosh, I could go on and on bringing up those heroes we grew up with. I have to say we lived in some turbulent times, and these wonderful heroes are part of the good memories of my childhood, a time when we could tell the good guys from the bad. Thank you Neva for bringing back these memories.


  7. I just rewatched Man of Steel last night, and reading these comments made me want to add some thoughts about heroes–which I skipped over in my initial comment. On the one hand the fact that Hollywood keeps replaying stories about the same comic book heroes over and over these days gets me discouraged. “Really?” I think. “Are we so short on stories we need another version of this?” But I was a comic book kid, and I go see most of the superhero movies. And I really liked Man of Steel’s take on Superman. The action-battle scenes ran too long for me. There were too many destroyed buildings and explosions. What appealed to me was the emphasis on Superman’s vulnerability. We get to see him as a child, to see the pain his abilities caused him, the losses he endured because of his difference. I think that’s one of the things that make today’s heroes different. We do still have movies about them, but they are complicated characters–sometimes deeply flawed as well as heroic. Another blogger-friend posted a related piece this week that you might find interesting: http://lmarie7b.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/where-are-the-good-guys/


  8. Thank you for a trip down memory lane Neva. As kids my siblings and I loved two television shows Wagon Train and Ponderosa. We had a little hut out back of our house (for storage but our parents let us use it as a fort). Oh the fun we had! One of us would sit on the front steps guiding a team of imaginary horses as our wagon train made it’s journey, complete with forming a circle when the tribes of Indians tried to attack. In our fort were three sturdy 4x4s that held the thing together and we drew pictures of Little Joe, Hoss and Adam. That was when we played Ponderosa. I don’t think you can have better heroes or experiences than that, although I liked the Superman movies a lot. My hero is a teacher I had in high school who introduced me to the classics and made me believe I could do anything! Great post!


  9. I also had/have a lively imagination and built worlds for myself to live in inside my head for when my real life wasn’t so great. I also grew up on a farm, knew how to work and as much as I liked my imaginary worlds, they never took the place of my real ones. The line was always clear, as were the consequences. My heroes were my grandfather, mother, and Nancy Drew. 🙂 Very different from what can pass as a “role model” today.


  10. I, too, am concerned about the depth of violence these days, and there are VERY FEW tv shows or movies that I watch. It saddens me that gore and violence pervades our society and “entertainment” and that “the good guys” and “the bad guys” don’t seem to have that division they used to. I LOVED Bonanaza, Rawhide, and other westerns and miss those handsome cowboys who were honest, just, and kind — the heroes that were still human. Thanks for a great post, Neva!


  11. You raise some interesting issues. Real life is important. With television, video games, smart phones, the Internet, I wonder how much real life many children get today. I wouldn’t take anything for my childhood in a small town surrounded by farms. And my parents are my heroes. Always have been.


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