The Magicians came into my life and ravished me this past week. Honestly, the show so much didn’t do it but the fictional characterizations and mental improvements I added when the show lacked is what captured me. As much as I enjoyed it as is, as something to distract me from beating myself up over not finishing my story or being stuck in a show that made me cry all the time, it got the job done while also making me think about something important. What’s a hero? Truly, what makes a hero, well, heroic?
There’s many definitions of the hero syndrome. Wikipedia calls it, “a phenomenon where people seek recognition from heroic acts.” TV Tropes considers it the clean cut character who’s out to fix every wrong. My focus is somewhere in the middle. Those we idolize as heroes and what we consider them to be versus who they also can be.
For those unfamiliar with the show it’s about a young man named Quentin Coldwater (authors pick such weird names sometimes, I swear). Quentin, sometimes called Q, discharges himself from a hospital he placed himself in for his depression in hopes of improving on his own. He describes his life as dull, flat, in comparison to how he always expected it to be. About to enter into an Ivy League college, he finds himself instead as a student in a prestigious dedicated to magic. This all stems from his love and fascination for this magical series called Fillory and Further he read in his youth with his best friend. They both learned magic trick, or party tricks, in hopes of one day being magical like the children in the book. Age got the best of them but it turns out that it’s all real.
The premise of the show isn’t what hooked me initially. Quentin did it. From the beginning he tells people and is constantly told/ reminded of how unremarkable he is. There’s nothing about him that stands out. Truthfully, he really does everything he can, sometimes without trying, to blend into the background. What makes his character so important and complex to me is that it’s very rare for our “heroes” to not be heroes at all. The show is about him, yes, but he’s not the typical hero we’ve all been born and raised to love, adore, and idolize. He’s not a hero at the least.
This proposed the question of “what is a hero?” What is it that we consider to be heroic and remarkable to heroes and them solely? How often are your heroes backdrops in famous portraits? When are we ever faced with someone who isn’t rushing out to save a woman tied to railroad tracks but is actually the one fighting the villain while the real hero does the rescuing? When aren’t our heroes strong and courageous but instead quiet and insightful?
Recently I took the Pottermore quiz and my results were pretty predictable for me. I’m Gryffindor and my North American house is Pukwudgie. My patronus is also a Dapper Grey Stallion with my wand being a sort of flexible 23 inch Phoenix feather core with Laurel wood. This all means jack shit to me, but from my true understanding it means that I have a heart of gold, I’m honest and true, but my wand at anytime could leave me whenever I decided to succumb to my demons of laziness and self loathing. Instantly I made a reference to my friend about being Harry Potter, what I see to be the star and the hero despite a life of despair when truthfully, I’m Ron Weasley.
Ron isn’t any less amazing, but in some ways he’s very much less remarkable (as the movies will try to tell us). Ron isn’t an underdog either, he’s not trying to be in the spotlight like his friends because he knows his strengths and weaknesses, and as much as he doesn’t enjoy them, he embraces them. When he encounters a shortcoming, he asks for help from others. He’s strong in his own regard, not physically or mentally but, honestly, emotionally.
I am not all that remarkable in person. Honestly, I don’t exactly capture your attention and nothing about me is all too special at first glance or by first impressions. What can I say? i’m not impressionable beyond looks, my friends. I am not your hero, and I do not want to be. I am a good person with a heart of gold but I am not rescuing the damsel in distress as much as I am willing to drink the experimental potion made by my friend, the actual hero. Truthfully, I am moderately good at things, I’m terrible with people sometimes, but I’m great at being myself. If life was Skyrim, I’d be the best companion who gets in the way too much. In the world of Fallout, I’m at least the NPC with the most useful information ever.
Now none of this is to say that I’m boring, or that these brand of “heroes” are dull and lackluster. We’re funny, we’re supportive, we struggle with conflict. We are also honest and, despite the bundle of fuck ups we make, we mean well. We’re self destructive to a degree but for hero? We are our best for you. After watching the Magicians and finding out my house in the world of Hogwarts/ Ilverymorny, I am pretty okay with not being the hero. I’m not Link when the world has room for Ravio‘s. When it comes to being Frodo, I’m Sam. I’m not an underdog, I have nothing to “overcome”. In the world of MMO’s, consider me the Mage.
What else is very, very, very important to note about these brand of heroes is that they’re flawed. Heroes comes with flaws, of course, but their weakness is always family or their pride. Our subculture of heroes? They’re depressed, which is a flaw in chemistry over the character. They’re anxious or wanting to be liked by everyone they encounter. It’s what makes them human, real, and above all else relatable. Don’t we all carry flaws? Don’t we all love someone who’s knowing of those flaws? It’s why we love these characters. Sometimes they are envious and jealous. Sometimes they want to be seen as someone else, whether it’s the hero or not, and we’ve all felt that.
It’s without questions that I’m a hero in my own right, and I need more stories about those who are like me. To see myself, my true self, where I quit trying to imagine myself as Luke or Leia and accept that I’m Han Solo is what truly keeps me from feeling so bad about not being as remarkable and noteworthy as others. Perhaps my hero syndrome is from helping too much and spreading myself too thin for the real heroes in my life, but I’m content with the role I play, because I’m a hero in my own right dammit.