DC Entertainment is doing something very interesting. I mean, besides the New 52. Take a look:
Besides the fact that this is good charity work, and the fact that it is an excellent quality video that sort of gives me chills, there’s something really fascinating in the way DC is packaging this initiative rhetorically.
First off, we’re drawn in by the images of the Justice League characters, ones that are recognizable to even those not engaged in comic books (and leaving me very much in mind of the recent animated series intro.). The video is immediately evocative as a “person on the street” video can be: we see honesty, people admitting that they’ve never been needed, but that they have been needy. People self-absorbed, answering their phones. The video is poignant: the school girl remembering when she didn’t stand up for someone in her class being bullied is a time when she was needed, but didn’t react out of fear. This is something to which all of us can relate.
Then, the video moves into the ideal that we hope for ourselves: those who “didn’t think,” and “just went.” These are the heroes, those who reacted despite their fears, and who were a positive influence in a situation. I love the story of the man, taken out of context enough that the bulk of the events remain a mystery, re-telling how he went down on the ground beside someone in order to be with her, to help her get up again.
Then, of course, the video makes its pitch, calling us to action, calling us all to be heroes, and re-connecting us with the images of the iconic heroes that inspire us. The video confronts us with a situation, and gives us another chance to react without thinking, to put fear or misgivings aside, and to be a hero to someone. Even if from a distance. Even if our actions are never known. We’re given an opportunity to reach the ideal.
What’s amazing about the rhetoric of this project is that it is using the secret desire that we all have for a hero to swoop in during our time of greatest need and save us when we cannot save ourselves, and it is leading us to recognize another desire that we all hold: the desire to be the hero. I remember dreaming heroic dreams of coming to the rescue of the girl in distress when I was in elementary school. Heroes have always dominated my imagination, my stories. I’m fascinated by those who place themselves in “real-life” hero positions, such as first responders. I’ve made professional choices that have placed me in a role to be helpful to others on several occasions.
What this video leads us to conclude is that heroism is relative. That is to say, we all have the ability to be a hero at some point, to someone, in some capacity. All of us can be the larger-than-life savior, landing (metaphorically) in the midst of evil’s apparent triumph, and saving the day. Because the evil that is about to triumph over the person next to us may be small to us, depending upon our gifts and resources. What they cannot defeat on their own, we can, and vice versa.
This video is powerful because it so effectively taps into another aspect of the nature of a hero: the fact that we all have the desire to be the hero. Sometimes this is for selfish motivations, often it is over-ridden by fear, or doubt. For some, it is a driving force, and for some it is merely a whisper of conscience. But it is there, and, I daresay, it is universal to the human experience.
Perhaps that’s why the idea of a hero resonates so much with all of us.