Contains spoilers for Harry Potter 7, Dark Knight & Avatar, the Last Airbender
Sometimes he (or she, but let’s keep it simple) comes back resurrection-style, evil is vanquished, and hope springs eternal. At least until the sequel.
If the hero doesn’t die, he still has to give up something near and dear to him. His family. His normal existence. His ability to sleep at night. His physical well-being. His reputation as a good, sane citizen.
In The Dark Knight, the new Batman movie with Christian Bale and Maggie Gyllenhaal (contented sigh), title character Bruce Wayne takes the blame for several murders, in order to preserve justice and to keep the Bad Guys from winning.
He sacrifices the city’s good opinion of him (already questionable, but now irrevocably notorious) and accepts that he will live a hunted and persecuted life, at least by night.
The conclusion of Nickelodeon’s animated series Avatar begins with Aang, playful master of the four elements, trying to accept that he must sacrifice his own spiritual needs and well-being for world peace and the end of a tyrant’s rule. That seems a bit harsh for a cartoon, but it’s a tough world full of powerful people, and sometimes you’ve just got to listen to the turtle-lion and make a choice.
This is a recurring theme in stories. Nobility, sacrifice and good triumphing over evil as the result.
Sure, this is fiction. But if you want to rule the world, should you be willing to sacrifice to save it?
Stop right there, don’t go out and martyr yourself to prove you’re all noble, that’s a horrible overreaction plus I’d have to stop writing blog posts for some ridiculous legal reason. What I’m getting at here is the question: Does heroism always have to include some form of sacrifice?
What do you think? Can you be a hero without giving something up? If that’s the case, could you risk your safety, your investments, your health? Could you sacrifice people’s good opinion of you to do something right, without being given the chance to explain your actions? Especially if you really cared about their opinions, and had a strong sense of fair play?
A more extreme scenario – could you live a lie and face the hatred of everyone who knew you forever, knowing they were wrong, but that your name would never be cleared, all for the good of the world?