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January 31, 2007

The Hero’s Call

Beliefnet has an interview with Tim Kring, creator of NBC's Heroes -- which, for my money, is still the most intriguing show on television right now. The commentary doesn't add a lot to the intrigue, but it does suggest that the story's ongoing tension between humanistic progress and divine calling may extend beyond the script. It's as though Kring himself is asking the same questions as his heroes: "Are we given abilities for a purpose, or is it merely an evolutionary luck of the draw?"

Is the message here that we all have to be our own heroes?

The ordinariness of the characters’ lives is what I think people are relating to. There is a transparency between the viewer and the show in terms of the types of characters that you’re watching. You feel like that could be me, or that’s like somebody I went to high school with. You feel that this could happen to you, and maybe this is happening to you.

Of course these characters are experiencing this in some form of supernatural ability. But I think it does tap into that sort of wish fulfillment that your life can turn on a dime, or that you’re meant for something special. I think most people feel that their lives are meant for more than what they’re living at this time.

But, of course, powerful skills alone do not a hero make. In an article for BreakPoint Online, Alex Wainer offers the example of one of the show's characters -- the appropriately named Hiro -- as one who recognizes that he has been given a chance to serve his fellow man and perhaps save the world.

"One thing I had to learn is that my gifts aren’t all about my gratification," Wainer notes. "They are for serving others. In fact, I really couldn’t discover how they worked unless I worked with others in service. Fortunately, Hiro seems to have that lesson down already."

Hiro, whose power is to manipulate time and space, indeed seems to capture the bold and selfless mindset of a hero. And he steals every scene he's in with a simple, fearless commitment to his call.

The other characters are just as interesting, however, in part because they are not so sure of the reason for their abilities or of their determination to fight for the lives of others. Some wrestle with control over their powers. Others try to ignore them. Thus the central response of viewers becomes not, "What if I were a superhero?" but, "What if I were designed for a purpose by a supernatural source?"

I'm not terribly confident that this Source will be revealed by Heroes to be the God of Scripture. But the show sheds a fascinating light on the questions burned into the heart of every man.

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