Depending on who you talk to, the word “hero” can be defined in some different ways. The mythological hero is usually defined as a man descended from some kind of divine ancestry. He is characterized as someone who possesses great physical and moral strength as well as great courage. He is celebrated in story and song for his ability to accomplish impossible deeds, sometimes but not always for the betterment of the rest of mankind, and he is always favored by the gods, or at least a majority of them, who help him with his tasks (“Hero”, 2000). However, Aristotle also recognized a hero as being a person who gains notoriety as a result of showing great courage or nobility of purpose in the accomplishment of a deed or through the activities of a lifetime (“Aristotle”, 1998). Those who gain the greatest notoriety are those who have risked their own lives to save the lives of others, but this isn’t necessarily a requirement for achieving hero status. Although we tend to think of heroes as super-beings such as Spiderman or Superman, real-life heroes are all around us. An example of such a hero is Rachel Maddow, a woman who has braved the ridicule and derision of a mostly male-dominated field despite her alternative lifestyle and has made a success as a major television journalist.
Journalists are heroes in themselves when they take it upon themselves to battle the lies and manipulations of the corporate and political world to bring truth and knowledge to the greater public. In order to enlighten the public in this way, journalists must often place themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of others and thus classifying themselves as heroes. According to Thomas Jefferson, “The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right” (Kann, 2006). Journalists are the conduit that carries this right of the people and Rachel Maddow works to make sure she provides people with proof of the truth. As a lesbian actively engaged in a long-term relationship and a woman, she has had to battle fiercely to be accepted as a reputable news source in a world dominated by men and has done so with fearless energy and resolve. She invites individuals with vastly different political views on her show and gives them an opportunity to explain their viewpoints to her audience at the same time that she boldly points out those areas where she is opposed or where the facts don’t match up with what her guests are saying. Rachel Maddow is not a Superman, she does not place herself in the way of flying bullets and she has not achieved any impossible tasks, unless being taken seriously by the male crowd is considered to be an impossible task, but she has made herself a target as a means of working for the betterment of her fellow man.
The definition of the word hero can mean many different things to different people, but most people only apply the term to individuals or groups that can be seen to benefit society in some way and often at great personal cost or risk. It is easy enough to point to figures such as policemen, firemen and soldiers who put their lives on the line to save those of others and claim them as heroes, but there are quiet heroes all around us if we just take the time to look. While applying the term to a particular individual or group may be highly subjective, the concept of the hero remains a strong concept within modern world society and the ideals of the hero can be found in often unexpected places.
“Aristotle.” Critica Links. The University of Hawaii. (1998). Web.
“Hero.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th Ed.). New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.
Kann, Peter R. “The Power of the Press.” Wall Street Journal. (2006). Web.