I saw Avatar this weekend. Third time so far (second time in 3D). Yes, it’s that awesome. Kudos, James Cameron. I’m happy to see your Titanic records broken. (Honestly, I didn’t think Titanic was all that. Avatar, though? All that, a bag o’ chips, salsa, guac, queso, and whatever other metaphoric awesome sauce you can conjure.)
Now, I’m usually not one to analyze or criticize movies (I’m actually pretty easy to please as a moviegoer). But as I was watching Avatar this weekend, my mind kept dissecting the main character Jake Sully. His personality, his actions, his motivations. I came to the conclusion that Cameron had very successfully created a “beloved” hero. Not beloved necessarily by the other characters in the movie. In fact, there are times during the movie where perhaps the only one cheering for Jake in the stands is the viewer.
But isn’t that what is most important? That we as viewers/readers are rooting for the hero? (Or heroine. I’m going to refrain from being PC from here on out, and just refer to the main character in the masculine. Sorry, ladies.)
The hero of our story has to be carefully crafted to appeal to our inner cheerleader, and Jake Sully is a great example. He is good-natured and has good intentions at his core. He is flawed, but in a way that makes you hope that he overcomes his weaknesses and succeeds despite his shortcomings. He has deep motivations that fuel his actions and keep us engrossed in the story, eager to see whether his goals are realized. And he grows and changes as the plot progresses, eliciting our approval and pride like a parent seeing the development of a child.
It might be a bit formulaic or derivative to break down the anatomy of a good hero like this, but I think if you look at your favorite heroes from books, movies, even video games, you’ll find that they share many (perhaps all) of Jake’s "heroic" qualities. Certainly, the circumstances and details are different for each story and each character. But at its most basic, there seem to be some very general, universal themes of heroism that entice us to join the fan club.
What are some of your favorite heroes (or heroines) from your reading (or movies! or video games!), and what was it about them that made you love them so much?