Just finished watching Avengers: Age of Ultron (again). Caring for my sick daughter does have its compensations (though I shudder at the backlog piling up at work!)
The powerful image in the end credits, of the main characters portrayed as classical heroes, in marble, made me reflect on Joss Whedon’s take on heroism. I think it is best captured in the closing words of Angel – with which the 12 seasons of the Buffy/Angel television saga came to an end:
SPIKE: In terms of a plan?
ANGEL: We fight.
SPIKE: Bit more specific.
Well, personally, I kind of want to slay the dragon.
(the demon horde attacks)
Let’s go to work.
(swings his sword)
(Fade to black.)
Or beloved heroes do not die on screen, but we are left in doubt as to what will happen next.
In the Whedon universe, heroes are not the guys who always win, but the ones who are always ready to put up a fight. This idea is not a Whedon invention, of course, but Whedon does come up with powerful ways to put it forward in the realm of pop culture.
As our world is increasingly crunched between the souless wills of haters and philistines it is good to remind ourselves that heroism is about fighting on, even when it feels like we’ll be crushed.
Ultimately, heroism (or whatever lesser version of it we, mere mortals, may manage to muster) is not about winning, but just a better way of life. As in the opening lines of that other great piece of pop culture, the feature film Lorenzo’s Oil:
“Life has meaning only in the struggle. Triumph or defeat is in the hands of the Gods. So let us celebrate the struggle.”