January 26, 2003
OK, it has definitely been 3 months and 25 days since my last writing and that is just pathetic. There is no point in telling you about those past months because they were stupid, so I will start from this past week at school. Grades so far, Spanish quiz: 78, Ancient Civ quiz: 75, math quiz: I would rather not write down, English paper: I would rather not write down. Life isn’t so hot right now, Diary. I’m not so hot right now- 110 pounds; I hate even admitting it. But you know what would make everything better? A boyfriend. I know it would. I’m not particularly fond of any boys I know, but I’ll work on that. He would be a hypothetical hero right now. So long for now, I will write again when I have found Superman.
From, Lindsey, the loveless 8th grader.
That was the final entry of that diary. I never found this supposed “hero”, so I have been left since 8th grade to fend off the villainous failing grades and weight issues alone. I find it funny, though, that exactly four years after this journal entry, my views of villains and heroes has changed so drastically. Recently, I took this thought a step further and made a much more profound realization. What we perceive as a hero or a villain constantly changes as we do; our heroes and villains are reflections of us. With this in mind, I set out to track all my heroes and villains of my past so that I may be more in tune with myself. It’s hard to remember my thoughts before the age of five, but since then all my memories of past villains remain vividly in my mind.
My first and foremost fear was ET. You might say he was a friendly alien, but I remain unconvinced. My second childhood villain was a character called the Slime Monster on the television series Ghostwriters. Since most people probably have no idea what this is, the monster was a purple glob that originated in a crock pot and would spit grape bubblegum at its victims. In one episode, the Slime Monster came out of a toilet, and, with his gummy spit, solidified one of the show’s main characters. An unfortunate aftermath of viewing this episode was my being terrified of toilets for weeks.
As I grew older, my fears also matured. I became scared of bad grades, not having friends, and drunk drivers. At age thirteen, I had never actually met a drunk driver, but thanks to television and school speakers, I knew to remain wary. Now that I think about it, I can probably thank TV and, well, society in general for most of my past heroes and villains. As I wrote in eighth grade, I pictured a hero to be a male who could erase all my problems or just take care of them for me. Hard work and actual studying would have been my real heroes in Ancient Civ; so I know this fascination with a valiant boy was a result of my surroundings.
The dictionary entry for hero actually says “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.” My childhood movies portrayed this idea, too. I looked up the top 25 Disney heroes of all time on the internet and found all 25 to be men. The top 25 villains, however, were mostly lonely, intelligent, power-seeking women. No wonder I was afraid of not having friends; I did not want to become the next Ursula.
Whether we know it or not, our views of ourselves and others constantly adjust with the changing winds of Entertainment Weekly and the New York Times. To gain approval, we often strive to be what we have been taught is admirable, and more often stay away from what is deemed less so. Popular shows, magazines, and our peers relentlessly judge our appearance and actions, almost to a point of no return. We buy pointless luxury items, read Forbes and Vogue, and eat what Cosmo says is best to get rid of that stubborn tummy fat. And for what? To be one with the masses. In case you were wondering, that is my most recent fear.
However, I have decided that the television and society’s ideals have sculpted my ideas of villainy and valiancy for too many years and I must now take it upon myself to determine what motivates me and why. I am not saying that television is the evil, because I think it can be very informative and entertaining. I am saying that allowing others to tell you what you feel and why is the evil. To quote John Irving, “We invent what we love, and what we hate.” We do have control over our choices and inspiration, and Ryan Seacrest does not always know what is best for us. I challenge myself and all of you to not only think for yourselves but feel for yourselves. Don’t let others morph your opinion of yourself, and most importantly, know that your name doesn’t have to be Prince Charming to be the hero.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.