Not a very good essay. It all presumes to read into the Old Testament Nietzsche and Moses as a secular, empire-building visionary. Christianity, it is presumed, is all "slave morality." No examples are cited.

All of this overlooks the examples of saintly Christian kings and the prideful men brought low in both classical myth and in the Old Testament.

In other words, it's an essay that could only hold true in a world in which God does not exist (except maybe as a pretense for conquest).

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Oct 10, 2022Liked by Misha Saul

This sounds like you're fed up with the "Villains Act, Heroes React" trope. To be fair I'm also fairly fed up with it and like the aversions too. TVTropes lists these categories of aversions, where good guys get to be the ones with a plan:

* Variations on To Be a Master which require the hero to go beat up the other masters to claim the title

* Some forms of The Quest, like "Hey, I found a treasure map!"

* Most Great Escape stories

* Any story set in a Villain World where The Bad Guy Wins and the hero must reverse this outcome

* A variety of HeroesActVillainsHinder examples like Odysseus, Dorothy or Alice have the somewhat unsatisfying goal of just trying to get home, which still feels rather reactive

* Lelouch from Code Geass as mentioned by Sam

And, yes, I guess we could characterise Moses' story as The Great Escape (of the whole people of Israel).

There's a bit more discussion on TVTropes on why "Villains Act, Heroes React" is so much more common. Something they don't point out is that a reactive motivation for the hero makes it a lot easier for the hero to undergo character growth. If the plot is set in motion by the hero's vision, and they stand by that vision for the whole story, they're not having a life-changing growth experience.

Either way, I agree I would like to see more proactive heroes.

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Isn't Batman / Wayne a visionary good guy? Justice League is funded by him, most of the charities in Gotham are funded by him. He starts cleaning up Gotham and the Gotham PD and he clearly is defined as a hero.

Visionary good guys don't really get major comic book stories cause there is no real conflict in those stories.

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If you include the knights of medieval christendom and the conquistadors to this analysis, another explanation will fit the data better: the western world reacted to the horrors of the world wars and the holocaust by fearing power.

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Christian civilization gave us Columbus, Pizarro, Cortez, Napoleon, Nelson, Washington.

The problem is not Christianity.

That aside, the problem is a real one, and artfully articulated here.

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Sep 24, 2023Liked by Misha Saul

Excellent essay. Reminds me of why all YA novels use the "chosen one" trope. To pursue power or be ambitious is seen as evil.

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Very interesting article. I've been thinking about my favorite movies & documentaries of all time and many of them happen to fall into the quadrant of good & visionary. They are fuel to the soul. So I wouldn't quite agree those stories don't exist, only that they are in the sad minority. And there is also no big IP like Marvel built around such characters. Some movies that come to mind would be Whiplash & The Pursuit of Happyness.

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Girard pointed out that the hero is always flawed, with a limp, or blind in one eye, because the singling out is the true function of the hero story. We admire them, then we sacrifice them, and the message is “you don’t want to be like those guys”. Everybody revels in the downfall and destruction and then forgets desire, at least for a little while. It takes imitating Christ as your hero to truly achieve greatness.

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This is a fun essay; but

1) It's an astonishing mischaracterisation to say Billy Butcher is good but low-agency; he epitomises 'what needs to be done' - he tried to blow up a toddler (who was saved by Homelander)

2) It was a little jarring to go from talking about great men to taking cheap modern political potshots; claiming that left wing people can't enjoy breaking bad just weakens the piece

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Oct 9, 2022·edited Oct 9, 2022

Lelouch vi Britannia, the main character in Code Geass, fits all these Nietzschean Ubermensch qualities in the best sense of the term. He makes elaborate plans and ruthlessly executes them, conquers, literally has the power to make people obey orders, drips charisma, and tries to remake the world to his liking. Though it’s anime and thus not Hollywood/Western/Christian.

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Sep 12, 2022·edited Sep 12, 2022Liked by Misha Saul

Been wrestling with a lot of these questions myself, so I appreciated this essay.

Some thoughts: I think the reason sports care are the purest heroes is because they exist in an equitable ecosystem. The boundaries and rules are clear -- and the battle is who can squeak out the best performance within that ecosystem. Sports cars specifically because there isn't any doping like you see in other sports.

Also suggest re-examining Don Draper. It's been a few years since I watched Mad Men but he wasn't about empire building. He had no lofty plans or ambitions. He wanted to be a good ad man, and he was for the most part content with that. He regularly had to rebuff what others wanted him to be. His most pure and wholesome relationship in the series was with the widow of the actual Don Draper, and it's because she accepted him for who he was. Not just because she knew his secret, but because she didn't *want anything from him.* They had an understanding.

Meanwhile, it's everyone else around Don who is changing while they try to figure out who they are.

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Stendahl’s book the red and the black has a very funny scene where a guy gets his girlfriend to go to his room and rescue a secret picture he has under his pillow. She thinks it’s a picture of another woman but it turns out to be a picture of Napoleon.

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The genocide of the Midianites (like that of the Amalekites) was an evil act that no rational person should defend, not according to some idiosyncratic Christian "slave morality" but by its own logical structure. If your maxim starts by arguing that your neighbors are setting a bad example that threatens your community's way of life and sexual morality, and ends with massacring them in order to force prepubescent girls into sexual slavery, you've obviously lost track of basic moral facts along the way.

If you think it's a problem that progressive mass media tends to avoid genocide apologia (something you don't say explicitly, to be fair), I'm not sure how to respond except that I'm proud to be your political opponent. Did I miss the part of the essay where you try to explain, to a skeptical reader, why it's a bad thing if we have fewer role models whose commitment to trampling untermenschen underfoot in the service of their greater good is societally celebrated?

There's no shortage of modern progressive heroes with a Vision and a Plan who work hard to Transform the World—not just athletes and engineers but scientists, civil rights leaders, union organizers, public health crusaders, educators. We just balk at celebrating people whose master plans involve subjugating and murdering others, and I fail to see why we should.

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Aragorn is something like a Nietzschean superhero, though not exactly. He only wants what he's supposed to have, but what he's supposed to have is to establish himself as King in the greatest city of middle earth. He's a great war leader. Arwen is the most beautiful woman, and he wins her.

On other hand, he retires from war-making as soon as he sensibly can. Arwen is almost entirely off-stage. He's willing to sacrifice himself to give Frodo and Sam a chance. And I don't think he has a huge fandom, he's too reasonable.

He's a better person to share a world with than Alexander or Napoleon.

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8

I suppose one could call a Hitler or a Stalin a "visionary". Both saw themselves as heroes.

Be careful what you wish for.

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Modern Heroes must be reactive because the masters of society want their tax-slaves to think that reaction = heroism. That's why the whole Q-tard "trust the plan" nonsense worked so well to nullify any true revolutionary intent. "Only bad guys are violent" is the catechism of the modern rightist. And if you point out that no revolution was won without it, they'll call you a fed and go back to "trusting the plan."

I don't see a future for the west, just a yawning abyss to fall into.

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