Who Needs a Hero?

Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

A series of strange conversations prompted me to write this article about heroes: discussions of superheroes, jerks, and yes, even underpants.

I was told pretty plainly by a couple of people that any girl would be a fool to turn down Superman over Batman, or Captain America over Iron Man. Iron Man’s a jerk, isn’t he? Batman is tortured, and who wants a guy with all those issues? Why not go for a REAL hero? The nice, polite guys who would treat you like a princess?

This got me thinking, quite a bit, actually. Didn’t I deserve to be treated like… well, all I can think of is a “damsel.” Shouldn’t men behave in a chivalrous way toward me? Be my protector, be my rock? I suppose that’s nice for some people. I suppose some women like men to open doors for them, and carry the groceries, and tell them they are beautiful all the time.

But I find I’m just not one of those women. I find all those things kind of condescending. Sure it’s nice, if my hands are full and I’m having a hard time, for someone to get the door. But I am perfectly capable of doing things for myself too. Yes, I’ve stood and waited for guys to open the car door, but to tell you the truth, it gets old after a while. It’s much faster if I just get the door for myself. But I *get* the whole chivalry thing, really I do. I’m not saying that guys shouldn’t woo a woman in that way. It’s just not what I find attractive.

As the conversations about heroes went on in their various venues, I started to wonder—why is it that I am attracted to the tortured heroes, the anti-heroes, and the guys that some consider to be self-centered jerks? I mean, my mom was worried about me when I was younger, because I always went for the cold, calculating types, the selfish guys bordering on the obnoxious: the Professor Snapes, the Darth Vaders, the Batmen, and the Iron Men. I’d even go for the kind of villainous Lokis and Goblin Kings. The dark, the slightly mad.

As someone pointed out, these guys certainly aren’t easy to love. Well, maybe, for me, that’s part of it. There’s a challenge to these guys. I have to be more than just a pretty face, more than just an ordinary girl. I have to be my best me (and even a little wicked…). And I LOVE a guy who can bring out the best in me (the same with the wickedness). Working to impress these men won’t work. A woman has to be something special to get through to these guys, something real. And who doesn’t love to think that maybe they are that something special?

This wasn’t enough, however, to really explain why I dug these types of “heroes.” It wasn’t until someone said something along the lines of, “Heroes fill the need you have. That’s what makes them your hero,” then finally, it clicked.

I don’t need a superhero, some invincible hunk of a man. I need someone I can be on more even ground with. I don’t just want a hero. I want to be someone else’s hero, too. I want to rescue him even as he might rescue me. I’m strong enough to be his rock. I’m strong enough to handle his vulnerabilities, just as he can help me with my own.

I’m not saying someone should be codependent, or get involved in an unhealthy relationship so that they can “save” someone. But don’t sell yourself short. Don’t just settle for being a hero’s rescue toy. Show them that you are a hero, too. Even Superman has his vulnerabilities. They need a strong woman to listen, to understand, and to be there for them.

No, I don’t need a hero to rescue me. But maybe I do need one to make me be all the woman I can be. I need my personal hero, the one who is right for me.

How about you? Do you have a hero? Spill it—who is he? Would you rather rescue him, or be rescued by him? Do you like an all-good guy, or a guy with a bit of the devil to him?

Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy and science fiction stories where heroes don’t always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her work has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and she was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. Melanie is also a freelance author publicist and publicity/marketing coordinator for both Ragnarok Publications and Mechanical Muse. She blogs regularly for GeekMom and The Once and Future Podcast. Her short story “A Whole-Hearted Halfling” is in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis, available April 12, 2016.