How perfect do you like your heroes to be?
Me? I like mine to be awesome but imperfect. But what does that mean exactly?
That's a harder question to answer than you think. We have so many kinds of heroes these days. The anti-hero isn't a new notion, but I think we all look for a certain code of ethics when we read a book or watch a movie that has a good vs. evil set-up. If we watch a heist movie, for example, we want to root for the guys who are stealing a boatload of money from some evil fat-cat. But what is the code we want a supernatural hero to follow? How pristine do we want something like a vampire to be?
I was reading a vampire-themed book recently (hence this post) and I realized that a too-perfect vampire is not only unrealistic-- but boring.
In the book I was reading, the hero of the story is a vampire that never, ever gives in to his urge to feed on humans. EVER. How is that possible? It was a strange book to me. The beginning had an incredibly effective set-up in which we really see the horror of a vampire attack and how the insatiable need takes over all reason. Loved ones turn into monsters and the need-to-feed wipes out all notions of familial relationships. I liked it a lot. And then.... nothing. The main character is turned and his grandfather convinces him to suppress his unnatural urges.
I'm not buying it.
I got about three-fourths of the way through the book before I realized the main character was never going to slip and I stopped caring. It's not that I want my heroes to go over to the dark side. I just need to see the effort to overcome a hard struggle. I need to know that the character is human-- even if it isn't. It's all a question of relatability.
Modern heroes are too perfect in my opinion. Everyone is a martial arts expert or, if they are imperfect enough to need a gun, they're the best shot you've ever seen. Regular bad-assery isn't enough. Special effects have taken mundane notions of heroism and made it about being super-human-- but not necessarily interesting.
I suppose it was inevitable that CGI technology would make our on-screen heroes larger-than-life, but I have been shocked to see the trend extend to my favorite books. Though I guess it was also inevitable that a generation that grew up on splashy cinematography might think in terms of what looks cool rather than what is needed for a convincing story. Writing in hopes of a screenplay perhaps?
Personally, I'd like to see popular fiction take a step back. Forget about making the hero bulletproof and remember that we need something to relate to. I'm never going to look like Angelina Jolie-- so the least they can do is make her stumble once in a while. Is that too much to ask?