Wednesday, September 17, 2008

From the Horror File: No Time for "Heroes?"

Contradiction of the day, from the magical world of Harry Potter:

Dumbledore: Your attention please. I'd like to say a few words. Eternal Glory. That is what awaits the Student who wins the TriWizard Tournament. But to do this the Student must survive three tasks. Three extremely dangerous tasks. To explain all this we have the Head of the Department of Inernational Magical Cooperation, Mr. Bartemus Crouch... 

Dumbledore: Send a message to Azkaban. I think they'll find they're missing a prisoner. 
Barty Crouch Junior: [gloating] I'll be welcomed back like a hero! 
Dumbledore: Perhaps. Personally, I've never had much time for heroes. 

This is a contradiction that's been puzzling me, but I do have one theory. In keeping with the theme of a transition from the old concept of heroism to a new one, Landon Erp has suggested that possibly the word "hero," in its etymological roots, doesn't express the full range of the meaning that it's taken on, and has suggested the term "champion." It is very close in meaning to the word hero, but with a subtle nuance. I was initially supportive, but had second thoughts after reading Andrew Bernstein's THE PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATIONS OF HEROISM, , which makes a good case for retaining the word hero. Still, I think there is something to it, and the nuance between the words "hero" and "champion" would explain what Dumbledore is getting at in the above. Still, there's something not quite right with that explanation, given that the whole series revolves around the heroic exploits of Harry and his allies. The problem here is that Barty Crouch, Jr. works for the villain, and would be a hero to those who worship evil. This brings up a larger point, that what makes a hero is defined by one's values. But Dumblodore doesn't seem to make that distinction, and with his blanket statement, whether intentionally or not, dismisses all heroes, surrendering the idea to the villains in the process..
Sorry, Harry, I guess Dumbledore has no time for you...

Any thoughts?