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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Hero Wanted

Troubled Times
Dan Crossen is looking for a Hero

Our times at the moment are troubled. It seems that the media wishes to spread a message of fear among the population. After a long day at work you sit on the couch after having just come in and flick on the 6 o'clock news. More violence, more disease, more knives on the streets, more things for us to be afraid of. This culture of fear is ultimately driven by a single factor. The fear of the unknown. Its all well and good seeing all the bad things that happen in the world from the safety of a comfortable sofa, but it is the fear that many of these things could happen to us that not only terrifies, but also intrigues.

Heroes is a television show that that uses this fear of the unknown to entertain and to explore the human mind, how these people are perceived in the context of the show tell us a lot about how we perceive the unknown fear that could be lurking around every corner. How do you know your neighbour can’t spontaneously regenerate, or the milkman can’t generate radiation enough to devastate an entire city? The show basically follows the lives of several people with superpowers including, as well as the above, time travel, flight and super strength, in their fight not only to protect their secrets, but to save the world.

It ties it all together nicely in a fictional organisation called ‘The Company’. This organisation basically hunts down humans with special abilities and puts a tracer on them in order to keep an eye out, or, if they are dangerous, lock them up secretly underground never to see daylight again. To me this idea of a ‘Company’ is a way of taking the matters of the unknown into our own hands, if we, the ordinary people, can put some kind of control onto things we do not fully understand, then it will become less of a threat. This mirrors the equally paranoid society, forced into this state by constantly being told to be afraid.
Some examples, knife crime this year in London has been in the spotlight of the media, telling people to be wary and always on the lookout for potential offenders. As a result more police action is taken, or maybe just reported on being taken, to ease our minds of this knife crime-wave that again we do not fully understand. The emphasis is on simply stopping the crime itself rather than making people aware of its cause. In Heroes, The Company is the media, and the heroes are the ‘unknown’, those issues we cannot fully grasp an understanding of because it is so far removed from our everyday lives. The media in the modern world, like The Company, control this unknown and use it for personal gain. The company uses the heroes they capture to in turn capture more, and the media will often use the manipulation of fear to make money or boost their own political agenda.
Another storyline in the Heroes universe comes dangerously close to some real-life parallels. Halfway through season 2 we find that one of the villains is trying to unleash a deadly virus (stored by The Company, surprisingly) in order to 'cleanse' the human race, as the virus is powerful enough to destroy 92% of the world’s population. We even see one of the main characters travel forward in time, to really hit home the devastation something this powerful could cause by showing us the dead bodies and the derelict cities left in its wake. In a time where all it takes is the foolishness of a single person and the push of a red button to incite a nuclear war, these images are almost an eerie prediction of what the future could hold if we let it come to pass.

Heroes, perhaps not so much the spirit of our times, but something that shows the lack of it in the modern world, where something not understood can simply be treated as dangerous and forgotten about by the majority. In the future when they look back upon our time, as we look back on the times in the past and sum them up in single word such as 'renaissance', our word will be ‘fearful’.

© Dan Crossen Jan 2009

Dan is studying Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth

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