Why We Need Virtuous Heroes

The modern hero is usually unusually handsome and in that way distances himself from the average man. His rugged features must show well on the screen because that is the preferred medium today. But writers know that their audience must relate to their protagonist. A strange thing happens then in modern stories. In order to find some common ground with the average person watching the movie or reading the book, today’s heroes are messy, angry, and broken in the name of realism.

The argument goes something like this: Since we are all sinners, then the key characters of our stories should be as well. Anything else is unrealistic and unbelievable. Life is raw and anything less would be smarmy hypocrisy.

Here are a few examples.

In C. S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian, Peter is a young hero following a virtuous path. The wisdom and humility he displays are found from his elders, so even though he is young, Lewis’ was not propping up a nascent youth culture. The same character in the 2008 movie walks onto the screen as an angry teenager with “issues”.

Tolkien’s Faramir in The Two Towers is a model for my sons of justice, restraint, and discernment. Peter Jackson’s Faramir in the movie of the same name is a petulant, self-aggrandizing post-modern. What model of virtue is impoverished more than he? Only Jackson’s version of Frodo who—can you believe it?—rejects Sam in favor of Gollum. (Incidentally, Tolkien wrote Frodo as a 50-year old wealthy hobbit who nevertheless condescends with friendship to his faithful, lower-class, 35-year old servant. The cultural Marxists had to cut that dynamic as well when they rewrote the story.)

What would these kinds of writers do to Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy if they could? What would they do to the apostle Paul who lived from his conversion as a model of Christian piety (Acts 24:16)? We want our heroes exciting, but not convicting. They’ve got to be mostly like us except with superpowers or else they will not make it to market.

Here is the rest of the series.

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America


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