Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Hero Project #6: Nine Types of Heroes

Welcome to week two of the Hero Project! I’ll get back to underrated movies and other stuff eventually, but let’s spend a little while digging deeper into this rabbit hole...
So at the end of last week, I had concluded that I had spent too many years trying to fit all heroes into one model, as if they were going on the same journey. I needed multiple models for multiple journeys. But what are the different types of heroes? I knew that it had something to do with skills, so I decided that the three most important questions to ask were these:

  1. Are they qualified? (Q)
  2. Are they on the job? (OtJ)
  3. Are they in their element? (ItE)

I made this handy chart, and gave a name to each type. But, as you’ll see, I ended up with a pretty useless category (No. 7), and then I decided that I had to break the last category up into two. These are the heroes who have nothing: no qualifications, they aren’t on the job, and they aren’t in their element. But, as I realized last week, some heroes in that situation find that they can adapt the skill from another job to succeed in their new environment, while some just have to muddle by, so I split those off:

1: The Pro At Work:

  • Most qualified person who is doing their job in their element:
  • Example: Hackman in The French Connection, Buster Keaton in The General, Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, Cooper in High Noon, Weaver in Alien, Nicholson in Chinatown, Dirty Harry, Indiana Jones, the reporters in All the President’s Men, the con men in The Sting and Ocean’s 11, most James Bond movies, Bullitt, the Magnificent Seven, most Batman movies, Matthau in The Taking of Pelham 123 and Charley Varrick, Ford in Blade Runner, Speed, Neil in Jurassic Park, Woody in the Toy Story movies. Even people who oppose their own boss, like Field in Norma Rae or Douglas in Seven Days in May fall into this category. They consider it part of their job to save their workplace from their boss.

2. The Fish Out of Water:

  • Qualified and on the job, but out of their element:
  • Examples: Eastwood in Coogan’s Bluff, Poitier in In the Heat of the Night and Shoot to Kill, Sinatra in The Manchurian Candidate, Hackman in The French Connection 2, Stallone in Demolition Man, Douglas in Black Rain, Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop

3. The Well-Trained Rookie:

  • On the job and in their element but not yet qualified, then suddenly asked to compete at a higher level than they are prepared for yet:
  • Examples: Pacino in The Godfather, Foster in Silence of the Lambs, Batman in Batman Begins, Bond in Casino Royale, Sheen in Wall Street, Fonda in The China Syndrome, Buffy Summers…

4. The Rogue:

  • Qualified and in their element but off the job, usually trying to get their old job or position back:
  • Examples: Robin Hood, Zorro, Depp in POTC, the prisoners in The Great Escape, Sheen in Terminal Velocity, Douglas in Romancing the Stone, Jason Bourne…

5. The Exile:

  • Qualified but off the job and out of their element:
  • Examples: Willis in Die Hard, Ford in Witness, Ladd in Shane, Douglas in Spartacus, Bacon in Footloose, the Rock in The Scorpion King

6. The Flounderer:

  • On the job, but unqualified and out of their element. They took the job rashly, got in over their head, and now they have to cope with few skills:
  • Examples: Heston in Planet of the Apes, Stewart in Vertigo, Scheider in Jaws, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Kaye in The Court Jester, Hawke in Training Day, Sheen in Platoon

7. The Heckler?:

  • This was the one dubious category generated by the chart. I'm not sure it even exists. Who would be unqualified, and off the job, but nevertheless in their element?
  • My wife pointed out that this would describe Ignatius Riley in the novel “A Confederacy of Dunces”? Would it describe the Dude in The Big Liebowski?

8. The Adapter:

  • Unqualified, off the job, out of their element …but willing to learn quickly because they are able to find new applications for skills they learned for other jobs.
  • Examples: Luke in Star Wars, Fox in Back to the Future, Fonda in 12 Angry Men, Reynolds and Voigt in Deliverance, Reeves in The Matrix, Bloom in POTC, Ford in The Fugitive, McAdams in Red Eye, Morton in Brother From Another Planet, Stewart in Rear Window, Grant in North by Northwest,or is he worst possible?

9. The Worst Possible Pick

  • This is their idea of hell. This is the true zero to hero: They’re unqualified, it’s not their job, they’re out of their element, and they aren’t even able to use transfer any of their skills over from another job. How on Earth do these people succeed? We’ll investigate soon...
  • Example: Hamilton in the original Terminator, Lloyd in Safety Last, Keaton in The Navigator, Chaplin in The Gold Rush, Hepburn in Wait Until Dark, Curtis in Halloween, Douglas in Fatal Attraction, Granger in Strangers on a Train, Shaggy in Scooby Doo, Scott in The Spanish Prisoner, Dreyfuss in Close Encounters, MacLachlan in Blue Velvet (the only one I can think of who enters his idea of hell voluntarily)

What do you think? Are any of these in the wrong category? Feel free to disagree. For that matter, are these categories useful? I don’t want to imply that some of these types are more legitimate than others. Quite to the contrary, now that everybody has their place, I see that each can work, even category 9, which I spent so much time maligning last week. I’ll discuss some of the categories in more detail this week, but first I need to determine if they actually cover every type of hero. I can think of two types that mess things up a little, so that’s tomorrow...


Steve Bird said...

For "the Heckler," I'm also thinking Jay and Silent Bob. It seems there are some more examples dancing on the edge of my mind, but I can't quite pin them down.

Actually, maybe this would describe a number of the classic Looney Toons characters? Also Smiley Bone? Seems most well suited to cartoon characters.

Matt Bird said...

I don't know, Bugs Bunny is pretty much qualified for anything. Smiley Bone (from the comic book series "Bone") is a good example. As for Jay and Silent Bob, I only saw Clerks, where they were in their element, so I couldn't say.

Steve Bird said...

Bugs seemed arguable, but I guess I was thinking Daffy Duck and Pepe Le Pew more specifically. It seems a category made for supporting characters and cartoons, rarely for feature length leading roles.

Oh, I guess Kramer from Seinfeld would also fit neatly into this category.

Anonymous said...

I came over here from Fuse - your list reminded me of this:


[huge list, includes classic archetypes like the "badass bookworm", "doomed moral victor", "hero with an F in good"]

Josh Mabie said...

The Heckler - Chris Tucker in Rush Hour 2.

Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, what precisely do you mean by "On the Job"?

Do you mean that they're legally authorized (an on-duty police officer, a licensed doctor)? Or that they're getting paid to do whatever they're doing, regardless of how the authorities feel (a hired PI)? Or just that they have somehow taken responsibility for helping (superheroes, the cop ordered to let it rest, the victim's friends and relatives)?

If it's the first two, then most of the companions in Doctor Who would qualify as The Heckler, and probably a number of superheroes. Probably Harry Potter - untrained for most of the series, and his technical "job" is student, but he takes to the magical world and fighting Dark Lords like a duck to water.

Miss Lethologica said...

Could it be the problem is that you've sorted a lot of characters who would fit into that role into "adapter" instead? I'd say like isn't qualified, isn't on the job, but is in his element as an adventurer. That's why he's able to adapt so quickly. Most classic heroes (the peasant boy farmer type) fall into this category. Otherwise they would fall into the last category where this is their personal hell because they are failing to adapt. Hecklers would be a better title for that last category. And characters like Jay and Silent Bob would definitely fall into that category, as would a lot of comedy characters like Mr. Bean for instance.