A hero is typically a normal human being or a fictional super hero who, against all odds, continually combats insurmountable odds through incredible acts of courage, ingenuity, or resourcefulness. As other previously solely gender-based terms, hero now often refers to any person, although hero usually only refers to girls. In popular culture, however, the hero is more often used in reference to comic book and superhero characters, whereas the hero and villain are using to describe more traditional heroic figures.
In everyday life, many individuals define themselves as heroes. As children, most identify with a handful of iconic and memorable heroes and hero-like characters. These role models often inspire young people to become their idealized heroes at a very young age. This process of socialization of heroes is present in almost all societies that exist today. In the United States, this process is most likely derived from American comic books and television shows.
There are many ways to categorize and explain the concept of heroes. According to some educators and social scientists, heroes may have various definitions depending on the region of the world they originate from, such as how the Japanese identify with the American hero America’s greatest symbol, Superman. Others believe that heroes can be defined by their ability to exhibit a range of heroic behavior. For instance, a child who behaves like a hero during moments of crisis may be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, which causes them to act heroically in uncertain and potentially harmful situations. On the other hand, the definition of a hero could also be determined by a specific event, such as the deadliest sniper attack in history, or the first flight into space.
Historically, the concept of heroism has evolved over the years, from Greek hero myths to modern day cinema and comics. Early civilizations believed that all living things were part of a divine, all knowing system. Every individual was assigned a role within this divine system of nature, to guard against threats from all directions, to be of service in times of need, and to use their creativity to shape the universe according to the will of the gods. Humans were considered to be part of this divine community, and were awarded the honor and rewards for exhibiting heroic behaviors. These behaviors were rewarded, and individuals who displayed great qualities were elevated to positions of leadership or supreme power.
Over time, the idea of heroism was linked with religion, and those who displayed religious virtue were often considered to be a hero as well. Early Christianity, for instance, emphasized the idea of being a hero, viewing religious leaders as exemplary role models. Theologians, then, theorized that true heroism is not so much about action or courage, but is rather an internalized faith that commands one to act regardless of external circumstances. This allows for the possibility of heroic imagination, the ability to see potential threats and opportunities in seemingly unlikely circumstances.
There are many different ways to define heroes. The most important factor, however, remains to be the ability to act despite threats or dangers. While these are important prerequisites for any responsible role model, it is those who display the ability to overcome danger or adversity that are the true heroes. Those who possess the will to fight even when outnumbered and undermanned are heroes, not because they displayed physical prowess or achieved some other great feat, but because they refused to back down, and they accepted the risk. It takes a courageous soul to stand up to a threat, but with the right attitude, there are few who can match up to the role models we have today.