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Use Of The Word Hero In The Mass Media

2517 words - 10 pages

Use of the word hero in the mass media has become somewhat cliché. In 2010, an on-line search of three major American newspapers revealed that 5500 articles concerning the topic of heroes appeared between 2000 and 2005 (Sullivan & Venter, 2010). Although the presence of “heroes” and “heroines” in America is not surprising, it is unclear what meaning the word holds in today’s culture (Sullivan & Ventner, 2010). What meaning the word HOLDS. Think about that for a moment. The word hero, or even the idea of what constitutes heroism is different to everyone. While there are acts of heroism every day in our society, what and who the media chooses to classify or portray as heroes has very little to do with heroism. Most often in the media, the word hero is associated with athletes and celebrities. It is not uncommon to hear a performance on a football field described as heroic, when an athlete plays hurt, or in a movie when an actor or actress gives a grand performance in a dramatic film. The word hero should be HELD in high regard. It should be reserved for people who spend their lives, or perhaps lose their life, fighting for a cause, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. It should be reserved for people who put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect others from danger, like firefighters and police officers. The media does hold these type of people in high regard and does consider them heroes, but not often enough.
The idea of celebrities as heroes can be traced back to mid-70s when Farah Fawcett-Majors burst on to the scene as a pin-up model and television star. As detective Jill Monroe on the TV series Charlie’s Angels, she was described by a critic as “a powerful heroin, a representative of a decade of feminism” (Graebner, 2013). In the early 70s, journalists, politicians, novelists, filmmakers, theologians, cultural critics, and others, debated and usually lamented, the decline of the American hero (Graebner, 2013). As a result of this phenomenon, in 1976, Ladies Home Journal decided to begin polling students across the nation to name their heroes and heroines. Senior Scholastic and World Almanac would follow suit in 1977 and 1980 respectively. In 1977, Fawcett-Majors was voted first in both the Home Journal and Scholastic polls. Her popularity would begin to raise the issue of the relationship between celebrity and heroism (Graebner, 2013). Today, this type of “idol worship” continues among our young people. Celebrities and sports figures are who the youth of America continue to emulate, not their parents or community leaders, such as teachers or police officers. Many times, these people, rightly or wrongly, are portrayed as villains in the media.
The idea of what a hero is has changed significantly throughout history, most importantly the idea of a “personal hero” has changed. Porpora (1996) states, “perhaps we have not so much lost our faith in human greatness as altered our cultural notion of what greatness is.” This cynical view of our...

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