Americans are looking for a hero, someone who stands for bravely stands for democracy; he or she is honest, helpful, hard-working, determined, and exhibits moral integrity. This person would have impacted the United States significantly and left lasting cultural implications.
A hero is someone who understands the responsibilty that comes with his freedom. – Bob Dylan
If there is any doubt, look at the box office revenue for “Top Gun: Maverick.” Tom Cruise’s smash hit is the sixth highest-grossing film in domestic box office history, and audiences continue to flock to theaters. Despite hitting the big screen on May 27, the film remained in the Top 5 at the box office for 12 of its 13-week run, with showings in 2,900 theaters nationwide.
The box office for “Top Gun: Maverick” was $683 million: Surpassing another film featuring heroes Americans crave, “Avengers: Infinity War,” with $678 million, according to Variety’s Aug. 20, 2022 report.
Another example of entertainment striving to meet the public’s need for a hero can be found among the playlists on streaming platforms like HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+. But these “good guys” are imaginary and only temporarily fill the void.
Hero: A person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his/her brave deeds and noble qualities. – Legends of America
History is filled with real heroes: Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), Mahatma Gandi (1869-1948), Caesar Trâiānus Hadriānus aka Hadrian (76-138), Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180), Socrates (470-399 BC), and Jesus Christ.
Hail, Columbia! Happy land! Hail, ye heroes! Heaven-born band! Who fought and bled in Freedom’s cause. – Joseph Hopkinson
The American hero list is extensive. “From the smallest deeds of kindness to the brave soldiers that have given their lives for this country, these hundreds of thousands of men and women come from every race, religion, and ethnic group. Their stories and histories are varied, their actions and deeds diverse, leaving their marks on every part of our culture and heritage. They are law officers, politicians, soldiers, inventors, explorers, artists, activists, writers, business people, and ordinary folks. Some are famous — most are not,” by Kathy Weiser for Legends of America.
Most American heroes remain uncelebrated since they are not cultural icons like George Washington (1732-1799), Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), Harriet Tubman (1815-1913), Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (1913-2005), Malcolm X (1925-1965), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), and nearly every President of the United States.
America’s need to look up to a hero was not lost on former President George W. Bush, so he and The National Endowment for the Humanities launched the “We the People” initiative on Sept. 17, 2002. The program encourages people to teach, study, and understand American history and culture.
Political affiliation largely dictates who qualifies as a hero. During the onset of Donald Trump’s presidency (2017-2021), white supremacist and pro-white militia groups stepped into the spotlight. They were welcomed by Trump, and as a result, Black Lives Matters activists and supporters rallied against the hate and bigotry.
There were positive and negative outcomes from the BLM and pro-white conflict: death, violence, torched cities, and white supremacist leaders exposed. But unfortunately, not one hero has emerged from the turbulence yet.
Until then, Americans will continue to turn to fictional characters in film and on TV.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Cinema Blend: Top Gun: Maverick Director Won’t Shoot Down One Wild Fan Theory Related To The Movie; by Eric Eisenberg
Variety: ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Takes Down ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ as Sixth-Highest Grossing Movie in Domestic Box Office History; by Rebecca Rubin
Legends of America: Heroes and Patriots
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Thomas Hawk’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image by US Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Wilson Courtesy of Texas Military Department – Creative Commons License