What is a hero? The word is often used in sports and movies but what is the correct use of the term? Joseph Campbell, a scholar who wrote about the hero’s journey, defined a hero as “someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”
Psychologist Philip Zimbardo studied heroism for decades. He believed “the key to heroism is a concern for other people in need–a concern to defend a moral cause, knowing there is a personal risk, done without expectation of reward.”
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hero as “a) a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability, b) the principal character in a literary or dramatic work, c) an object of extreme admiration and devotion.”
The arts, media and pop culture love a hero. A romance hero might have different requirements from a mythological god, but both protect the vulnerable. A love ballad can focus on a hero’s motivations while a pop song highlights the expectations. Yet no matter the art form, every hero displays strength and understands sacrifice.
Consider the songs below:
“Hero” by Enrique Iglesias
The meaning behind this song is pure and simple: He wants to be a hero to the woman he loves. “I can be your hero baby / I can kiss away the pain / I will stand by you forever / You can take my breath away”
“Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler
According to the very 80s music video, a hero is a cowboy wearing a white hat. He rides in a horse, guns blazing, to save the day. The lyrics include a list of attributes, specifically strength, speed, and being larger than life.
“Hero” by Mariah Carey
Unlike other ballads, this song isn’t about a hero who will swoop in or make the ultimate sacrifice for you. Instead, you have the strength and courage to face adversity alone. “That a hero lies in you.”