The modern media portrayal of heroes is going awry. Winning has become the number one trait that heroes require. Whether it be serious athletes, performer athletes or action heroes, winning is what defines them.
The cause has become secondary. A hero doesn't win for the greater good; a hero wins for themselves. What the hell happened to honour?
Our athletes have become arrogant, selfish and rich. Once considered "unsportsmanlike conduct", and penalized as such, "in your face" celebrations have become the rule in many sports.
Nike started pushing this type of athlete a few years ago. I don't blame Nike; they were only reflecting the times. Professional athleticism is probably a key culprit – there is simply too much money to be made.
Movie and comic book heroes kill almost indiscriminately. Wrestlers no longer differentiate themselves by good and bad labels. The good guys act as bad as the bad guys. Although usually fighting for some other good, their methods are often more brutal than the enemies they face.
This is being represented in all media.
I took my boys and two of their friends to Medieval Times. The concept is simple; professional stunt men portray medieval knights and battle each other throughout the evening. The audience sits in a setting resembling a jousting arena, and cheer on the knight assigned to their section.
As the night progresses, some of the battles get serious. A black knight is introduced and the king commands his knights to vanquish him. As luck would have it, the knight representing our section won the tournament and the right to battle the evil black knight. After a furious battle, our knight was on the verge of finally dispatching the black knight when the king commanded him to stop. Instead of killing him, the black knight was to be imprisoned. As a man of honour and duty, our knight complied. From beside me, the boys started chanting, "Do it! Kill him!" I pointed out that his king had commanded him not to. "Do it anyway", they replied. I told them that would be dishonourable and would get him in trouble with the king. "Then he should kill the king too", they snarled.
As frightening as this sounds, when I began to analyze this comment, I realized it came from the environment. We have been teaching that winning at all costs is important.
There are exceptions in popular media, although sometimes its a stretch to find them. I'm not one to want to educate my kids through the media, but they will be exposed to it. I have sought out examples that have the necessary excitement value while providing what I think are good examples of honour and self-sacrifice. Movies such as "Independence Day" and "Armageddon" contain heroes who step up to provide the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. New movies such as "Lord of the Rings" are full of heroes who reluctantly become so.
This is the honour that I want my kids to understand. Winning isn't always about being the toughest, strongest and fastest; mostly its about being responsible, brave and noble.