Are We Overusing the Word ‘Hero’?

In the 1994 Robert Redford-directed Quiz Show, professor Charles Van Doren confesses in testimony before Congress that he had knowingly participated in the rigging of a TV game show which led to a shocking national scandal. The charming Van Doren, played by Ralph Fiennes, is so sincere and humble in his mea culpa that the … Continued


Who’s the Real Hero? Sully vs. Snowden

For more than fifty years, going back to John Ford’s revision-minded 1962 Western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, in which a political grandee’s career was established under false pretenses because everyone believed he killed an outlaw who was in reality slain by someone else, Hollywood has been advising us to be skeptical of heroes. … Continued

Entertainment, Movies

Do Boys Need a New Kind of Hero?

Crissi and Ed Boland decided they weren’t happy with the toys and comics available for their two young sons. They were tired of the cynical merchandising of decades-old superheroes, the dark and violent comic books, and the “narcissism and a win-at-all-cost approach” that they feel pervade our culture. They want their sons to have meaningful … Continued


How Have our Heroes Changed?

The fourteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks this past Friday was a somber reminder to Americans of the first responders and their heroic sacrifice on that terrible morning. Three hundred and forty-three firefighters perished that day, as well as sixty police officers and eight paramedics, all rushing to the aid of others with a disregard … Continued

Books, Culture

Holding Out for a Hero

Every culture ends up with a hero that defines it. From the trickster Odysseus of Homeric Greece to the chivalrous Lancelot of Arthurian romance to the lone lawmen of Hollywood westerns, heroes reflect the values and ideals of their time and place. But who is the heroic icon of 21st century America? Who defines us? … Continued

Celebrities, Culture

‘The Equalizer’: Heroism in a World without Knights

Action flicks these days aren’t solely the domain anymore of chiseled, one-note actors like Van Damme, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Statham (although those icons have found a home in The Expendables series). Now the leading men of the best “actioners,” as they’re known in Variety-speak, are heavy-hitting thespians like Liam Neeson and Denzel Washington, whose acting … Continued

Entertainment, Movies

A Humble, Heroic Tom Cruise in “Edge of Tomorrow”

Edge of Tomorrow remains one of the top summer blockbusters at the box office, and is there any surprise why? Grossing more than $239 million worldwide, it’s one of those films that have it all. It has action. It has a catchy premise, featuring the day-starting-over glitch we’ve loved since Groundhog Day. It has top-notch … Continued

Entertainment, Movies

Captain America: A Hero For Our Time

Humans have a habit of idealizing the past, more often than not. This is why the first Captain America movie, while fun, also felt a bit forced to me. While Captain Rogers was obviously meant to embody the virtues and big-heartedness of a heroic soldier, he also seemed disappointingly two-dimensional as a character. He was … Continued

Entertainment, Movies

Hellboy, An Unlikely Hero

In my previous superhero articles (and here’s a brief refresher) I have delved into characters from DC and Marvel comics who each have many decades of publishing history under their utility belts. This time, I’ll be looking at one of the most successful characters to debut during my own lifetime — although only just, as … Continued


The Nature of Heroism in Captain Phillips

A hijacking at high seas “based on a true story” has all the makings of a stereotypical action flick, but director Paul Greengrass took Captain Phillips in a different direction, constructing it around the “battle of wills” between Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) and Muse (Barkhad Abdi). It’s a parallelism not only between East and … Continued

Entertainment, Movies