Analysis / The Hero
The Hero's portrayal in different cultures
Like many other things, different cultures have different ideas of what makes a hero. Christopher Vogler noted in The Writer's Journey
that Australia and Germany are two cultures that seem slightly "herophobic":
Australians distrust appeals to heroic virtue because such concepts have been used to lure generations of young Australian men into fighting Britain's battles. Australians have their heroes, of course, but they tend to be unassuming and self-effacing
, and will remain reluctant for much longer than heroes in other cultures. Even after accepting the Call to Adventure
, they continue demurring and may never be entirely comfortable with the hero mantle. In Australian culture it's unseemly to seek out leadership or the limelight, and anyone who does so is a Tall Poppy
, quickly cut down. The most admirable hero is one who denies his heroic role as long as possible and who, like Mad Max
, avoids accepting responsibility for anyone but himself.
German culture seems ambivalent about the term "hero". The hero has a long tradition of veneration in Germany, but two World Wars and the legacy of Hitler and the Nazis have tainted the concept. Nazism and German militarism manipulated and distorted the powerful symbols of the hero myth, invoking its passions to enslave, dehumanize and destroy. In the post-Hitler period, the idea of the hero has been given a rest as the culture reevaluates itself. Dispassionate, cold-blooded anti-heroes are more in keeping with the current German spirit. A tone of unsentimental realism is more popular at present, although there will always be a strain of romanticism and a love of fantasy. Germans can enjoy imaginative hero tales from other cultures, but don't seem comfortable with home-grown traditional heroes for the time being.