Metropolis Maria

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hero or Sidekick?

First of all, let me say that it is great to be back. I have been on hiatus while I transitioned from an administrative role in my church in Mississippi to a pastoral role in a local church in Virginia. The transition has taken longer than I anticipated, but I have a number of notes for posts in the hopper that need a bit of work, but this is one I was able to finish. Hopefully, it will be of help to someone.

In the film, Fools Gold, a character refuses to let himself be called the sidekick. In fact, his line is "I don't think of myself that way. I am the lead character in my own story." This quote reveals an underlying truth in nearly everyone's life: everyone is the hero/star of their own story.  

In the live-action version of the superhero satire The Tick, Arthur bristles  at the notion that he's the Tick's "sidekick." He prefers to be known as his 'partner.' He cannot accept that he might have second billing to someone else.  An entire movie, Sky High, was made with this premise.  Kids go to a high school for supers where they are taught as either heroes or sidekicks, depending on their powers and control over said powers. The kids relegated to the sidekick role are depicted as disappointed. They have the ambition to be the hero.

There is even a  list of thirty things to do if you ever find yourself as the sidekick.  This list notices that sidekicks routinely get the short end of the stick and seeks to encourage readers to plan ahead and do the smart thing to ensure success rather than the cliched dumb thing that forces the hero to rescue the sidekick. It makes for a great laugh, but nonetheless reinforces the idea that being a sidekick is no fun.

I think that this might be true of all of us, to some degree or another; we want to be the lead character, the hero. Nobody wants to be the sidekick.  

But there is a huge cost to being the hero. George Reeves, who played Superman on TV for many years, hinted that he might have worn a girdle to keep his "middle-age spread" in check so he could continue to "look the part." Reeves also died suspiciously, with speculation that he might have committed suicide. Later, actor Christopher Reeve (no relation), who starred in four Superman films himself, fell from a horse, suffering a cervical spinal injury that left him to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

Singer Randy Stonehill wrote a song that contained lyrics indicating his understanding of the cost of being a hero: 
And I used to dream of being a hero,
Yeah, I told myself I'd never fall down.
But I couldn't take the strain and Jesus is the name
Of the only hero I've ever found." -- Gods of Men

Another singer, Steve Taylor, wrote a song that even more explicitly showed that our heroes often let us down:
When the house fell asleep there was always a light
And it fell from the page to the eyes of an American boy 

In a storybook land I could dream what I read
When it went to my head I'd see
I wanna be a hero
But the practical side said the question was still
"When you grow up what will you be?"
I wanna be a hero

Hero
It's a nice-boy notion that the real world's gonna destroy
You know
It's a Marvel comicbook Saturday matinee fairytale, boy 

Growing older you'll find that illusions are brought
And the idol you thought you'd be was just another zero
I wanna be a hero 

Heroes died when the squealers bought 'em off
Died when the dealers got 'em off
Welcome to the "in it for the money as an idol" show
When they ain't as big as life
When they ditch their second wife
Where's the boy to go?
Gotta be a hero

When the house fell asleep
From a book I was led to a Light that I never knew
I wanna be your hero
And He spoke to my heart from the moment I prayed
Here's a pattern I made for you
I wanna be your hero -- Hero

The final verse of Taylor's song points us to his and Stonehill's hero: Jesus.

Jesus said "Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28).  We can look at this promise in this way: those who struggle against overwhelming forces have a friend who will always be there and sticks closer to us than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He also has "overcome the world" (John 16:33) and so is the hero not only that we want, but also that we need.  Jesus claims the identity of the hero who has come to free the captive and bring relief to the oppressed (Luke 4:16-21).  He lives this identity throughout the Gospels, confirming that He is the hero. Nearly everywhere you look, Jesus  is seen defending the defenseless and befriending the friendless. As the Apostle Paul notes in Romans 8:31, if He is for us, "who can stand against us?"
Too often, we try to take over the hero role, when we are clearly not qualified. This is evident from the old bumper sticker that claims "God is my co-pilot." Only when we adjust our thinking and our lives to the reality that there is a God and we are not Him will we discover that He makes a much better hero than we do.