Monday, May 17, 2010

The Death of a Heroes

The TV show Heroes had so much potential that I actually showed nearly the entire first season to one of my classes as I weaved the curriculum around it. There was so much conflict, characterization, and thematic aspects to work with, it was easy to come up with lesson after lesson.

Now let me answer a question posed here. To wit: why did Heroes fail?

My list begins with the same number one, but I come at it differently.

1) Let Heroes be Heroes. What I mean by that is let them use their powers. Let them get into titanic struggles with those powers. We saw so little of hero vs. villain throwdown. I mean, there'd be a moment here and a moment there, but heroes have the right... nay, they have the responsibility to kick the ass and look impressive doing it. It simply didn't happen enough.

2) The story must be more important than the actors. Allow characters to die, if the story requires it. Really, they needed to give all the actors only one season contracts at a time. This would allow the writers not to have to worry about contractual obligations, which I think was a problem. The Cheerleader should have been dead a long time ago, and few from season one needed to be around by season five.

3) Do not insult your audience. When you have supposedly intelligent characters, then they should do intelligent things most of the time. Don't make us wonder aloud at the screen, "Why don't they just [insert obvious plot fix here]? Is [enter character's name] really that dumb?" Allow for intelligence to best intelligence - see Sherlock Holmes vs. Moriarty.

4) Be careful of powers. This, really, is #1 in a lot of ways, because everyone who gets into the hero trade eventually realizes that they have to figure this out or writing will be a hellish task. Don't make heroes too powerful, otherwise you easily run into problems with #3 as the audience asks things like, "But he couldn't have snuck up on Sylar; he's got super hearing!" or "Nathan's Dad could just stop time and then plan for as long as he needed, then execute his plan without any of the heroes even having a chance to stop him, why doesn't he?"

5) Internal conflict is key. Bruce Wayne struggles with the death of his parents, Peter Parker struggles with the weight of responsibility, Tony Stark struggles with his alcoholism, and Logan struggles with his humanity. Each of the heroes needed to be fighting themselves as hard as they fought their villains.

If there was a #6, it would be: have fun! Half of the thrill of hero comics is the thrill of seeing wickedly cool stuff happen. That happens when the writers are having creating all sorts of things just because the idea of it is so fun. Like everything else, there was elements of that in Heroes, but there wasn't enough and it wasn't consistent.

Regardless of what lessons are learned, some have to be, because we all want another awesome show about people with super powers, but we don't need another Heroes.

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