If you keep picking at it…
I stared at the computer screen for 15 minutes last night, knowing that I had thoughts in my head that were worth something, that needed to be posted, and came up with nothing. Nothing worth taking the time to write.
Then, this morning I came across another blog’s post about Zidane’s red card (it’s actually a translation of a third writer’s post in French, but who’s counting). I found it very compelling:
But today, in this strange epoch when everyone seems to have drunk Disney milk in their infancy, no one tolerates anything but rosy endings. Everything must finish happily. Our heroes must be loveable so that we can file them away in the cupboard of our happy memories.
And from later in the post:
Donâ€™t speak to him of lost dignity. This gesture was precisely about dignity, and he made it to recover some of his honour. He had already given everything to his team. Now it was for himself. Eight seconds out of a career of nearly twenty years. Because if he didnâ€™t do it then, it would all be over.
The tragic figure has a particular power for me – the supposedly invincible hero who breaks facade and shows his (or her) humanity. It gives their heroic achievements all the more luster when you realize that, ultimately, they’re just like you or me.
Two recent books that I’ve read make similar points: Lord of the Rings and “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” For Tolkien, he creates two ‘heroes’ in Frodo and Sam whose only heroism is that they keep striving, keep working – even though the achievement of their goal will likely kill them. In Walter Isaacson’s story of Franklin, you get the sense that he’s no more grandiose than the next guy – he just works hard, and uses his wits.
Frodo eventually succumbs to the Ring, and has to be carried by Sam. Franklin struggles all his life with simple vices, repeating endlessly the process of “today I won’t do this act again”. Zidane’s anger at an insult provokes him, and he takes a stand to say the provocation is unacceptable.
In each of these apparent failures, the heroes crack and show that they’re only human – and in a way confirm their heroic status. I always did prefer Batman to Superman.