A few weeks ago I was having coffee with a friend following the debut weekend of “Wonder Woman.” The conversation naturally lead into further consideration of heroes, and then television and the anti-heroes of HBO dramas like “The Sopranos.”
When I brought up the series “Oz” about life within the fictional maximum security Oswald State Penitentiary, we were stuck for a moment. You see, we could talk about the evolutionary arc of Tony Soprano and his paisanos and moments of redemption, but also with no expectation that many of the characters would redeem themselves. Least ways, not beyond their ethical structures and into ours. There was a clarity to their actions that usually took place within their basic ethical frame – “Once you’re into this family, there’s no getting out.”
In Oz, week after week, we waited for a hero. We looked to see if rare moments of redemption turned into something else. They did not.
Week after week, we waited for a hero that never arose.
Each episode simply contributed to the downward spiral of meanness, evil, and despair, that was the “normal” character development arc in Oz. The violence, the desire for control over others as the closest thing to freedom possible, the abuses of all types, and the treatment of humans as deranged animals, leave most viewers desperately wishing for a hero. We wanted someone to rise up and save at least one person, if only themselves. It never really happened though.
As the Boss said in Thunder Road:
“You can hide ‘neath your covers and study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers,throw roses in the rain,
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets.”
You can do these things, but you are missing the fact that there are heroes all around us. I see them every day. People who fight for what they believe (@saragoldrickrab). People who try to elevate the conversation (@tressiemcphd). People who share what is seemingly unshareable (@rgay – Hunger is amazingly beautiful and painful).
These are some of my heroes. They are brave, amazing, super-intelligent, and honorable people. You know, what we all want to be.