Superman: the perfect ideal. Flawless. All the men want to be him. All the women know he’s too good to be true. What the man needs is a little cellulite.
Okay, maybe that’s more of a woman flaw. But let’s face it, perfect heroes are unrealistic. The average person doesn’t relate to them.
This is why every great writer knows that the best protagonists have a flaw -or twenty. It’s not called an Achilles Heel for nothing. When the only thing that can defeat a guy is a piece of rock from an extinct planet in a different universe, there’s not much tension in the story.
Why so Perfect?
(And yes, I hear the Joker saying this just like he does the iconic line “Why so serious?”)
According to the director of the newest Wonder Woman film (coming in June 2017), there’s a reason Superman has over-inflated muscles and perfect hair. Apparently, this image is how men want to see themselves. “That makes them feel like the hero they want to be” says Jenkins.
Ugh. And I thought women were the only one with messed-up body image issues.
I do NOT think a man with pecs and biceps bigger than his thighs is the ideal image of a hero. And certainly not a REAL man.
Do we really need a perfect ideal?
If the answer is yes, let me direct you to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Within those pages, you will meet the flawless, ideal man. He was perfect in every way.
And guess what, he didn’t have sculpted abs or a poster-boy face. In fact, he was pretty ordinary. Records from history and the Bible (which is an accurate historical accounting but since it’s considered a religious book some people equate it to a fairy tale), Jesus Christ was so average-looking that he wouldn’t garner a second look.
It wasn’t his physical appearance that made him incredible. Nor was it his ability to heal every disease and raise people from the dead (although those are God-like qualities for sure).
He opened his mouth and spoke with authority. Wisdom dripped from his lips. Furthermore, he walked His talk.
So, if you’re looking for a perfect hero – there you go.
Why flaws Make it better
Most of us prefer to see a little bit of ourselves in the guy we root for in a story. You know, someone who messes up. Says the wrong thing. Trips over untied shoelaces. Burns the biscuits.
These slights and failures give us hope. Hope that maybe we will be better tomorrow.
We need reassurance that our major mess-up today didn’t end every future opportunity.
Have you ever walked out of an interview thinking, “I nailed that” only to get the call (or worse yet a form email) stating they’d hired someone else? That’s disappointing, sure. But we don’t condemn ourselves as a failure in those cases.
We notice we have mustard in that spot just below our throat that we can only see in the mirror. Our tongue tripped over the answer to the technical questions. Nothing but a blank slate came to mind when the interviewer asked, “Why should I hire you?”
After that interview? We know it’s our fault they offered the job to someone else. They’d have to be idiots to hire someone who couldn’t even answer a few questions with panache.
When our heroes slip and get mud on their faces, we feel for them. We’ve been there. We know the agony.
If they get up and save the world afterward, it makes up willing to hold up our chin and try again at whatever defeated us today. Sure, it might be fiction, but when it pulls us in, it becomes as true to us as the sunrise.
We need to believe that no person is beyond redemption. Every mistake must have a counterpoint, a way to make things right.
It shouldn’t be easy. The bigger the mess up, the longer and harder the climb to success should be.
We’re more likely to relate to Batman because we understand his demons. We can feel the pain with the Arrow because we’ve experienced life-crushing losses too.
Superman? There’s no Kryptonite in our world, so his perfection holds us at arm’s length.
What sort of “cellulite” would you give Superman to make him more relatable? What character flaws pull you closest to the heroes in a story?
I “met” this author at a Christian indie author release party. I was excited to read her newest book since fantasy with a Christian bent can be hard to find.
When I agreed to review her book, she sent me an advanced reviewer’s copy. I immediately set about reading it while running on the treadmill (the best way to pass the miles).
Book one is about the war between humans and the fire elementals, who have been burning their forests and cities for decades. Most of the story centers on two brothers who are determined to stop the elementals – or die trying.
Book two follows a boy who occasionally narrated scenes in the first book. His sister was born the day the elemental war ended and she is the portal keeper. This brings all sorts of unsavory types out of the wood work, and he ends up seeking refuge in Haven, the settlement of the brothers from book one.
Book three follows the story after they’ve all returned to Haven. Many new voices begin narrating scenes, but the action is so constant that the changes aren’t noticeable or distracting.
In my opinion, adding scenes from the fire elemental lord’s perspective stole tension from the story and gave away too much information. There would have been more suspense if the author would have allowed the reader to learn about those plans at the same time the characters did.
It was awesome to read fantasy with a Christian worldview. I loved the elements of forgiveness and redemption woven throughout the book, and especially in the third part. The Christian allegory is clear while not being intrusive.
Unfortunately, this book started out very slow. In the way of epic fantasy, we bobbed between narrators and I struggled to connect with the all-male cast. The foreshadowing wasn’t subtle and I called all the early “twists.”
The premise was excellent. The world well-conceived and revealed. The cast of characters – mostly shallow. With the exception of Ketyl and Brode, most of the point of view characters didn’t get enough screen time for me to get inside their head.
Sometime after the midpoint of the story, I was finally vested in the story. Things were moving along. We’d finally gotten out of the set up and background and into the STORY. This means, the author started the story too early.
Another problem I had with the book was that it was actually three books in one. Each told a different person’s story, but all of them had more than a single narrator. Most of the time, I wondered, “Whose story is this? Why do I care?”
According to the blurb, this should have been Pet and Brode’s story. The first book was mostly Ketyl’s story, and he remained a prominent point of view character. The second book seemed to be Brode’s story, and I can’t reveal who I believe the third book followed because I don’t want to spoil anything. This layout kept me disengaged.
My biggest issue with this story is the “turn to the dark side” of two characters. We know I’m not a fan of the dark side. But we need antagonists to add conflict to our story. I will say the motivation was present for the turns; they didn’t appear out of thin air.
One of the traitors is a minor character. His turn involves something as small as leading people to their camp and scaring someone. His special abilities make him susceptible to the “voices.” Afterward, he feels so guilty about his betrayal, he begs for banishment or death.
The other character is a major player. His motivations are authentic, but his actions kicked me out of the story in a second. His betrayal involved murder. And he didn’t feel remorseful. Here is someone we considered heroic and he isn’t even second-guessing his sudden compulsion to murder a CLOSE friend?
If you’re looking for fantasy that is more than just magic and epic battles, you will enjoy this book.
I suggest reading each book independently of the others, maybe even taking a breather between them. Don’t read the blurb. It sets your expectations in the wrong place (or it did for me).
Prepare yourself for a story of set-up. Feel free to skip over Brode’s scenes in book one and return to read them before you start book two. I found they distracted me from the flow of the story of Ketyl and Karvir versus the fire elementals.
This book is suitable for readers twelve and over. The violence isn’t graphic, so younger readers won’t be traumatized by the death portrayed here (there’s a war).