Gone are the days of the clean cut B-serial hero fighting evil and do gooding his way into our hearts. Good and Evil were once clearly defined from the opening scenes with heroes and villains appearing either Evil or Good right out of the gate. Mustaches and black hats and names like Black Bart or Snidley Whiplash left no doubt as to the roles these clowns would play. Our imagination was then left free to wander all the possible dastardly wicked things they might try to pull on the White Hat baby faced hero who would rather kiss his horse than Laura the buxom young maiden in distress.
Heroes were always patriotic. Heroes often gave their lives to uphold an ideal. Heroes were our notion of Ethics and Morality with the muscle to defeat the weaker sides of our more often than not villainous sides. Heroes told us what we should be, not what we really were.
I used to watch these cinematic heroes and read about my comic book heroes as a kid and often think about why we needed fake heroes when all we had to do was step up to the plate a little more often ourselves. With the child's mind it seemed simple to me.
Of course the black and white outlook of childhood tends to fade as we accumulate faults and imperfections over time. Life mutates from a literal world to a world of shades, dark corners, and subtle differences. We learn this on our own most of the time. It does not have to be taught to us. We outgrew the innocence our parents and other stewards tried to retain for us as long as possible. The ugly side of the Planet would catch up to us anyway, so why thrust us into it right out of the gate?
That attitude seems to have changed. The heroes of our children are darker now, more human like. They still fight evil for the most part, but the creators have decided to incorporate faults alongside the noble and true. So we end up with heroes like Watchmen or V. A group of heroes right out of an Ayn Rand novel. Heroes who end up doing good even if they did not intend to. Heroes who will not save ourselves from ourselves. They will often stand by while we destroy ourselves and only help those in our way.
And it is too bad in a way. Children now start on a diet of Barney and Tele Tubbies and move right into the ghettos of human experience. In grade school the reality that they see at home is often reinforced by the mass media onslaught of flawed do gooders who often miss the mark of true "Hero".
I suppose it could be looked at in a positive light though. Trying to deny some of the complexities that make up the Human Race and filling their heads with a Pollyanna overview might not prepare them for the reality that encroaches young lives at what seems a lower age every decade or so.
Sex at age ten. Carrying guns to school at age eleven. Substance abuse starting in third grade. Beauty pageants for five year olds. Plastic surgery by age eight. Children now have to grow up faster than I did. The world may revolve at the same speed it has for ages, but the pace at which we try to keep up has stepped up many notches. The time frame we allow our children to just be children without adult baggage has narrowed to the point where being a child is now more a case of being born a small adult and the only thing we let them do is change their clothing sizes.
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