Every time I think that this theme of the nature of a hero is finally settling itself in my head, I’m confronted with yet another example of it in everyday life, books, television…or, in this case, music.
It’s always really cool to listen to a track from a long time ago with fresh ears. A few months ago, I purchased a couple of my favorite songs by the Spin Doctors…a band whose pop-infused tracks were laden with popular culture and literary wit that always brought a smile to my face in my college days. One of my absolutely favorite songs by the Spin Doctors has always been Jimmy Olsen’s Blues. The song tracks the feelings of a frustrated secondary character in the Superman mythology, who dreams of having a relationship with Lois Lane, yet must live with unrequited love due to her relationship with Superman. Thus, Olsen resents the Man of Steel.
Throughout super-hero mythology, the normal human beings who encounter a hero in any way…whether as the potential victim saved from harm’s way, the companion, or the defeated villain…are unable to leave the encounter the same as they entered. Their lives have been forever changed by the hero, and they must choose how to respond. This song is a really interesting take on how those closest to the hero experience a very specific life-disruption, a sort of bittersweet ramification of their relationship to the larger-than-life figure who rescues those in need. This not only raises the stakes in their choice of responses to the encounter, but must also cause the hero more careful consideration of those whom they permit to become close, or those whose lives may be incidentally impacted in a negative way by their mere presence (Dr. Who’s two-part story arc, “The Family of Blood,” is a great example of this).
This is a really interesting aspect of the nature of a hero, I think. Part of what makes a hero character so compelling is when we see their humanity, and the painful choices that they must make due to the fact that they are not like the rest of us. When the hero chooses to sacrifice, he or she shows a heroic nature more profoundly. Yet, none of us think less of them when they choose to enjoy a simple human pleasure, even though it may have consequences to those around them.
Or do we? Do these simple decisions carry the same weight as life or death decisions when made by a hero? When the hero makes the choice to permit himself a romantic relationship, do the feelings of resentment caused elsewhere result in magnified results because the actions were taken by a hero? Isn’t that sort of tragic in its own right?
I’m not sure, but it’s a fascinating part of this thing to consider.
And, it makes for a really great song.