Who doesn’t love a good hero? Superman. Captain America. Atticus Finch. Oskar Schindler. Heroes come in many shapes and sizes. Some heroes don’t really have all the usual trappings we expect from a hero. A few of them might even appear to be something completely different at first. Today, I want to spotlight a few of my favorite non-conventional heroes in movies and television.
I’ve chosen to write about heroes from the kind of movies where the typical hero usually shows up and saves the day: Sci-fi movies and television shows. Fantasy films. Comic book adaptations. But, I have not chosen the obvious heroes in these films. I’ve chosen characters who prove to be heroes in spite of not having superpowers or any otherworldly abilities. These are heroes who do heroic things because that is who they are at their very core. Keep reading to learn about a few of my favorite non-conventional heroes.
Bob Newby: Superhero – Stranger Things
You may have noticed that we are big fans of Stranger Things. I can’t speak for every contributor of Rambling Ever On, but I can safely say it is one of my favorite shows ever. Particularly Seasons One and Two. I love pretty much everything about it. So, when I heard the show had cast Sean Astin for the 2nd season, I was thrilled. Sean has played two of my favorite film characters – Rudy and Samwise Gamgee. I couldn’t wait to see what he was going to do in one of my favorite shows.
And he did not disappoint. Bob Newby is a nerd. He is a massive, dorky, completely uncool nerd. And we love him even more because of that. In a show that includes characters who are basically superheroes, or others who are strong, action-oriented heroes, Bob Newby stands apart. He won’t win any fights. He’s not going to bring down the bad guys with punches, guns, and explosions. But that won’t stop him from being one of the kindest, nicest, and bravest characters in the show. Bob Newby is a superhero in my book and he easily belongs on any list of favorite non-conventional heroes.
Richard White – Superman Returns
I am a big fan of Brian Singer’s 2006 Superman film. It’s not perfect, but it does a lot of things really well. The movie has real heart and some fantastic action moments. Plus, the score is one of the best ever in the comic book/superhero genre.
Richard White is Lois Lane’s fiancé. Superman has been gone for five years and the world, including Lois, has moved on. Richard is set up to be a completely unlikeable character. He is standing in the way of a romantic Superman and Lois Lane reunion after all. Yet, he is not unlikeable. In fact, he proves himself to be a good, decent man. He has no superpowers but that doesn’t stop him from doing all he can to protect the people he loves.
In a film with the most powerful superhero of all, Richard White, through his courage and selflessness, shows us that anyone is capable of true heroism.
Ryan Stone – Gravity
Ryan Stone is not an astronaut. She is a medical engineer who developed a new scanning device that is chosen to be used on the Hubble Space Telescope. Because she knows the technology better than anyone else, NASA chooses to train and send her to space instead of training an astronaut to be an engineer. That’s how she ends up where we first meet her, in space working on the telescope. Other than that, we learn very little about her early in the movie. We get bits and pieces as the movie progresses.
Ryan is a broken and closed off woman when we meet her. As the story plays out, we come to find out she has suffered a great personal loss which has pushed her to her current emotional state. The thrill of the film, beyond the “survive against all odds” setting, is watching Ryan come alive emotionally and spiritually.
Ryan’s story is one of self-preservation but it is also much more than that. It’s the story of an emotionally dead person coming back to life. It’s the story of utter courage in the face of overwhelming odds. Ryan’s story is about a heroic woman who does everything she can to live – both physically and spiritually.
Jack Lamb – Super 8
Super 8 is one of my favorite films. I’ve probably seen it a half dozen times at this point and I will gladly watch it a dozen more before I die. It just works for me. I enjoy the mysterious sci-fi backdrop. I really like the late 70s, early 80s Spielberg tone and style. But, the film really shines because of its heart and characters.
Jack Lamb is the dad of the lead character, Joe Lamb. Jack is a deputy in the police department for the small town of Lillian, Ohio. He is a recent widow, having lost the love of his life due to a workplace accident. He is left to be a single parent to his only son, Joe, and their relationship is complicated at best. They are very different people and have very different goals and passions.
Jack is built to be the classic film hero. He is handsome, capable, and brave. To top things off, he can handle himself admirably in a fight. The film has other plans for him, though. While he is given a great moment to punch out a bad guy and blow up a truck, those “heroics” only serve to make his real act of heroism possible. Jack doesn’t become a hero when he beats the bad guys. No, he becomes a hero when he hugs his son and shows himself to be the loving father he is.
Lucy – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
At this point, I doubt there are many who are unfamiliar with this classic story so I won’t rehash the plot points. In my mind, outside of Aslan, Lucy is the most heroic character in the story. It is true that she does not fight any battles or win any fights. She is not a warrior princess by any means. Those facts only make her even more heroic.
Lucy is the key to the entire story. It is her innocence and curiosity that ushers the Pevensie children into Narnia. While her brother Edmund is scheming with the White Witch, Lucy spends her time befriending Tumnus and even forgiving him for his plans to turn her over to the enemy. She is quick to love and quick to forgive. Lucy believes in Aslan the moment she hears his name. She also knows he is the only hope they have to save her brother when the time comes.
Lucy is a hero of childlike faith, unlimited love, and quiet courage. We should all strive to be more like Lucy.
Those are five of my favorite non-conventional heroes. I would love to hear about yours. Who are some of your favorite atypical heroes of film or television? Let us know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading.