PDA

View Full Version : Why are hero's families so unhealthy?



Oslecamo
2008-05-10, 03:36 PM
It may just be my impression, but I get the strong feeling that in 90% of the action media I see the family of the hero is something like this:

Dad-dead from an unknown disease/cancer/killed in acident/suffered some horrible mutation and is now a villain/nobody even knows whatever hapened to him.

Mother-died giving birth/ dead from an unknown disease/cancer/killed in acident/ has an uncurable terminal disease/is never refered.

Brother/sister-disapeared or died misteriously/ doesn't exist.

Everybody else- long dead and buried. Maybe some lonely uncle or grandfather who takes care of the hero.

It's almost as the authors just want to get rid of the family of the hero so he can go around doing whatever he needs to do whitout the family trying to stop him. But I feel this is so cheap.

Cancer or some cheap acident, whatever is needed to take mommy and daddy out of the pitcture as fast as possible. Ok, sometimes it's the villain who orchestated this, and it's actually important to the story, but most often than not I get the feeling like the author just doesn't want to bother to have the hero deal with his own family.

This is, how probable is that all action heros don't seem to have cousins or more than one uncle or grandfather? Is there any disease or curse running down heroic families? Specially when the father was some rich powerfull guy, and sudenly gets himself killed in some random car acident. Can't they aford good drivers? Or good medics?

Discuss(or show me action heros who have full somewhat normal families).

Hadrian_Emrys
2008-05-10, 03:52 PM
1. To give the character freedom to do as they will.

2. To show a backround that encourages the growth of a self reliant mentality.

3. A perverse pleasure in offing farmhand parents?

4. All the cool kids are doing it in their stories.

5. A Fruedian level of desire to off one's own kith and kin?

6. All hail hypnotoad.

Azerian Kelimon
2008-05-10, 03:55 PM
Because Heroes are not Genre Savvy. A Savvy hero would catch EVERY. SINGLE. CROOK, then find the masked lunatics, shoot 'em, carbonize them, and keep their ashes on his desk. There, problem of death solved.

Surfing HalfOrc
2008-05-10, 04:07 PM
Too many people reading Joseph Cambell's "Hero with a Thousand Faces (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hero_with_a_Thousand_Faces)."

Including Rich Buelew. :smallbiggrin:

Blayze
2008-05-10, 04:32 PM
The thing is, it's either give the Hero a physically unhealthy family (So that they die, giving the Hero motivation) or give the Hero a *mentally* unhealthy family, as they'd basically be raising their child to be a mass murderer.

"I'm so proud of young Derek. He slaughtered the Robertsons last night. His first quest!"

warty goblin
2008-05-10, 04:35 PM
Because actually giving the heroes a family would often require the writer to insert actual emotion and tenderness. As is demonstrated by much action media the writers are capable of only expressing the following concepts:
1) Stuff blowing up
2) Testosterone
3) Hot chicks in impractical 'armor' that provides less protection than the average wonder bra.
4) Hot chicks in 'armor' blowing stuff up while angry
5) Main characters with a set of abs best described as 'construction equipment'
6) Smarmy pun laden one liners said to defeated enemies.
7) Eye-crushingly unerotic sex scenes. Often, in order to get the desired effect of the hot chick taking off clothing without showing anything outside of a PG-13 rating, she will put on garments with actual surface area before said sex scene. Truly genre-savy action heroes have noticed this and no longer pay attention when their girlfriends slink sultrily around in their underwear, but get all excited when they put on a cardigan, 'cause they know what happens after she gets dressed up like that...
8) Smarmy pun laden one liners after the sex scene, causing all non-thirteen year old boys in the audience to yearn for sweet sweet death.
9) Stuff gettin' blowed up damn good.
10) Violence.
11) Mayhem
12) Destruction
13) Chaos
14) Explosions
15) Bloodshed
16) Gore
16) Chainsaws
17) Moments of 'pathos' when mortally wounded Sidekick Character decides to stay behind to delay the Evil Minion Army so the heroes can disarm the nuke, which is treated as some sort of big sacriface, despite the sidekick already having a hole in their chest large enough to route shipping through, and even if his lungs weren't currently on a fieldtrip, he'd be dead anyway if the heroes didn't disarm the nuke.
18) Pithy quote at Sidekick Character's funeral about how he fulfilled his purpose, which is weird, since after he had the afformentioned hole shot in him he wasn't exactly 'fulfilling' anything. "I know he's in a better place now" is another popular line at this point, which is also a little strange, since last you checked, about 1/2 of him by mass (3/8 by volume) was spattered all over a dimly lit room inexplicibly full of crates. Then again, it means he's no longer hanging around with these mental rejects, so it probably is a better place, and it's to dim in there to see what a mess he's in (get it, mess he's in? That's the sort of lowbrow pun I'm talking about)
19) 'Cathartic' moment when the hero confronts the villian and is getting the stuffing pounded out of him (easily the most enjoyable moment of the show to date), when he remembers Sidekick Character, and goes on vengeance fueled villain bashing spree, usually yelling something like "This is for Sidekick Character!"
20) Stuff, and the blowing up thereof.

Notice how actual human emotion is nowhere on this list? Yeah, this is why we should all be thankful for orphaned heroes and their ilk. Because otherwise the writers might try to do a "Touching Family Moment" where Ma and Pa Protagonist get all worried when Billy Protagonist is late to the Wholesum Advertiser Sponsered Dinner because he's out late blowin' stuff up,, and Pa is forced to deliver a speech about what it means to be a man. Even the thirteen year old boys will be begging for death after that.

Azerian Kelimon
2008-05-10, 04:52 PM
Blayze: Yeah. It's not like Uncle Ben wouldn't approve of Peter being Spiderman, or a Swordsage's mummy giving him the OK about killing those mindflayers that want to enslave everyone and suck our brains out. No sirrah!

Oslecamo
2008-05-10, 05:04 PM
Thanks to the replies everbody, specially the thousand faces wiki. Seems like I'm not alone in this theory.

Anyway, now that I look more carefully, it really seems this is a trend among stories.

Super man: it doesn't matter that his parents lived in a world with uber technology and were quite smart and not endangered by some evil force. The author still makes a stupid plot curse wich makes the parents unable to leave the planet, but everything is ok with the son leaving.

Frodo Baggins:In the book, Frodo's parents have a tragic acident and drown in the river when Frodo's still very young. While fishing. They don't even get a dignifying death like cancer or a random rock falling over them.

King Artur:all family dead, worcks as a squire for an arrogant knight while young. Because aparently being a commoner isn't enough to be an hero, you have to be an opressed orphan comoner.

Old greek stories:daddy was a god and mommy was some monster, or vice versa, either way none of them wants to take care of the child and dump it somehwere else, wich leads to him being raised by people who really don't care much about him, wich means that when a quest oportunity arises mr hero is more than willing to abandon everything he had.

Indeed it seems like normal human emotions aren't a very popular topic in stories.

Azerian Kelimon
2008-05-10, 05:06 PM
Correct. That's why the Starman remake was so PWN, among other things. It had the father actually talking about taking up the mantle with his son.

That, and it included part of David Bowie's immortal Ziggy Stardust Album.

Blayze
2008-05-10, 05:47 PM
Blayze: Yeah. It's not like Uncle Ben wouldn't approve of Peter being Spiderman, or a Swordsage's mummy giving him the OK about killing those mindflayers that want to enslave everyone and suck our brains out. No sirrah!

Heh.

"I appreciate the fact that you saved the world, but did you have to depopulate the countryside?"
"Mom, they were trying to *kill* me! Besides, they were good for EXP."

Azerian Kelimon
2008-05-10, 06:15 PM
"Well, it's okay then, moreso considering those are squid headed bastards that came from a future in which every being was a slave to them, simple cattle from which to feed.

By the way, it's about time you get epic spells and Genocide them. Nobody wants the whole world to end as the illithid's food source."

EvilDMMk3
2008-05-10, 06:16 PM
Its the law of cosmic conservation, heroes radiate doom and as such attract Doom focuses, likewise villains radiate hope and attract hope focuses. I mean how often do you see a super hero in a city where there are no super villains? Cause and effect my freind.



Also all super heroes are very slightly radioactive.



:smallbiggrin:

Oslecamo
2008-05-10, 06:20 PM
"Well, it's okay then, moreso considering those are squid headed bastards that came from a future in which every being was a slave to them, simple cattle from which to feed.

By the way, it's about time you get epic spells and Genocide them. Nobody wants the whole world to end as the illithid's food source."

Didn't the ithlids got so owned in the future by some mysterious oponent that they literally got their asses quicked several millenias to the past?

Azerian Kelimon
2008-05-10, 06:22 PM
Nope, they jumped voluntarily. Maybe you're confusing it with the second edition Planescape fluff, which says Gith and Zerthimon lead an uprising that devastated the illithid empire?

warty goblin
2008-05-10, 06:43 PM
I think Buffy's family from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is reasonably close to normal. Sure her parents are divorced, but that's hardly abnormal, and sure she and her mother have slightly, ah, strained relations at times, but most of that is a perfectly legitimate byproduct of all the weird stuff Buffy has to do.

Blayze
2008-05-10, 06:47 PM
Maybe you're confusing it with the second edition Planescape fluff, which says Gith and Zerthimon lead an uprising that devastated the illithid empire?

I'm only going off what I remember from the Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon, but wasn't it only Gith's part of the uprising that took on the empire? I was led to believe that Zertihmon and his followers defeated the Illithid that threatened them directly, but did not take on the rest of the empire.

Oslecamo
2008-05-10, 06:52 PM
Well, I consider Buffy to be the american version of magical girl. Kill all the demons you want, but make sure you clean up your bedroom, make your homeworck and hang out with your boy/girlfriend.

Girls just love human relationships thrown into the story, and little things like school life and house chores. You never see Lone wolf the manly badass samurai worrying about food, clothes or changing his son's diapers do you?

And yes, I know the ithlid's jumped voluntarly, sacrificing several elder brains to fuel the process and everything but it's funnier to thinck that they got "quicked to another week".

Azerian Kelimon
2008-05-10, 06:52 PM
That's what I meant. Thanks for 'splaining it.

averagejoe
2008-05-10, 06:53 PM
I think Buffy's family from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is reasonably close to normal. Sure her parents are divorced, but that's hardly abnormal, and sure she and her mother have slightly, ah, strained relations at times, but most of that is a perfectly legitimate byproduct of all the weird stuff Buffy has to do.

Buffy's mom died. From an incurable terminal disease. It's exactly what the OP was talking about.

Oslecamo
2008-05-10, 06:59 PM
Crap, that's what I get for only having seen an handfull of buffy episodes.

Mind you, even magical girls seem to have at least one of their parents buried.

Azerian Kelimon
2008-05-10, 07:05 PM
Yeah, Starman's pretty much the sole big exception.

Blayze
2008-05-10, 07:46 PM
Its the law of cosmic conservation, heroes radiate doom and as such attract Doom focuses, likewise villains radiate hope and attract hope focuses.

...Would that make villains the source of all hope and heroes the source of all despair? My God, imagine the benefits for society if we found a way to siphon the hope directly from villains!

The villains themselves would no longer attract hope focuses (foci? I can't remember), and we could channel that hope into bettering society (Because any society that has the ability to drain hope would have a way of storing it, and hopefully a way of applying it).

Mr.Silver
2008-05-10, 08:06 PM
It's almost as the authors just want to get rid of the family of the hero so he can go around doing whatever he needs to do whitout the family trying to stop him. But I feel this is so cheap.

Cancer or some cheap acident, whatever is needed to take mommy and daddy out of the pitcture as fast as possible. Ok, sometimes it's the villain who orchestated this, and it's actually important to the story, but most often than not I get the feeling like the author just doesn't want to bother to have the hero deal with his own family.
Have you considered the possibility that throwing in a whole bunch of family arguments and discussions may well hamper benefit the plot of action media? Throwing in a family generally means there are going to be a lot of interactions, many of them involving disagreements, which means the thing in question stops being action and starts drifting into drama territory. An action film, by its very definition, is not going to have a lot of inter-family interaction because there is only so screen time available and adding in family scenes will add little to the story and will probably slow it down.


Specially when the father was some rich powerfull guy, and sudenly gets himself killed in some random car acident. Can't they aford good drivers? Or good medics?
Yeah, I mean it's not like any rich, powerful people have ever died in car crashes.

thubby
2008-05-10, 08:16 PM
exceptional people are by definition different, something had to happen to them that deviated from the norm. the easiest and most universally empathy inducing things that could happen would be loss. at the same time few people have experienced true loss, so it gives the character a certain amount of mystery. and finally it humanizes them by letting the writers dredge up deep emotional responses in the character whenever they need to (usually via flashback)

WalkingTarget
2008-05-10, 08:33 PM
Yeah, Starman's pretty much the sole big exception.

Not only that, it made an attempt to address the Reed Richards is Useless (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ReedRichardsIsUseless) syndrome. It's just an amazing comic.

Although: Jack's older brother died pretty much on the first page.

warty goblin
2008-05-10, 08:41 PM
hmm, I'm still trying to come up with heroes who maintain a more or less intact family throughout. Here's what I've got:

Zoe and Wash get through Firefly without breaking up or anything like that. No children though.

At least as far as I've read in the series, Honor Harrington's family makes it through intact. Granted there was that bit where her lover got offed, but that's about the only thing like that I can think of. Again, a distinct lack of children.

Aha! Samath from the Abhorsen trilogy has a functional family throughout the series, and everybody even survives (well, functional is perhaps an overstatement, but it has a complete roster at least...)

The Stark family at least starts A Song of Ice and Fire intact and functional. Granted that lasts all of six minutes, but hey, it's a beginning anyway.

Cersai's children from the same series so far have an (mostly, aside from that one poisoning thing) intact family. Functional is not a word I would use, but the body count is at least reasonably low.

Huh, that's all I can think of. I got one almost complete sucess though, that's pretty good, right?

tyckspoon
2008-05-10, 09:25 PM
Huh, that's all I can think of. I got one almost complete sucess though, that's pretty good, right?

Miles Vorkosigan's family is amazingly intact, especially considering Bujold is on record as thinking of plots for the next book by 'thinking of the worst thing she could do to Miles and then doing it.'

Mr. Scaly
2008-05-10, 10:08 PM
Huh. You know, this brings to mind a short story I read. Some guy with super human powers but too much vigilantism is recounting his mother. The woman used to brag that she knew exactly what her son needed at any given moment and he speculated that it might be some part of his super powers that let her know. Telekinesis or whatever.

And the woman died of a brain tumor when he was seven.

So nuts to the vengeful criminals and bad writers. Just being near someone that much more powerful than us can be enough to cause death.

The Extinguisher
2008-05-10, 10:21 PM
Heroes need something to Wangst over.

Oslecamo
2008-05-11, 12:16 PM
TV tropes to the rescue!

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ParentalAbandonment

Warty Goblin, I must say, however, that even if those examples have somewhat normal families, it seems that for each of those heros there is a guy whose father/mother/family member is actually a psychotic guy who wants to take over the world or worst:

Luke Skywalker(daddy likes to go around killing people with mysterious powers and blowing up planets).

Shinji(hi, I'm your father, I date with a underage girl while treating you like trash and I turned your mother into a giant robot wich you must now pilot or humanity will be destroyed. Wait, humanity will be destroyed one way or the other, I just want you to suffer.)

In the game Botokay, the final boss is actually the hero's grandmother who intends to turn everything in the universe in inert matter, or something equally evil.

Sasuke's greatest wish is to kill his own brother who killed the whole family(from Naruto).

Edward Elric's father absorbed half a nation's worth of souls. And then he abandoned his family and seems unable to use his powers to do anything usefull.

sikyon
2008-05-11, 05:07 PM
It may just be my impression, but I get the strong feeling that in 90% of the action media I see the family of the hero is something like this:

Dad-dead from an unknown disease/cancer/killed in acident/suffered some horrible mutation and is now a villain/nobody even knows whatever hapened to him.

Mother-died giving birth/ dead from an unknown disease/cancer/killed in acident/ has an uncurable terminal disease/is never refered.

Brother/sister-disapeared or died misteriously/ doesn't exist.

Everybody else- long dead and buried. Maybe some lonely uncle or grandfather who takes care of the hero.

It's almost as the authors just want to get rid of the family of the hero so he can go around doing whatever he needs to do whitout the family trying to stop him. But I feel this is so cheap.

Cancer or some cheap acident, whatever is needed to take mommy and daddy out of the pitcture as fast as possible. Ok, sometimes it's the villain who orchestated this, and it's actually important to the story, but most often than not I get the feeling like the author just doesn't want to bother to have the hero deal with his own family.

This is, how probable is that all action heros don't seem to have cousins or more than one uncle or grandfather? Is there any disease or curse running down heroic families? Specially when the father was some rich powerfull guy, and sudenly gets himself killed in some random car acident. Can't they aford good drivers? Or good medics?

Discuss(or show me action heros who have full somewhat normal families).

Flawed logic.

Heros are born through overcomming tragedy.

You are seeing here a statistical correlation between being a hero and having a dead family. You are now postulating that being a hero means that your family is going to be dead. What is actually happening is having a dead family is going to drastically increase your odds of becoming a hero.

endoperez
2008-05-11, 06:14 PM
It's nice to know I'm not the only one who dislikes the OP's logic.

Most people are born while their both parents are alive and die after both their parents. If a hero starts his career with a family and some of it later dies, that's a pity but the hero was a hero even before that.

The examples given later in this thread are also somewhat biased. I mean, Superman's parents are dead, but his adopted parents are the definition of happy family. Supergirl is also kind of part of the same family, as is Supervoy & others if they exist.
And claiming that all Greek heros lacked family? It's not like all the Greeks were fathered by necrophiliac gods. What about Oedipus, whose parents did well enough until he found them? Or the minotaur/Theseus/Icaros cycle, in which Theseus' father commits suicide after his son has returned alive and Icaros dies because he doesn't listen to his father's warnings?

Mr. Scaly
2008-05-11, 09:08 PM
I think that the idea is that being a hero is directly related to having a messed up/dead family. I mean, how many people have been killed/crippled etc because they were related to/friends with someone destined to be hero?

averagejoe
2008-05-11, 09:11 PM
This seems relvevant. I just started reading The Hogfather today. The first page mentions that Mr. Teatime thinks of people as things. Afterword (that is, after the events of the book, I assume) one of his mentors at the guild of assassins mentions, "We took him in because we felt sorry for him since his parents died tragically. In hindsight, we should have looked closer into that."

North
2008-05-12, 03:04 AM
Think of it this way. Its a way of balancing their character sheets. Stealing stat points from the family. Tragic past character flaws. Etc

Irenaeus
2008-05-12, 03:57 AM
Why go all the way to superheroes? Try to find a cop in any series or movie that has a healthy family life. You will find some, but they are absolutely in the minority.

I think that in any story that focues on plot and action there is the dual need for 1) to have as few characters as possible that are irrelevant to the main plot, and 2) to give the main character the motivation (or just to showcase her/his inner drive) to pursue the main plotline.

Both of these needs can be met by a single solution - eliminating the family from participating in the story some way (terrorism, estrangement etc.) - and thus we have an insta-cliche.

Dhavaer
2008-05-12, 04:05 AM
It all comes down to the Law of Conservation of Angst.

Another example: 2/3 of the available backgrounds in Mass Effect have Commander Shepard's parents dead. She does seem to have a pretty good relationship with them in the third, though.

bluish_wolf
2008-05-12, 04:09 AM
Flawed logic.

Heros are born through overcomming tragedy.

You are seeing here a statistical correlation between being a hero and having a dead family. You are now postulating that being a hero means that your family is going to be dead. What is actually happening is having a dead family is going to drastically increase your odds of becoming a hero.

I'm not seeing it. If that were true, the National Guard would base their recruitment stations around orphanages.

Blayze
2008-05-12, 04:22 AM
Why go all the way to superheroes? Try to find a cop in any series or movie that has a healthy family life. You will find some, but they are absolutely in the minority.

Not really, but they always seem to be on the verge of retirement "in a few days".

Oslecamo
2008-05-12, 09:22 AM
It's nice to know I'm not the only one who dislikes the OP's logic.

Most people are born while their both parents are alive and die after both their parents. If a hero starts his career with a family and some of it later dies, that's a pity but the hero was a hero even before that.

The examples given later in this thread are also somewhat biased. I mean, Superman's parents are dead, but his adopted parents are the definition of happy family. Supergirl is also kind of part of the same family, as is Supervoy & others if they exist.
And claiming that all Greek heros lacked family? It's not like all the Greeks were fathered by necrophiliac gods. What about Oedipus, whose parents did well enough until he found them? Or the minotaur/Theseus/Icaros cycle, in which Theseus' father commits suicide after his son has returned alive and Icaros dies because he doesn't listen to his father's warnings?

That's why I said the majority. There are heros with regular families, but they are a smal minority.

And no, in most of the cases the hero was a regular guy before the parents died. Like said before, the death of the parents triggers the beggining of the path to heroism many times.

Spider man gained his power with both uncles alive, but only remembered to become a hero when his uncle got shot down.

Batman, nuff said.

In Starship troopers the main protagonist just wants to finish school and return to his parent's little cozy village, when bang, alien meteor kills them, making the protagonist join the army to fight the aliens.

Harry Potter is the extreme case of this. He's an hero just because his parents got killed but he survived. Before that he was just another wizard.

In real life however most orphans really can't expect much from life. They normally end up on instituitions or lairs wich suffocate thier potentials and deprive them of oportunities.

Most real life great humans had great parents who pushed their sons to be special, by assuring they had good education and incentiving them to take oportunities when they apeared.

Having great parents suporting you trough life goes a long way in becoming a great person yourself.

At least that is what I see.