Have we lost the will to be heroes?

Have we lost the will to be heroes?

Before I get started, I want to make sure that you know this article contains my own opinions. They may be very different to what you believe and I would like to let you know that this is perfectly fine, in fact, I encourage it. Wouldn’t it be dreadfully boring if we were all cut from the same cloth?

While I was reading recently, I came across an article about the band Nirvana and the sorry state that music was in before they burst onto the scene. If you know me personally, then you’ll already know that I really don’t like the corporate, fluffy side of music, although I do accept and understand that some people just want to accept the nastiness and coldness of the world around them and try to cheer themselves up wherever they can.


If you lived through the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or a combination of the three, then you’ll remember that music had a varied life throughout those eras. The Beatles were the first to introduce “rock n’ roll” to the world and the four mild mannered men from Liverpool soon took the world by storm, putting forward the idea that no matter where you came from, you could always make something of yourself and claw your way up from the bottom.

The Beatles showed the world a new ideology and that music didn’t have to be the same thing over and over again. Music wasn’t soft any more, and it wasn’t intended as something just to provide noise at parties, although we still do that to this day. It’s possible you remember that the punk movement died out in the late 70’s, leaving the market fairly open, but nobody filled that spot. It seemed as though no one was willing to step up and be the hero that the music scene needed. Around 1987, a band called Nirvana started popping up in unknown venues around Washington state. Their hard hitting music won them followers throughout their travels and in 1989 they recorded their first album Bleach.

The popularity of their first album was nowhere near bands of the past but they had started an underground movement without even trying. Their music had entered the hearts and minds of the youth around the state and it was about to explode into a worldwide phenomenon known as grunge. In 1991, they released their first major single titled Smells Like Teen Spirit and received overnight global fame. Kurt Cobain, the front man of Nirvana became an instant hero thanks to his nonchalant style and general anger towards the establishment.Why is that important for modern music? Well, simply put, it gave people the burning desire to fight for themselves again.

Music was no longer about living through and forgetting, it was about using your voice, understanding yourself and expressing your beliefs through artistic expression. It also gave rise to the idea of the anti-hero as the new protagonist of modern life, the character who had no filter and wasn’t afraid to say all the things polite society was too weak to say.Nirvana and Cobain’s intention was never to create a political movement, it was merely to make music and escape from the drag of the 9 to 5 job that consumes so many of us with dread when Monday morning (or your version of Monday morning should your work shifts) finally roles around.

As Kurt said in an interview, he never wanted to change the world, he was “just trying to rip off the pixies.” Regardless, Nirvana’s fierce attitude did create a movement and millions of impressionable youths worldwide ended up following that. Distrust for the establishment grew and many people started considering alternative career paths such as being self employed, artists or even musicians. Grunge took the traditional sociological norms and threw them out of the window, telling us to follow our hearts instead of money. Grunge also inspired Riot Grrl, which was an extremely feminist version of the genre, still carried on nowadays thanks to bands such as Pussy Riot in Russia who were famously imprisoned for “behaviour against the state.”

The feminist culture within music continued to rise after Grunge and Riot Grrl came onto the scene, spreading into genres such as pop, R & B, country and even rap, with a few brave women paving the way for the superstars of the future and showing that femininity was fierce and important, not the object of sexual gratification alone.


Let’s consider the idea of the anti-hero, it’s not a new thing, but it’s newly popularised. Ernest Hemingway could have been considered a classic anti-hero prototype, but he’s remembered more for his literary works than for being a sociopath who worked for the KGB, repeatedly shot wild animals and cheated on his wives with more mistresses than you could count on both hands.

That being said, Hemingway’s actions were not popular with the majority of people, he was fairly unlikeable and it’s said that he was kind of a recluse, especially in his later years. So, what drove people into liking the idea of the modern anti-hero in the 21st century? Well, there are a lot of arguments for this and it would take forever to go through them all, but I’d bet a substantial amount on saying that the major reason would have been the ever changing nature of television. Especially when we consider that we can now binge watch an entire series on our mobiles whilst we travel to work, it becomes evident that the traditional heroes have become boring and overplayed to us as an audience.

Speaking of online streaming, I’d like to delve into Netflix as a major streaming platform and talk about their original content. The first major works for Netflix were Orange is the New Black and BoJack Horseman, both of which have since been met with critical acclaim. Notably, BoJack Horseman features on the life of a washed up actor who has turned to alcohol, substance and sex abuse in order to find some slice of satisfaction in a world that he considers completely out to get him. I’m not going to go into too much detail here as there are thousands of articles I could write about this show and I plan to in future.

The point is that idea of the self tortured, nihilistic, egocentric individual that delivers beautiful works of art, be they comedy routines, rousing speeches, dazzling paintings, heartbreaking songs or brilliant pieces of cinema and TV, brings us some joy in our generally grey lives. At least in Western society it does. A lot of us have great lives, we have houses, food, partners, jobs and the ability to do what we want when we want. But, we still have problems and these anti-heroes, who have everything that they could ever dream of show us that that’s just fine and that all problems are relative. We relate to these protagonists because we see themselves in us, particularly in the case of BoJack.

The show explains complex issues such as alcoholism, existential crises, depression, dementia, toxic relationships, unfair labour practices, manipulative behaviour from the elite and even the struggles of parenthood, all through the eyes of anthropomorphic animals and their zany human counterparts. The fact that we are identifying with these animals and animated people just highlights the fact that we are uncomfortable seeing real life humans with these problems because it hits too close to home and becomes uncanny.

If you’ve ever suffered from any of those things that I listed at the beginning of the last paragraph, particularly existential issues, then I suggest that you take some time to watch the show. I’ve heard from a lot of people who say that it helped them to identify and understand issues which they’d never been able to before.


You know what? I have to believe that there are, or this whole slog just seems pointless. To me, having heroes and believing that there are people fighting for us normal people at the bottom. I’ve followed the Bernie Sanders campaign for a long time, and personally I do believe that there are good people like Senator Sanders fighting for us. I don’t subscribe to the theory that everybody in high positions is controlled, although I do believe that the banks have enough money to buy off almost anyone they desire, but it would destroy my entire understanding of the world, karma and balance if I were to think that we had nobody on our side. I chose Senator Sanders as an example because he represents a lot of the same things that I stand for. There are far too few people with far too much power. People who use that power for unthinkable things and would throw you and your entire family under the bus without even thinking about it.

The questions is, are people able to get behind a candidate who is fighting the good fight or will they start to become overly concerned about their own selfish needs and switch sides to someone who will effectively destroy the bottom line of society in order to give the top percentage more than they deserve? I think people can be duped and tricked very easily. Whatever your position on British politics and whatever you think about the various politicians in the UK, you must be able to look at the campaigns objectively and in retrospect understand that a lot of what the major parties promised were just insane lies. When writing I do try to take an objective stance as much as possible, but that last election really confused me and made me question the morality of not only the party leaders but even the people who were counting the votes. IT’S NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM When you write content like this, you always need to find a way to finish that doesn’t make you feel utterly depressed and helpless at the end. That’s why I’m ending with this positive note.

(Please note that I use heroes as an inclusive term and don’t like to specify gender through the use of “heroine”, to me; males, females, transgender and anyone in between could be a hero if they follow the correct path.)

Heroes exist. That ideology, passion and fight is within us all, even within you. We’ve just forgotten how to use it. The truth is, heroes come in all different shapes and sizes and a simple act such as giving someone with a cold a tissue, buying (or even getting a free) coffee for someone homeless, just taking a moment to ask why someone is upset and if they need help or playing fair at your weekly football match. All those small actions, accumulated, make us all heroes. And, I believe strongly that if we all try our best to perform small heroic actions every day, eventually, we’ll get to where we want to be as a species. What do you think? You can let us know in the comments, remember this is just the opinion of one guy and not the entire team here. You can also discuss topics like this with your language exchange partners!

Written by: Jordan Benyon, Staff Writer