A new type of hero?

To begin, we saw Brave a couple of weekends ago.

While having a discussion about boy heroes versus girl heroes and gender appropriateness, I made the comment, “Up is the boy version of Brave…. Only that it’s about an old man and a boy scout instead of a mother and daughter.”

The Hubs stared at me blankly.

So I continued: “both films are about a generational relationship. They both have to understand each other.”

The lightbulb went off and he asked, “Have there been other stories with accidental heroes?”

To which I replied, “Of course. There are the accidental heroes and there are those that are called. What makes these heroes different is that they function as a unit.”

What followed was a list of recent heroes that don’t just work in tandem with a few supporting friends as we see with the traditional hero (i.e. Harry Potter and most other traditional heroes). The traditional hero gets to the end with supporting friends, but still has to face the final confrontation alone. These new heroes must do it together. The Hubs noticed this as a new take on the sidekick motif. The sidekick is now being elevated to a level of equality to the hero. While there are some heroes that come to mind, what is really interesting to note is that almost every single Pixar hero is this unit hero:

Toy Story: Buzz and Woody have to face the nemesis together as equals. The first TS film is about them coming to that realization.
Monsters, Inc.: Mike and Sully aren’t sidekicks. This is must be part of Randy Newman’s formula for friend songs.
Finding Nemo: Surprise! This film is NOT about Nemo. It’s about Dory and Nemo’s dad working together to find Nemo. They have to work together for Marlon to succeed. The generational bit is a MacGuffin.
Wall-E: Wall-E and Eve are constantly working together to save that plant.
Up: Gramps and the kid both have to figure out how to get home and defeat the bad guy.
Meet the Robinsons: current self vs. future self working together.
The Incredibles: it’s a family affair.
Ratatouille: Remy and Linguini work together to make the perfect batch of ratatouille and keep Gusteau’s restaurant alive.
Brave: Merida and her mom have to work together to mend the tapestry.
(I honestly don’t remember A Bug’s Life well enough to comment on it.)

And then there’s Cars. I haven’t seen Cars 2 yet, but in the first Cars, Lightning McQueen seems to be on his own. But, in the end, he needed all of Radiator Springs, especially Doc Hudson, to win the race.

It’s a slow transition, but it seems as though more stories are beginning to drift toward this new hero model, which also suggests that some part of the American psyche is also drifting toward this new hero model. Could this be connected to a slight decrease in individual heroes we idolize in our culture (ex: Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King) and a slight increase in collective heroes (ex: our soldiers)? Or perhaps this is a response to the idea that things are easier when we “get by with a little help from our friends.” It’s no accident that these stories are appearing at the same time as a push for community gardens, farmer’s co-ops, alternative transportation ideas, and even *gasp* government healthcare.

The pro-individualism model can only be sustained so long, and it seems as though we’re nearing the end of it. Speaking generally, of course. But if enough of us get behind this mythic movement, perhaps we can make the paradigm change happen.

Images of USPS Pixar-themed Postage Stamps. These won’t work as real stamps.

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