Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Because you friggin' demanded it, a reworking of something that I posted up on Lee Goldberg's blog A Writer's Life about the wierd predominance of what I am calling the "flawless" hero in contemporary pop culture. Think of Matt Damon in the three Jason Bourne flicks. Sure he's soulful and oh-so trendily angst-ridden, but who gives a crap? He can still outpunch, outscrew, and outkill anything that moves.

How do I feel about this?

I think it's a terrible trend. At some point somebody decided that the hero must be stronger, faster and tougher than everybody else in the world and always three steps ahead of the bad guys.

Now you can say, "It was ever thus," but it wasn't, really, even with the so-called "perfect" men of action like James Bond.

For proof I refer you to GOLDFINGER. In the last twelve minutes of what remains the greatest 007 flick ever made (not just my opinion, fact), Bond ends up in Fort Knox getting the crap beaten out of him by an extraordinarily powerful Korean named Oddjob... in other words, Bond is wildly overmatched here... until the last possible moment when he manages to think his way out of danger.

Another example: Midway through THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR when Robert Redford's milqtoasty bookworm ("I'm not a field agent- I just read books!") ends up going toe-to-toe with a ruthless and scary martial-arts assassin and Redford -- unable to outfight his deadly opponent -- suddenly is forced to outwit the bad guy.

Nowadays, action heroes can outfight anybody (any ten bodies), and their movies as a result contain far less tension and suspense because they contain far less real danger.

One final example, this time from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, in which our globetrotting hero, Indiana Jones, finds himself in wayyy over his head on any number of occasions, most brutally on a German airstrip in the middle of the Sahara Desert where a burly bald-headed Nazi ends up using Jones's face as a punching bag.

It isn't pretty. At first, Indy tries to “box” the guy according to Marquis of Queensbury rules, but this isn’t working. The guy is stronger. Faster. Tougher. In other words, Indy can’t win. (Imagine Jason Bourne facing a similar predicament. Seriously, close your eyes and try to imagine it. Not so easy, is it?)

Indy, of course, has to rely on his wits -- and yes, a convenient airplane propeller – in order to gain the upper hand and emerge victorious…and his victory is much the sweeter (and somehow more “relatable”, too) because of it.

There is a reason for the endurance of David and Goliath. It is an almost perfect adventure yarn. But in today’s Hollywood – don’t ask me how -- David has suddenly become Goliath.

And for this writer, at least, that story isn't half the fun.

No, wait; strike that. It is precisely half the fun.


  1. Hi, David. First time visitor and I'm hooked. Thanks for being here.

    I found this post fascinating and helpful. I write romantic fiction. This trend of the super powerful alpha hero is prevalent in our genre just now, too. Thank you for reminding me why 'flawed' is more interesting.

    Cheers! Beth

  2. Sean Connery is the man!! I love the film 'Goldfinger'he was still getting the crap beaten out of him when that guy goes to get his hat and then he put's that electric thing on the bars and get's him.


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