An Observed Trend in Modern Heroic Characters and Its Possible Social Consequences

May 05 2023 Published by admin under Uncategorized

I will firstly broaden the term heroic figures to also include a large proportion of main characters for the purpose of this article. I do this because what I am going to write about can just as simply include any character with traits and/or abilities that would render them uniquely superior or separate to the majority of the individuals around them. Or for characters that exist in a world where the majority of our recognisable social interaction is non-existent or contradicted. To put this into stark focus I will provide two seemingly nonrelated examples; any character with superpowers well above the normal ‘mortal’, or many younger children’s programs where the mentally juvenile characters exist in context without adults in a partial representation of modern world.Here I am not talking about Peter Rabbit or Warner Brothers cartoons. The characters in many older media interact in a very recognisable (if highly limited) social way, even if it is just blowing each other up with TNT. Though the character may be a talking duck, they exist in a world with laws, consequence, birth, death, aging… the character fits into society as far as recognisable, even if in an exaggerated way. It should also be noted that most of these characters are as old as the context would indicate, most are actually adults, only depicted in a way to please youngsters.The actual individual examples are not that critical and it should be remembered I am talking about a tendency here in current media, not any particular glaring example. What is critical is the lack of direct relevance that these characters have (not in of themselves, but in the social interaction that they portray) to the observer, the young child and the adult. I include children’s media as part of this context specifically because what we experience as children is the foundation for our whole interpretation of the world and its inter-relations.In particular there is a tendency for children’s media to become increasingly more abstract. It focuses specifically on characters that have high appeal in individual characteristics, look, freedoms, environment and purpose, thus triggering key criteria within the youngster’s minds while sacrificing any relevance that these combined characteristics have to the world we actually live in. For example the main character could be a young child, independently exploring dangerous environments without adult supervision, or interacting in a social or physical context that would not actually be practical or indeed safe in real life.It is important to distinguish here that I am talking about the complete absence or distortion of a normal social framework in terms of character interaction only, not what or who the characters are themselves. 4 grown men singing songs with puppets is not an example of what I am pointing out… the men still exist in the real world, the puppets have no context that would contradict a normal social order in terms of characters alone, they still react to the men as appropriate to their portrayed age or characteristics. What I am referring to are permanent extreme examples of social order distortion such as juvenile characters existing independent of adults in a world where there appear to be no adults.This is not something that would even register as a problem for many people as many of these characters and the storylines they participate in are portrayed as representing individually relevant good examples. This could include teaching curiosity or the value of kindness or the importance of preparation. These are indeed valuable lessons worthy of expressing and often done quite well. It is the social context of these individual lessons whose importance is sometimes deteriorated in favour of inflating the importance of the individual act itself. Often to the point of rendering the act a severe exaggeration and something that would never be observed in real life.For very young children this is often justified as representing a figurative gesture and heightened deliberately to ‘bring home the point’, supposedly more suited for young minds with lower attention spans. As a child’s most immediate interaction to the world is a mosaic of social exchanges continually reinforced by actual experiences, the worth of abstract values painted in unrealistic social settings is diminished or at worst contradicted by experience and can lead to confusion in terms of expectation and what is represented as appealing and ideal in a fictitious setting.This is not to say that children’s media has to have a lesson or even represent a close representation of current society, the main character could be a bee, or a cobalt with magical origins. Abstraction and contradiction can be quite entertaining and educational… I am not drawing a line in the sand or painting anything in black or white. I would simply like to discuss what I perceive to be diminishing positive relevance to the observer that greater abstraction and lack of recognisable social interaction would provide. In most cases this is not important, as the media is purely trying to entertain or not particularly concerned about the value of what it is portraying. It has significantly more relevance, however, when the media specifically claims to portray values using a social framework that is non-existent, inconsistent or at worst contradictory or counter intuitive to our own society.Once we are older or even adults this can continue in terms of the characters we identify with or look up to. Media focused on young adults and adults often also continues this trend of separating the main characters from any social interaction that would be observed in actual society, though for adults this is done slightly differently. Though the individual ‘human’ values shown within the storyline are not as exaggerated as for young children (at least, not always) the abstraction of the characters in terms of their abilities and relevance to general society is greatly increased. Be this superpowers or abilities, being part of a special order, an elite unit or an inherited legacy, the social context of these characteristics is to separate them or render the character special or different to the majority. This, like the abstract portrayal of children’s television leads to a degradation of the relevance of the social interactions that these characters can experience.Now the level that this is done is specific to each individual story regardless of media, and indeed making the main character special has been a hallmark of storytelling since time immortal. But it should be reminded that there is a distinct difference between the character’s actions allowing the observer to identify with them, to the relevance that this act holds in terms of any recognisable social interaction observed day to day. Again I have to reinforce that I am highlighting this as a direction or trend in more modern media to amplify special attributes of the main characters and their social position and want to point out how this detracts from any recognisable social context.So what of the consequences of this illustrated trend in lack of recognisable social interactions you may ask? I would assert that the larger this gap between the social contexts of the good deeds we see represented in abstract to what we experience day to day in our own social interaction, the larger these values are not transferred, or possibly even registered as a fanciful ideal and/or actions to be done by others. To drive home the point I will again state I am talking about the interaction of characters, not their fa├žades or specifically their environment.Now most of the following examples of the consequences of these trends are by necessity exaggerated to illustrate the ‘direction’ that the trend would point, in as few numbers of words as possible. I will leave it to the reader to realise that this is the most extreme form of consequence that the most extreme form of the discussed trend would ‘reinforce’, it is a not a suggestion of cause and effect, merely pointing out one of the many factors that influence our daily experience… some reader discretion is required.It is the disassociation between what social interaction is observed within media and experienced in real life that I feel should be discussed. When social interactions are being portrayed as too abstract, idealised or completely fictitious it has a tendency to reinforce a misalignment in expectation regarding social interactions, thus assisting in amplifying negative real life outcomes. This is naturally on a subconscious level but it does continually reinforce a negative view of reality in comparison to the fictional world where the world works ‘properly’, no surprise then that the potential underlying desire to limit the social interaction with others is increased. On another level it can also assist in leading to a subtle disempowerment in terms of one’s own abilities to undertake change, particularly in a larger social order. It is the reinforced misguided belief that someone needs to be ingrained with something special to allow them to exert a change on their surroundings.This is all relative of course, imagination and the abstract are not a precursor to disassociation. It, as always, comes down to individual context. The escape of individuals into a world of fantasy and shunning the world is not a new phenomenon. I’m not here to say one has to lead into another, it is more to state of subversion, but not even a deliberate one, one caused by circumstance and market forces… gimmicks and key triggers are easier to mass produce and simpler to write generic formulated plots for, its scripted, exaggerated and no doubt loved by the executives and financiers, low risk, high throughput and formulated… but not exactly enlightening.And it is these formulas and the one upmanship of hollow gimmicks and lack of real interaction that I believe not only detract from any value of the story but also ultimately detracts from the quality of the story itself… social interaction is what makes a good story, it can be twisted and uncommon but it should be realistic insofar as the reaction to social circumstance is ‘realistic’ for the characters portrayed. The point of this article is to highlight the advantages for a story to not drifting too far from being a representation of common social interactions as well as to show the value in not having the main character be too different, separated or special in terms of the normal populace as represented in the story.You can still have your princesses and frogs, still have your outsiders and aliens, the question is how do they interact on a social level, is it a mirror of modern society? Is it even logical? There is no reason that a different social order or set of social morels can be used, but do the characters (even if not human ones) have interpersonal relations that would show that they are part of a logical social society?Just my thoughts on the matter, nothing sinister or malicious intended. I am interested to hear what others think of it though…

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