Hollywood has a long obsession with heroes, from the early westerns to the latest spandex-clad Marvel super types currently dominating global box offices. They mine common themes of heroism: self-sacrifice, justice and the importance of big muscles when biffing baddies with bad attitudes.
Of course not all heroes rely on brawn – some are brilliant scientists, some are brilliant and super rich and others are just your average Joe/Josephine who got bitten / zapped or otherwise transformed into yet another saviour figure with a bizarre ability and costume.
In the real world, the nearest thing we have to these larger than life super men and women work for the emergency services or in hospitals, saving lives on a daily basis. They don’t have fame, hypersonic jets or mansions, and often live pretty ordinary lives. We tend to take them for granted.
Over the past few months I have re-entered the world of job seekers after a fairly lengthy career break. I’ve been volunteering and now also work part-time in a non-profit cafe in the city, a whole new experience for me. I’ve made the transition from customer to staff and in the few short weeks I’ve been there, I’ve been reminded that there is a whole other set of everyday heroes. They work in ordinary jobs – washing dishes, cooking, cleaning, serving food and drinks, collecting our refuse, and a host of other essential jobs. Often they are forced to work long hours for low pay.
The wealthy ‘self made’ types sometimes like to claim they got where they are on sheer hard work alone. But the hard-working ordinary heroes demonstrate that hard work alone will not lead to fame and fortune. The fact is that the majority of successful people in high-flying careers had the right background, the educational opportunities and enough family support to reach their goals. Genetics, circumstances, good fortune, parental expectations – all play a role in the educational and career opportunities that will be open to us.
The current presidential candidate Donald Trump is a perfect example. This ‘self-made’ man was born into money, opportunity and a set of expectations and family circumstances that lead to him amassing wealth, property and power. His money has brought him fame and status and now he stands on the brink of gaining the ultimate job in the USA. But trump is no hero. He is more like the evil villain that threatens world peace. And the very possibility of his presidency shows that the real world is nothing like those comic books.
In my few weeks of part-time work and volunteering I’ve been reminded who the real heroes are, how hard they work and just how far from reality Hollywood movies are. Of course they are never intended as anything more than simple escapism. Maybe the world isn’t ready yet for movies like: Dave – the binmen refuse to lose, or Serena – serving the day’s specials and kicking alien butt. But those guys are out there, working crazy hours for little pay or thanks.
So next time you see them, collecting the trash, serving you your expensive and perfectly made coffee or driving your late night bus home, remember they are heroes too. And without their hard work, day in and day out, the world would be a darker and more difficult place indeed.
Let’s hope November 8th doesn’t see a super-villain win the presidency. Good luck America.
Text © copyright Jason Lennick 2016. All rights reserved.
Illustration © copyright by a real young hero called Jack – please visit his website!