Real heroes don’t wear spandex

thorHollywood 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!

35 thoughts on “Real heroes don’t wear spandex

  1. It’s so true — the real heroes aren’t the politicians or the pundits, the talking heads or the trash-talkers. The real heroes are everyday people who use their unique skills and talents to make the world a better place, whether that’s serving food or driving a truck or digging a ditch. I’m not sure why, but people have a tendency to put celebrities on a pedestal while ignoring each other’s contributions.

    As far as the election, it’s truly been excruciating. The ads, the debates, the mud-slinging. I guess it could be worse, though. At least the candidates aren’t going around wearing spandex. 😐

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Many superheroes in the comics are vigilantes. As much as we want them to get the bad guy, they are in fact setting themselves up as judge and executioner. It’s the dark side of superheroes.

    Trump isn’t a hero of any sort.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree Brian, it’s a dangerous situation for any individual or group to have that power of life or death, whether they be vigilantes or law enforcement officers. We can only hope the latter are carefully chosen, trained and decent individuals. Sadly recent experience has revealed too many of them are not.

      Clinton may not be a hero, but Trump in the White House is one dystopian future the world can do without.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well said, Jas! I’ve dined with people who treat waiters like something on their shoe and hated them for it. What is it with some people? So many rarely put themselves in others shoes, more’s the pity. Here’s to all the “Big/little people of the world!”‘

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t think bin collectors, road sweepers or waiters are heroic, any more than I do world leaders, celebrities or sports stars. Most people taking low paid, often unpleasant jobs, are forced do so through circumstance. Most would stop doing them given a choice?

    ‘Hero’ is a word that’s become overused, and should be reserved only for those who truly deserve it.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I once worked as a builder’s labourer, many moons ago. And yes, it was still dark and cold as I traveled to work, hard physical work too. I would consider it laughable if people thought what I was doing was heroic?

        I’m thinking more along the lines of the Scottish nurse who went to help with the Ebola outbreak, was infected herself and nearly died. Or aid workers risking their lives trying to help with the nightmare that’s happening in Syria.

        Liked by 1 person

      • What I’m tried to say is the real heroism is the not the dramatic vigilante violence and self-sacrifice of comic books, but in the banal and everyday sacrifices of ordinary folks earning a living in difficult circumstances. People enduring great hardships for years for little reward to feed themselves and their families. People living on the breadline while the rich and powerful get ever richer and more greedy on the backs of their labour.

        Yes I agree brave aid workers are amazing. But I don’t buy into that religious work ethic bullshit that hard work is somehow noble and rewarding. If the powers that be had ever experienced the type of labour you did, perhaps we’d have a rather fairer world with decent pay and conditions for all.


      • I couldn’t agree more. Nobody despises the inequalities that Capitalism brings more than I do.

        But for me, calling them heroes is patronising, as if it’s something they’re willing to do, a sacrifice they’re willing to make? It’s the sort of thing a politician would say: “My heroes are the real hard working people of Britain”. It’s an attempt to pacify, an attempt to make people feel better about the fact they’re being exploited.

        These people are ‘victims’ of a non-caring system, not heroes.


      • Clearly the use of the term ‘hero’ is context dependent. When I regard people from my background as heroic in their daily struggles to put bread on the table, it’s rather different from some Tory minister patronising them with that term. Yes they are victims of a crap system, but to me they have qualities of heroism too.


      • I’m not sure in this case that it is about context. Calling someone a ‘hero’ when they are being oppressed, with no means to stop that oppression, is just damaging them further. It’s the wrong term to use.

        For me it’s saying “well at least they’re viewed as heroes, that must give them some comfort, and it makes me feel a little better too”

        Do you think a black person is a hero if they suffer racism? They’ve not done anything, let alone anything heroic. It wasn’t their intent, they weren’t offered choices, they are just victims.

        It’s insulting to call someone a hero, just because they’re forced to bear suffering, with no means of escaping it.


      • I don’t agree that it is ‘insulting’ to recognise the heroism of ordinary men and women’s daily struggle with the circumstances of their lives. Labeling them as ‘victims’ is insulting.

        Many people have struggled against poverty, racism or oppression and I believe they are all heroes (with a small h) in their own way.


      • Firstly, to use the phrase ‘recognise the heroism’ suggests an innate characteristic that any one can see if they’re prepared to look hard enough. Whereas in fact it’s just your opinion.

        Secondly, why do you consider labeling someone a victim to be an insult?


      • Yeah sure, your opinion is factual, Lol. As I said, this is not an ideal forum for lengthy discussions of semantics, political ideology or other major topics. Get a Facebook account if you want that sort of debate, there are hundreds of different groups for doing just that.


      • I’ve already said, mine isn’t an opinion. I really just don’t like your attempt at equating heroism with suffering – it’s wrong both morally and rationally.

        Fecebook! Ha, ha,ha, ha ha! A joke right?


    • That’s an excellent point James, I hadn’t considered the sheer guts it takes to wear a brightly coloured spandex outfit on the mean streets of most large cities. And small villages could be even worse. Using the bathroom in those costumes when you gotta go, that can’t be much fun either.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Very insightful post. I would have never thought to compare Trump to a evil comic book character, but I can see the comparisons and it is scary to think that he could possibly become President.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you mean Bun, It all feels very surreal and strange. First the Brexit fiasco and now this awful election outcome. I’m half expecting a large flying saucer will land at some point bearing a benign alien and his robot companion to warn us to mend our ways or else..

      Liked by 2 people

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