I love 80s movies. If you were lucky enough to have grown up in the 80s, then you’ll probably remember watching the iconic movies of that decade. Movies like The Goonies, The Karate Kid, Back to the Future, Labyrinth, Die Hard, The Lost Boys, Big Trouble in Little China and The Never Ending Story; heroic movies where the underdog saves the day. Ahhh. Bliss. Movies today aren’t as simplistically raw as they were back then, don’t you agree?
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What you may not have realised, is that there is a formula for most heroic stories or movies. The hero generally starts out as someone unassuming, maybe a little unsure of themselves – the beginning. They are the underdog that comes up against a significant challenge – the middle. Despite all odds, all insecurities, all obstacles and through all adversity, they discover their own power and triumph over their adversary – the end.
Looking back at these movies it seems it was a much simpler time. No overly complex plots or extravagant special effects to dilute the storyline. We connected and believed in these characters because they started out like us, they were normal people living normal problems, but then something calls them to action. Someone needs saving. They take up the challenge and despite their afflictions or hardship, they step up and save the day.
These movies left you feeling empowered. That you could face anything. They left you feeling that you too could be a hero.
The Makings of a Hero / Heroine
But what makes them heroes exactly? The only thing that sets them apart from the rest… their strong belief in their mission or desire to succeed in their purpose. They have a goal. A cause greater than themselves. A cause that helps others. This cause is the guiding force in their journey, the one thing that allows them to overcome their own insecurities, shortcomings, setbacks and vulnerabilities. The bigger picture.
In The Goonies, the hero was Mikey Walsh, an asthmatic, optimistic pre-teen who believed so strongly, no matter the teasing, the criticism or the contempt, in the pirate treasure of One-Eyed Willie and their ability to find it and save their community from foreclosure. We rallied behind him and his band of misfits for the adventure, for the bravery, for the glory of fellow pre-teens everywhere.
In The Lost Boys, the hero is Sam Emerson, a young teenager of divorced parents and a fan of comic books who, together with his new friends the Frog brothers, must save his older brother from making his first kill and turning into a full-blown vampire. No adult believed Sam. He needed help and the stakes were high (pun intended), but adults just dismissed him. So, he had to man up and be the hero his brother needed.
The Hardships of a Would-Be Hero / Heroine
We all have our hangups. Maybe, like Sam, our ideas or concerns are ignored or dismissed. Maybe we’re too shy, unconfident or care too much what others think. Maybe we don’t like the way we look, lack self esteem and put ourselves down all the time. Maybe we had a rough childhood, had to grow up sooner than we should have and feel responsible for everyone around us, never putting ourselves first; Never believing that we deserve or are capable of more.
*spoiler alert *
In The Neverending Story, it’s shy, bullied and friendless 10 year old Bastian Bux, who becomes the hero to save the mythical land of Fantasia from destruction. He truly is the underdog, but the land of Fantasia believes in their human child hero.
*spoiler alert *
In Big Trouble In Little China, it was the quick-talking, loner trucker Jack Burton; a somewhat selfish character with many faults and failures, but comes through in the end to help save his friend’s fiancé and a gutsy journalist from their abduction by ancient Chinese sorcerer Lo Pan. Another semi-mystical world with a down-to-earth, flawed and unexpected hero.
We all have our own personal adversity. Things that are holding us back or down. We are not alone in that respect. We all have our own individual stories and our troubled pasts. But who is going to be the hero in yours? Will you wait around for some dashing prince charming or white knight to come and rescue you? Will you be the heroine or the damsel in distress?
Find Your Purpose. Start Your Adventure.
That’s the thing about happy endings, they’re great in movies. It’s what makes you excited to watch, keeps you connected to the protagonist and rooting for their triumph. But in real life, you can’t always count on someone coming in to save you and then you both going off into the sunset living happily ever after. It doesn’t always work out that way and it can be hugely disappointing when we discover and actually admit that to our real live selves. But that doesn’t mean you are doomed.
You just need a cause. Whatever the personal adversity we face, when we find that cause, that purpose, we look and act beyond ourselves and our problems. We find a way to make it work.
What cause would you like to be involved in? How could you help others in some way? What is your purpose?
When our purpose or cause involves others we create a sense of obligation to see it through to the end in a way that we wouldn’t do if our purpose just served ourselves. When it’s just us we need to save, we get to a point where we lose hope, we give in, we get discouraged and give up. We justify our efforts and give ourselves a pass. It happens all the time.
How many times have you tried to lose weight, incorporated exercise into your daily routine, given up a habit like smoking or drinking or tried to eat healthily? If you answered more than ‘once’, then you know what I’m talking about. How many times have you said no to that slice of chocolate cake and instead opted for the celery stick or begrudgingly passed on a glass of wine and instead accepted a glass of water? See, it’s hard. And we are all too easy on ourselves.
But when others are involved and relying on us, we find an inner strength to step up to the plate. To make good on our promise. To not let them down. That is the secret to being a hero or heroine. When you become a heroine, you don’t just help those relying on you, you help yourself out of your rut or self imprisonment too. It’s a double win for the heroine.
The Real Life Happy Ending
The journey of the hero is never quick and easy. You’d never learn anything or change anything if it were easy. There would be no growth or character building. There would be no need for a hero or even much of a story if it were easy to fix. No hero is born from an easy life and nothing is going to be fixed in 2 hours, contrary to the movies. The hero is born from adversity, against all odds. It takes time. A trial by fire journey. They are often the ones you’d least expect to succeed. But in time, they do.
Maybe it’s time that you become that kickass heroine of your own life. What you do next matters. Take action. Make things happen. Stop living inside your head or living someone else’s life. Don’t let your insecurities, doubts or fears hold you back. Be the action heroine.The story is your life. It’s time to write your own damn ending.
Which part of the journey are you on? How will your story end?