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).