Uses of Heroes | Fictional Heroes

In our day-to-day existence we generally get to see very little of other peoples lives. We witness a certain amount of those closest to us – our friends and family – but our experience of them is limited. We don’t have access to them in every situation, at every moment, and so our idea of who they are is generally based on what they allow us to see.

By giving us a glimpse into the lives of their characters, films allow us to experience other people in a unique way. In spending the duration of a film with a character we may bear witness to a number of thoughts and interactions that we wouldn’t be able to observe in real life. Whilst most of these characters are fictional, and their interactions artificial, we can still draw value from observing the way in which a character interacts with their world.

In spending time with a film character, we are allowed to enter into their persona. We can temporarily adopt their outlook and mannerisms, and see the world in the way that they see it. We are removed from ourselves, and are allowed to reflect upon who we are from an altered perspective – a dichotomy is created, between the character and us, and from this all sorts of useful self-analysis can arise.

As an example, lets take the character of Wayne Campbell, from the film Wayne’s World. The reality of this film exists at a distance from our own; whilst the world he inhabits is recognizable, much of the film is fantastical. However, the way in which Wayne interacts with his world, and with others, holds truth.

Wayne is an upbeat character, and his positive persona is reflected in his interactions; through being in his company, the idea of positivity is fore-grounded, and we may be led to question it in relation to ourselves. Do we admire his positivity? Is positivity something that we value? Are we as positive as he is? Would we like to be? A lot of this analysis may be near-unconscious, and may be represented as a simple like or dislike of the character; however, it is analysis that can affect us, and is relevant to our experience of our world.

To use another example; the character of Otto in Repo Man affects an air of disenfranchisement. His world-view is largely negative, and through him we witness the interactions of a young disaffected person. We are asked to identify with Otto, and through this we may make a series of judgements; am I disaffected like him? How do I feel about this? Do I agree with his outlook?

Whether we end up liking Wayne or Otto, in spending time in their company we have been compelled to make judgements about their character. In making judgements about others we are inevitably drawing comparisons to ourselves, and reflecting upon our own personality.

In this sense, fictional characters like these can operate as heroes. They create opportunity for self-analysis, and through insight into their interactions they facilitate self-development.