Ah, December. It begins smack in the middle of the American holiday season, shortly after Thanksgiving and stretching out three and a half weeks before Christmas. We’ve got plenty of things on our mind: gift-giving, delicious food, and in many cases, helping those less fortunate than ourselves – or, in other words, contributing to the greater good.
In fact, the greater good is what most stories in geek culture are all about. In an interview with Girls in Capes in July, web comic artist Erin Filson said, “I know that whenever I have a chance to be a hero or make a difference, I’m like ‘oh, that’s exactly what I want to do,’ because it’s what all the characters that I like in comic books actually do.” With that kind of attitude in mind, how many other geeks are more than willing to make a positive difference?
The answer is more than you’d probably think. With Filson and the rest of HollabackPhilly’s street harassment comic aside, geeks across the country and around the world are contributing to the greater good in the names of their favorite heroes, from the Harry Potter Alliance to DC Comics’ We Can Be Heroes charitable campaign. We know from watching and reading about our favorite heroes what it means to do good.
Or do we?
Though the average Superman has nice, clear-cut missions to uphold truth, justice, and the American Way, not every hero has such an obvious mission.
Should a heroine destroy a corrupt and tyrannical government, like Katniss in The Hunger Games, or should she help change the country she loves from within, like June from Legend?
Should a hero allow his nemesis to live and potentially strike again, as with Batman and the Joker, or should a heroine end a threat in the most effective way possible, as Wonder Woman did in Infinite Crisis?
Should a hero let go of all that holds him to the Earth in order to defeat his foe, like Harry in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, or should he hold tight to what holds him to the Earth to do so instead, like Aang in Avatar: The Last Airbender?
The Greater Good comes in many forms, which is what we’ll explore this month at Girls in Capes. Does it serve the greater good most for a hero to remain morally pure, or is it better if a heroine take on the moral impurity of the world in order to protect others from having to do the same?
(Or maybe the greater good means something different altogether.)
No matter what greater good is calling our favorite heroes, they always answer the call – and that’s what we love so much about them. But just what that greater good is has an incredible influence over how we view the greater good in our own lives, and understanding how our heroes display their own dedication to the greater good can help us understand the passions in our own lives.
Whether Avatar Aang led you on a path to nonviolence or Keladry of Mindelan taught you the value of hard work over all else, the stories we love and the heroes we look up to have changed how we see the greater good in our own worlds. What heroes and heroines have influenced your idea of the greater good?
Feliza Casano is the founder and editor in chief of Girls in Capes and writes for all sections of the web magazine. Follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano.