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Calling all Heroes

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"Where Have all the HEROES Gone?"
August 5, 2001
Article by Chris Mason
While watching the recent Hopalong Cassidy marathon on (the western channel) it got me to thinking about the current state of heroes today… Just where have all the heroes gone?

Having been born in 1962 I just missed the Hoppy craze of the 1950’s.  My “Pop” was an avid comic collector and serial fan from his youth, so through this I was indoctrinated into the world of costumed heroes, an interest that today is still a part of my life.  I was brought up on the likes of the Lone Ranger & Tonto, watching a “white man” and an Indian work together side by side, Superman flew through the skies of Metropolis to defeat the bad guys, Batman & Robin raced in the batmobile to battle the Joker and the Penguin… The hero didn’t always wear white but it was clear who the good guys were, and I wanted to be just like them. 

Sadly the state of heroes in our modern world is not as clear cut.  Watch any TV show today and you see what kids today call “HEROES”. POKEMON, where kids must capture creatures and use them to battle each other mindlessly for no other reason but to fight, to only in the end shake hands and promise to beat each other next time.  The POWER RANGERS, this show has been on the air for almost ten years and has seen the cast and locations change too many times to count, but the basic plot remains the same… An ethnically diverse group of young heroes must work as a team to defend the world against alien evil. No problem there, a great message for kids today, but the problem is they work together to “destroy” the villain. Either hand to hand combat with martial arts, with a endless variety of hand weapons or by climbing into a giant robot, by which they unwittingly aid the “monster” in destroying half the city. In the end the bad guy is blown to bits in a violent fireball, the “heroes” all celebrate with high fives and what’s left of the city is saved until next week.  Sure the Lone Ranger wore his famous six-guns, but he never shot anyone dead or blew them up with a posatronic destructo-beam.  The Lone Ranger only used his weapon as a last resort and never to kill, he used his brain in bringing the villain to justice and often pointed out to the villain the error of his ways, even going as far as to show him how he could make restitution.  Even Hoppy would stay behind after bringing the bad guy to justice to help rebuild the barn that had been burned down during the climatic fight with the villain.  Never once have I seen a Power Ranger feel any kind of remorse for leveling an apartment building full of innocent people or lend a hand in cleaning up the damage they caused.  And the kids just like me some 30 years ago, want to be just like them.
What kind of a message is this sending to our kids today?

We live in a world where gangsta’ rappers are the new breed of glorified hero. Telling kids in their “music” that it’s okay to smoke pot and rebel against authority… where a child in order to fit in with the “gang” must car-jack and for that extra level of status, kill the driver.  Or the crazy who recklessly takes Police on a wild high speed car chase across busy highways endangering innocent drivers all the while viewers watching them on TV mindlessly fill the streets to route them on.  When it’s over the TV news chopper hovering over head has once again aided in this new found “hero’s” celebrity.

Long gone are the days when my brothers and I would play the Lone Ranger in our backyard, wearing our six guns, white cowboy hats and boots… today that image takes on a whole new darker meaning. AK-47s have replaced the Ranger’s silver six-shooters.  Kids today know nothing about truth and justice, let alone the American way.

Actor William Boyd who played Hopalong Cassidy for nearly 40 years embodied the true nature of a hero, it is rumored that when stricken with cancer in his later years he refused to do any on camera interviews. His reason was to preserve the image of Hoppy for all his young fans. Clayton Moore refused to play any other character after his years as the Lone Ranger as long as he lived. He was eventually sued by the owners of the character, striped of the mask and forbidden by corporate nitwits to ever “be” the Lone Ranger.  In the end Moore later won the right to wear the mask he held so close to his heart & soul… he was for all of us, the one and only LONE RANGER. 

The lines between good and bad, right and wrong are not that clear anymore, not with the heroes of film & TV today, today they have to be flawed in order to be real.  Take the hit WB show ANGEL, the title character is a vampire who for hundreds of years drank the blood of his victims to stay alive, but now has found redemption and in order to fight for justice must rip the heads off his villains week after week.  But it’s okay because the hero feels remorseful about having to do it… The show is well written and well produced but, what is this telling our kids? 

Heroes today have a tough time, and when a real hero does do something “heroic” then we almost never hear about it and if we do it’s pushed aside in favor of the next violent news story.  I recently watched the local TV news, they were featuring a story about a Policeman who risked his life to save an autistic girl who was walking on railroad tracks. The police officer pulled the girl off the tracks seconds before the train would have surely killed her.  The sad part about this broadcast was the fact that it was followed by gruesome stories about gang violence, car chases, rape, and a baby found dead in a trash can. 

In the end I’m not sure what if any of this has to do with having heroes both real and fantasy in our lives, or if film and television is the best place for them… but I do know this that I’m a better person for it.  I wouldn’t and haven’t hesitated to help someone if I was able to do so…

So, long live Hoppy and that Masked Man and all the real life heroes who helped make this country great. Because if we let the children of today forget the heroes of the past and not celebrate the true heroes of today, then what good will a future be?

August 5, 2001

Epilogue: 9-11-02
On September 11, 2001 the USA was attacked by terrorists.
On that day many lives were lost, but many heroes were born...

Firefighter's, Police officers, commercial airline pilots, flight attendants and just plane regular people all became HEROES that day, and I got to witness it "live" on TV.  I'm sad to say that the events of that day will forever be a part of my memory, who I am, but in the end it's good thing.

Everywhere you go you can't escape the sight of the red, white and blue. Cars drive down the streets with American Flags hanging from the antennas, stickers on windows and bumpers... pins, cups, hats, anything that you can put a flag on people are wearing it. There seems to be a rejuvenation in the American Spirit in this country.

So the next time you are having a bad day, just take a deep breath and think of the HEROES of September 11th.


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