My wife, the ever-astute-observer-of-everything, made a very interesting observation the other day while we were watching TV (which, of course, preaches truth unwittingly). Her observation was simple but profound: There is a large dichotomy between the way our culture counsels people in our day-to-day lives and what our culture values in the heroes of our stories.
In this particular instance we were watching the show Jericho. The contrast between the heroes and villains is stark: the heroes sacrifice themselves for others while the villains and creeps only care about themselves. While we witnessed this in Jericho, it’s a pretty safe assumption that this principle holds true in whatever show you happen to be watching.
What’s fascinating about the identification of heroes & villains along these lines in TV shows is that much of the way we’re counselled to live in real life is ‘do what makes you happy’ and ‘look out for number 1.’ To draw out the contrast, think about this: if people actually lived according to those rules and their lives were broadcast, they would actually be making themselves the villains.