“Not all Heroes Wear Masks” – The Kind of Hero We Should be Inspired by

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Since I am a self-professed and proud nerd, a question I am asked as a conversation starter on a regular basis is ‘Who’s your favourite superhero?’ Of course, I am a Batman fanatic so I reply with such and begin discussing in detail several reasons as to why until their eyes glaze over. It becomes evident they have no idea what I am talking about anymore (because their only knowledge of Batman is from seeing the 1992 animated series as a kid or through the mental scars left from Clooney’s nipple defining Batsuit in 1997). Of course, those eyes that were fully glazed suddenly widen to full panic when I ask the same question back to them and they quickly change the topic.

I must make clear that I am not complaining that they avoid the question though as it was originally an attempt to make small talk with me and so I am thankful for them taking an interest. I am certain many people are not interested in comic books or superheroes just as I am not interested in football. So I understand the limits one can have on topics that do not interest us for example I know little about the current football players and managers (the last manager of Man United I recall was Alex Ferguson – which I can now claim, after googling, there have been 3 since then).  What I have come to realise though is that the question we should be asking each other is not ‘who is your favourite superhero?’ but ‘who is your hero?’. Not celebrity wise but on a much personal scale. After all, we are all heroes in our own way.

You dear reader may not realise this but someone may consider you an inspiration. I for one did not believe I could be until one day recently, as I slowly fell asleep, I came to realise the number of times people have told me how motivated they were by actions I took. For example, after coming out of the closet, one of my best friends decided to tell our group that he was a furry (one that is interested in fictional anthropomorphic animal characters and is wrongly thought by others to enjoy ‘furry sex’). He told me that my coming out had inspired him to trust us all as I did with him. Of course at the time I felt complimented but only now do I see the significance I was part of in helping my friend be proud and honest to whom he is.

Of course I am also inspired by those around me too. My 6th form tutor truly inspired me to be who I am without trying to, by simply being herself it inspired me to want to live a life like hers; a life with no limits. My partner obviously inspires me (cue a sickeningly sweet ‘aww’), he inspires me to try new things and once in a while leave my comfort zone. One such moment I recall it happening was when I rode ‘The Smiler’ (the world’s record holding rollercoaster with the most inversions) at Alton Towers which I must admit was no easy feat for a lily-livered man such as I. There are others also, family members, friends, teachers, even people I have only met once through chance encounters.

I ask you reader, to think hard and think about who your hero is? Who has encouraged you to be the best you can be? Made you do things you never would have done by yourself and made you so glad they encouraged you to do so? For me that would be much more of an ice breaker than any superhero could be.

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Tonight Matthew, I’m gonna be…’ – The lack of contemporary Role Models in a celebrity-crazed Culture

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What has happened to us when we find ourselves ogling celebrities and ignoring those that actually make a huge difference in the world? Where are the people that value the importance of individuals like Harvey Milk and Tony Benn rather than Kim Kardashian and Kanye West? Celebrity culture seems to have replaced any ambitions society may have once had and although the celeb life may be intriguing, putting them on a pedestal does not help progress our society but arguably regresses it instead.

Tabloid newspapers have concerned themselves so much with the Katie Prices of the world for so long that they have lost sight of the politicians, scientists, writers and so many more which have all contributed in developing the culture we live in now. Where would we be without the fairly unknown Willem Kolff who created the first artificial kidney dialysis machine thereby saving so many lives? As it has always been with humanity, we have forgotten to respect and look up to those that have given things we take for granted today; women’s rights, penicillin and the light bulb just to name a few. The examples I have given are evident proof of how the media are so preoccupied with the easily disposable star that it has become nearly impossible to name a contemporary celebrity worthy of aspiring to. Malala Yousafzai, the girl who stood up to the Taliban or even Dan Savage and Terry Miller who independently created the ‘It Gets Better Project’ into a worldwide movement are the sort of people we should be aspiring to and praising rather than the random celebrity who occasionally supports a humanitarian cause.

Celebrity used to be reserved for those with a skill that we, the adoring audience, saw as worthy to look up to but somewhere between two world wars and the creation of the internet we lost the true meaning of what it means to be a celebrity. Most celebrities today can be seen as leeches, suckling off of the working man, becoming rich for very little reason other than because we allow it. Perhaps it is time we brush the sparkles from our eyes and take a hard look at the kind of people we let reach fame.  Reading stories about a 19 year old Canadian that speeds at 136mph in a Lamborghini and a 27 year old actor who dons a paper bag on his head claiming he is ‘not famous anymore’ is getting tiresome and, with an entire business based around the celebrity industry such as the paparazzi, it is sadly becoming too frequent in the news. Are these the kind of people that we want our future children to aspire to be like? Where have all the true inspirational role models gone?