Heroism In Media

Performing services for an individual, group or organization; a hero is one who is willing to risk their lives in defense of certain ideals. “The key to heroism is a concern for other people in need” (Zimbardo 2011). Heroes serve great deeds to society and also function as an indicator of that society’s morality and teachings. The values of a culture are what determine the definition of a hero. Below are examples of a hero in different cultures.


In this book cover from Chang Jae Lee, the trope is Hero and the trope represents the Japanese Samurai Warrior. The materiality of this book cover represents Japanese culture through the dress and the tools (Kapaj 2003). This warrior’s dress appears to be a flowing fabric, not wearing armor; his survival is dependent on his skill with the sword (Kapaj 2003). The deep purples, greens, and blues in the dress serve to show a sense of royalty and elegance. The juxtaposition of the Samurai on top of the illustrated lotus flower is indicative of a certain strife to fight against uneven odds, considering that a lotus flower grows in muddy pond water. The lotus flower is adorned as a symbol of awakening and enlightenment (Earth.com Staff Writer). Understanding these symbols is influenced by that of Japanese culture.


In this example of a Volunteer Firefighter Poster, the trope is Hero and the trope represents bravery. The relaxed position of the firefighter standing with the axe over their shoulder depicts a relaxed alertness. This person is standing in the line of battle and not stepping away. An anonymous bravery can be interpreted by the viewer not being able to see the features of the face. In American culture, serving your community while risking your life is seen as a selfless act of heroism. The silhouetted image of the person in front of an active fire juxtaposed with the text “Do you have what it takes?” prompts the reader to put themselves in the shoes of this person and consider risking their life to help others in an emergency. The text challenges the viewer – “Do you want to be a hero? Here is how.” A hero is one who understands the risks involved in their line of duty. The block of text at the bottom that says “Become one of Harrison’s Bravest” is asking the viewer to step up to take on those responsibilities to be the bravest in their community. This text prompts the reader to see that they can be the bravest by pursuing this act of becoming a firefighter.


In this example from Sports Illustrated Magazine, the trope is Hero and the trope represents role models. A hero is a cultural symbol that people look up to. In the early 1990s in America, Michael Jordan was a sports icon. Everybody wanted to “Be Like Mike” (Quinn 2020). Michael’s relaxed pose contrasted against the kids’ excitement represents his humble attitude. The athletic clothes Michael is wearing is representative of the hero’s uniform. Humbling doing his duty. A hero does not flaunt their abilities, they are selflessly working towards a better future for everyone. The irony is that Michael Jordan at that time was trying to become the best basketball player (Hehir 2020). American culture is willing to neglect some facets of a person’s values based on the sheer celebrity of that individual (“Heroes in Today’s Media, Have They Changed?” 2017). The text “Why it’s not easy being America’s biggest sports hero” in contrast to the image of Michael smiling and being praised by the kids further represents a heroic quality that the hero is always fighting against greater odds.



Zimbardo, Philip. “What Makes a Hero?” Greater Good Magazine January 18, 2011, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_makes_a_hero 

Hehir, Jason, creator. The Last Dance. Netflix, 19 April 2020, https://www.netflix.com/title/80203144

“Heroes in Today’s Media, Have They Changed?” Graduateway, 22 Jul 2017, https://graduateway.com/heroes-todays-media-changed-99/ 

Kapaj, Luigi. “Hero as the Cultural Ideal.” 2003, http://puppy.viahistoria.com/classwork/hero.html#:~:text=The%20concept%20of%20heroism%20reflects,the%20virtues%20portrayed%20through%20them

Earth.com Staff Writer. “Why the Lotus Flower is a Plant Celebrity.” Earth.com 4 April 2019, https://www.earth.com/earthpedia-articles/why-the-lotus-flower-is-a-plant-celebrity/#:~:text=About%20the%20Lotus%20Flower&text=It%20grows%20in%20northern%20India,other%20parts%20of%20East%20Africa

Quinn, Sam. “Be Like Mike: Gatorade remakes classic Michael Jordan ad with Zion Williamson, Jayson Tatum, Elena Delle Donne.” CBS 3 May 2020, https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/be-like-mike-gatorade-remakes-classic-michael-jordan-ad-with-zion-williamson-jayson-tatum-elena-delle-donne/