Why we struggle with the word 'hero'

Everyone's a hero, baby! Why do we Aussies get so carried away with the word "hero"? On the one hand, any Aussie who has won a garish plastic trophy in, say, the South Poowong Rugby League, is a hero, a bloody hero, mate.

On the other hand, what with the droughts, the fires, the floods and being girt by sea and all, we Aussies do need heroes and, thankfully, these men and women turn up at the hardest of times and earn their pat on the back.

Meanwhile, our Heroes' Hall of Fame boasts three inductees: Bradman, Phar Lap and Ned Kelly. Not one of them risked their life for mankind.

We respect our VC winners. But we don't put them on a pedestal. Name one. So a batsman, horse and bushranger are our heroes.

If you want to understand the Aussie psyche and why we struggle with the word "hero", you have to poke a stick at our fictional heroes.

The Brits have 007 fighting for "Queen, country and olive-free cocktails". The United States has Superman fighting for the American dedication to self-delusion. We have Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, who "tsk tsk'd" his way to glory.

A bit later, there was avenging revhead Mad Max. His hero status was guaranteed because he drove a throbbing macho machine, a Ford XB Falcon.

Mick "Crocodile" Dundee was a blundering hero. More recently, Red Dog, the Kelpie, from the Pilbara was a heroic dog in the Lassie class. So a kangaroo, a madman, a kelpie and an ocker knife-wielding hunter are our fictional heroes. Why is it so hard to create a fictional Aussie hero, who takes a stand against evildoers and beats the bejesus out them?

Can you imagine an Aussie 007?

The name is Bond, Jim Bond or Bondie, Pussy Wantmore, Thunderballs or The Spy Who Came in for a Quickie.

Our ocker 007 would scrub up in a dinner suit, but he's at his ocker spy best in casual clobber.

His smart T-shirt has a GPS missile tracking system. The Hawaiian babes on his board shorts have inbuilt CCTV cameras for covert ops.

One lens of his sunnies has a computer screen linked to headquarters, the other is linked to a lite porn site.

His thongs are jet propelled for a quick exit. And, mate, his Esky contains a rocket-propelled, state-of-the-art, hi-tech bottle opener. He's an ocker 007. What else did you expect?

Maybe we could have our own Spiderman.

When our Pete Parker is bitten by a radioactive redback while he is driving his ute through Maralinga, he discovers he has new super powers.

Redback Spiderman uses his powers to pull tinnies out of his Esky, fish and dak his mates. He wonders if he should fight evil megalomaniacs like, um, parking officers.

Our problem with the word "hero" is embedded deep in the Aussie psyche.

It's the ball and chain from our history we can't cast off. Our fictional hero can't be too arrogant (James Bond), too creepy (Batman), too weird (Wolverine), too goody goody (Captain America) or too stiff upper lip (Biggles). He has to be a good bloke. Down to earth. Ordinary.

We can't have a fictional Aussie hero because a hero can't be ordinary. He's one in a million.

We could never have a Bruce Wayne Billionaire "playboy" Batman. Boofhead Batman in bat T-shirt would be our choice. We want a hero who doesn't stand out from the crowd. 

James Bond is a British hero.

James Bond is a British hero.


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