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The Beleaguered Hero
Exercises in Narrative Authority in Epic Poetry and Film
© 2019 James LaFond
The epic poet of old wrestled with narrative authority as he composed poems, on one hand under the sponsorship of the kings and princes, whose honor was based largely on inherited or proxy power, and on the other hand the majority of listeners—who would have been the actual fighting men whose honor was vested in the deeds committed by their own hand rather than of an ancestor or by an underling. This tension is apparent in Gilgamesh as he attempts to equal his half-divine patrimony with his own deeds and continues between Agamemnon and Achilles in the Iliad, the Phacean King and Odysseus in the Odyssey, Charlemagne and Roland in the Song of Roland and Beowulf and the son of the King in Beowulf.
Below are some examples of developing narrative authority from movies I have viewed recently. It is important to understand that the use of narrative authority is necessary in modern theater-released movies in which “white” heroes are called upon to commit violence. You will not see a movie which enjoyed a general release in which narrative authority is not imparted to white male heroes, either because the bad guys are white male villains or people of color are being avenged and protected. Please keep in mind that this story trope is as old as story and is a mechanism by which the story-teller places in the mind of the listener or reader or viewer permission for the taboo act of killing on behalf of the hero, which has often resulted in highly unrealistic sadism on the part of villains.
In the remake of Death Wish, Paul Kersey, the avenger, cannot be an architect but must be a life-saving doctor. Set in real time 2016 with actual news reports of the massive Chicago black-on-black violence problem, Death Wish focuses exclusively in Latino-on-black and white-on-white violence, and the only time the hero is allowed to shoot black criminals is after he is explicitly shown avenging a black child.
In Hold the Dark, the hero is only permitted to butcher soldiers and law officers to protect women. and everyone he kills is Caucasian.
In the Baytown Outlaws, which failed to get past the censors, the redneck heroes are only permitted to slaughter blacks, Latinos, women and Indians because they are acting as the agents of a black man and Latina on behalf of a retard.
In Grand Torino the hero gains his authority to act against Hmong and Black gangsters only because he acts on behalf of the Hmong civilians.
In Rio Bravo we see an older version of this narrative authority in which attempts to kill the hero may not be met with realistic lethal force but with unrealistic sub-lethal force, with lethal force reserved for punishing law breaking not defense or vengeance.
In Drive, the socially neutered hero must weather all threats and insults with cool calm and may only act with assertion in defense of a Latino family.
Even in the brutal Brawl on Cell Block 99, the hero spends great energy suppressing his pent up desire to strike back at the evil criminal underworld until the police and then a woman and baby are threatened.
The most egregious use of narrative authority to negate heroic identity was the twisting of the story of Hugh Glass in the movie The Revenant. The Indian tribe is attacking trespassers because white men snuck into a tepee and stole a banshee-like squaw and raped her. Instead of Hugh Glass avenging his own abandonment he avenges the killing of a half-breed son he did not have. In reality, Hugh was prevented by the U.S. Army from taking vengeance. But in the movie he takes down the villain and then, instead of killing him gives him to his Indian enemies, who in real life killed him for trespassing! So, in the harrowing tale of an Aryаn hero battling Amerindians, in which these enemies eventually kill him, he is depicted as avenging the rape of one of their women and reserving the throat-cutting of the rapist for her goddess hands. Not only is the hero negated but his enemies are, for trespassing on their territory is, in our age, not cause for bloody action. Only the rape of women and murder of children can be cause for heroics.
Watching these movies with Manny Saprano he informed me that “the POZ is strong in this one” on numerous occasions and explained to me that the POZ is the social disease of the negation of European masculine identity and the worship of all else as good. Yes, this is clearly the case, but its use in story telling is ages older than this despicable erosion of the very basis for Western Civilization, which is Aryаn Barbarism, for without that heroic spark nothing comes of civilization but a feedlot. Honor, for instance, is not a civilized concept, but a barbaric one, founded in the notion of unapologetic heroism. Every step the mythic hero takes towards explicit justification in his actions is a step mankind takes towards total slavery.
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