Why we Love Hollywood Action Heroes so Much


I was thinking the other day about why we as a society love Hollywood action heroes and their movies so much? What is it about the Rocky Balboas, Rambos, Chuck Norrises, Terminators, James Bonds, Steven Segals, and so on, of this world that appeal to our visceral sense of fulfillment and catharsis?

The answer is easy. These characters are archetypical depictions of the rugged individualistic characters which were so often portrayed in Hollywood Westerns. Ultimately, going even further back, they’re post-modern personifications of medieval-era lone knights in shining armour, the types of which we were brought up with in our youth reading and hearing about, such as King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, not to mention Odysseus in the Odyssey, and Jason and the Argonauts, and their heroic quest for the golden fleece. (They even named a football team after those guys!!!) There was also Saint George who slew the dragon, and so on.

We’re all fascinated by heroic, highly individualistic, virile, noble, if slightly rough around the edges, knightly-like characters who are on the proverbial sacred quest, whether it be for the Holy Grail, the Holy Land, to win the heart of a woman, to save a civilization from evil-doers, or some complex combination of all or some of the above.

Most, if not all of us have some sort of sense of the sacred and the profane, and know the difference between the two when we see, or live through it. We want to, as Lenny Kravitz put it ‘Let love rule’, we want to know that even as the dark clouds gather menacingly over the horizon, that someone, somewhere, shall take up the Good Fight, and fight it for us, if perchance we happen to be too physically weak to entertain such a notion anymore ourselves.

The action heroes of this world fit this need quite nicely. They identify the problem or enemy, and work selflessly, and relentlessly to see that he/she/it is destroyed, whether it be by blowing up the enemy Mother Ship, sinking their biggest vessel, killing the Emperor of their Gorgonesque alien race, bagging the babe, as the case warrants it, and/or making it home in time to see his daughter’s school pageant, and have a late supper with his loving wife. All is resolved in the requisite Hollywood time of roughly 120 minutes, give or take a few.

We then can either turn off the DVD, or go home from the theatre, safe in the knowledge, that heroes still exist, and that they’re on our side. We need such inspiration, because so many people, places and things are lined up against us, telling us we’re wrong, outdated, imperialistic, patriarchcal, or just plain hypocritical to have the courage to believe in an entity called God, or country, or King, or Queen, or good or evil for that matter. Many people in today’s world would have us believe that there are no such things as absolutes, that everything is relative, and that no external force outside of ourselves is at the source of living, and being.

It has been said that the cleverest thing that the devil ever did, was to convince people that he didn’t exist. One can only hope that we all continue to behave like we’re a ‘rainbow in the dark’. Such is the title of one of Ronnie James Dio’s most famous songs. If you go to his show, he always gives a rousing rendition of this Metal anthem as his last song.

Because we need our Knights in shining armour to fight the Good Fight. Otherwise the rainbow shall be consumed by the darkness, and we can’t let that happen. So keep those cheesy action/thrillers coming!!!

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