Thursday, December 2, 2010



They leap tall buildings in a single bound, deflect bullets with their eyeballs, etc, etc. They make great action movies.

The problem with superheroes is that they are expected to be heroic. When you can deflect bullets with your skin and shoot lasers from your eyeballs, it's fairly expected that you can maybe stop a murder in progress. When your character is a karate champion, it's expected that you will kick the ass of all the bad guys. Kicking the ass of bad guys is to a superhero as eating a cheese sandwich is to normal people. It's just something you do sometimes. It's an event that's hard to applaud.

So I've always preferred what I tend to think of as the "mini-hero". Sub-hero? Small hero? These are usually the background characters who tend to die for the sake of showing that the main character might be in some sort of danger. They don't have superpowers. They aren't especially good shots. They don't have laser eyeballs or armored skin or the power of teleportation. They woke up, maybe took a shower, put their pants on one leg at a time and went out and did the best they could.

I love mini-heroes. Probably to an odd extent.

One of my favorite scenes from the new Star Wars movies was where Padme fell from some troop transport. It took a hit or something and listed to the side and dumped Padme and some anonymous clone trooper. Typically, in this sort of situation, the main character is fine and the background character manages to break his neck or get eaten by a sandworm or something. In this case, though, the clone trooper actually got up and helped. I nearly stood and applauded the cinematic genius of this but I supposed that would be rude. I love it when background characters, who are ostensibly supposed to be competent, actually get to be competent. I realize the focus of the movie is the main character and all that but I really like it when a background character can do well.

It's almost to the point where I get disappointed to read a new book and discover that the main character has a secret power of summoning dragons or throwing fireballs or shooting people in the eye while diving sideways from 50 meters. Ah well, yes, latent superpower and all that. I suppose he'll be kicking ass then. Probably got a ring that makes him invisible, yes? Turns out he's a wizard and so forth, am-i-right? Got a magic horn and sword and shield and so forth, perhaps?


Who's the biggest hero of Lord of the Rings?



Cause Boromir ain't got shit.

The hobbits all have a natural resistance to the ring, which is why Bilbo got to hang onto it for so long. Gandalf is a fucking wizard who kills Balrogs. Aragorn is a closet king with a super special sword and lives for like 200 years or something because he has in him the blood of the High Men. Legolas apparently rides shields down steps like they are surfboards. Boromir ain't got shit.  He's just a guy with a horn, a long way from home, who went to talk to the elves because he saw the world going to shit and wanted to see what could be done to stop it.

It's the sort of story I love.

Not a superhero. Not a master ninja karate expert mutant wizard. Just someone who does the best they can, knowing that they aren't good enough, and that they'll just have to pull through somehow. Maybe they're not perfect.  Maybe they fuck up.  There's no prophecy in their favor.   No awesome technology or magic protects them. They're just there, doing the best they can.

It's always a terrible disappointment to me when they get mowed down somewhere in the background, because that was the only role I could really identify with.