Sunday, December 4, 2011

Unattractive Heroes?

Can you imagine a physically unattractive hero/ heroine?

I was watching the first movie of "Tomb Raider," and this thought crossed my mind as I watched the movie. Although I thought "Tomb Raider" was a great movie that well-portrayed Lara Croft as a strong, intelligent genius warrior, I couldn't help but notice the movie's emphasis on the heroine's impressive physique. Perhaps it is because Lara Croft is played by Angelina Jolie that made me feel like the movie put lots of effort to portray the physical superiority of the character; however, from this one scene where she just walks out of the shower completely naked to her tight black outfit (and the fact that she always wears less garments than other characters in the movie), to me, it looked like the movie was trying to associate the fit, hot body to being a heroine.

In fact, I was trying to think of an example of a hero without an attractive body (and appearance in general), and the only one I could think of was Shrek, the character who was intended to go against the conventional Disney heroes, whose beauty always shone above their victories. Indeed, physical fitness is well-associated with a herodom, and, in movies, it almost has a signaling function that a hero's appearance is imminent. For example, in the first movie of "Spider-Man," there is this scene, where Peter Parker is just staring at his abs in the mirror after he gets bitten by the mutant spider. The introduction of Peter's newly gained power is signaled with the transformation of his feeble pale body into a muscular one.

Why is physical fitness, then, associated so closely with being a hero? Is it because the modern society has grown to treat materialism and vanity integral parts of culture?

Although I think vanity does play an important role in defining physical beauty as a superior quality of the social norm category, I don't think it's only the asset of the modern society. For my paper, I had to read "Beowulf," an epic poem written about 13 centuries ago, and the poem devotes lots of its lines to depict Beowulf's physical aptness and strength as defining qualities as a hero. Although the poem is not as explicit as the movies in portraying the ancient hero's hot body, it subtly makes its point by talking about how his strong arms grabbed the monster Grendel's arms and tore them apart with a supernatural strength and how he, as a child, swam across the wild open sea and killed sea monsters with his bare hands.

Since it is true that associating physical fitness and beauty to herodom has been around for ages, it is not just temporary/ modern culture that influences people's perception of a hero as an attractive individual. I think the fact that heroes are the epitome of ideal human beings has played into the process of creating heroes as physically glamourous entities, and the perception of an ideal human being has changed very little overtime. People deem extraordinariness as a desirable quality, and when people sketch their heroes, the representation of the goodness of their cultures, they repeatedly ask for similar qualities: physical beauty, bravery, love for humanity...or anything that shows that their heroes are healthy, admirable, strong, and lovable (with general consensus).


  1. Wow I just wrote a post about the same thing (sort of) I want to see a superhero movie with ugly leads.

  2. However, is it realistic to have a superhero or heroine with super strength and abilities not embody such characteristics physically? I can think of "ugly" heroes in fictional movies, such as Hellboy or the Hulk, but both of these characters have perfectly muscular bodies despite their other physical imperfections. However, would it be at all realistic to have these characters carry out their same actions without having their physical prowess supporting them? Given the movie is fictional, would it make sense? And, what movie producer's probably deem most important, would it sell?

  3. In response to Alexon's point of having these characters muscular in order to make it more realistic for them to have superpowers, I actually disagree. It's often only male superheroes who have muscles and strong builds. Superheroines, on the other hand, are often portrayed as lean and slender, though they may also possess great strength. Hence, I don't think their physical attributes were created to support their powers necessarily, but simply to make these heroes more appealing to the eye. Another thing to raise is that though we can name a few "ugly" superheroes, like Alexon mentioned Hulk or Hellboy, we can't really name any "ugly" superheroines at all...

  4. I think that the physique of these superheroes exists mainly to show their strength from the get go. Some superheroes are meant to be perfect. People we can aspire to be in every way. I think their forms are just another way to make superheroes seem god-like.

  5. In response to the comments, I feel it's because we somewhat associate power with strength. If he is a superhero he must be strong enough to take on anything (literally and metaphorically).

  6. This was all very interesting and very well-thought out. The idea of an attractive female lead is in every form of media, in my opinion, not just super heroines. Most female leads are attractive, unless there is a specific reason as to why not. I would say the same goes for men, but not as often.


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