Who is your favorite modern hero?

The hero and the advertisement

They have always existed, the heroes. They existed in ancient times and they existed in mythical sagas in the Middle Ages. It is there today. Their stories are told in books, comics, films and at the media studies seminar at the University of Basel.

Heroes act selflessly, they accomplish extraordinary things, they stand up for others; Heroes are never spectators, they are always actors. In short: the classic hero and his deeds are sublime.

At least that's what I thought, because something is wrong with him. Or not anymore. The hero experiences an existential crisis in today's world, because the classic hero image no longer fits into the modern world. And you can see that best in advertising.

There is a key figure besides the hero: the narrator.

The classic hero acts selflessly, he has no economic interest, he is not calculating. What it is about is not a material good. He cares about the honor. And because you can't boast about yourself, the hero's good deed always needs reporting.

Who knows how many heroes have disappeared silently from the scene, simply because no one was there to keep them alive for the future by preserving their incredible stories? Or to put it another way: storytelling is everything.

The hero is a symbol of change. He intervenes wherever unforeseeable consequences for him and his life are to be expected in order to work against evil. In a sense, the hero is a paradox: sometimes he has to behave illegally to uphold the law. The duel he is embarking on is anachronistic. He's an outlaw, he's not part of modern society and its laws, and he never can be. He fights for the good cause, he has a vision of what is good and just and is therefore the decisive idea as a person. But whoever fights also needs an opponent.

But how do you become a hero now? Who do you have to fight against and who do you have to defeat in order to be named a hero?

It's about incredible physical strength, invulnerability and fearlessly looking danger in the eye. But these exceptional figures, writes Max Rauner in an article in Zeit, are a thing of the past. The modern hero is no longer invulnerable and superhuman. And above all: He is no longer exclusively male. At least that's what you should think in 2019.

Where are the heroines actually? Why is being a hero so strong in being a man? Because the underlying Hercules idea and the longing for him has by no means gone under. Obviously, at this point, the nostalgia for modern man prevails.

And that brings us to longing. A long-derived and enduring human wish to overcome evil in favor of happiness. "The salvable present", writes Walter Benjamin in "the uncanny modernity", "makes the hero role available again, because the modern hero is not an ancient hero, but rather a hero actor". It's about the possibility of being someone completely different, or at least pretending to be for a moment. But how exactly is that supposed to be possible?

With the right product, or the right attitude, or the right diet, anything is possible. At least that is what the heroes in advertising promise, but they promise it almost exclusively only to men. If you are advertising heroes, then please also by and for potential heroines.

As difficult as it is to define the hero over the millennia, one attribute must never be missing: the enemy. And with him the irrepressible will to defeat him. Because to assert yourself, you always need an opponent. And who could be a bigger opponent than yourself?

The sporting goods manufacturer Nike has rethought the concept of the hero a bit. Instead of confronting the hero with an external opponent, Nike locates the real enemy inside the hero himself: laziness.

Maybe you can get through this new, universal one Form of definition of the enemy within, overlook the fact that at Nike mostly male actors are in the foreground - but everyone who wants to overcome their displeasure is addressed.

The emotional brand placement can begin. Nike knows exactly how often we quarrel, how rarely motivation is sufficient, how much more comfortable it is to postpone the sport until tomorrow or next week or really very soon - and yet they only have one short sentence for us: Just do it. Overcome him, the enemy within, be a hero, or better: be your own hero.

At this point the ancient hero gets a problem: where is the higher, universal goal? What is it all for? Just do it. Be the idol you may never have yourself. Overcoming laziness as the enemy of modern man gives the new hero status. The To become active is now the goal to be achieved, whereas it used to be the starting point for the great deeds of the ancient heroes.

Overcoming your own limits is what Dynamisan Forte also means. However, the pharmaceutical company is going in a completely different direction: “Efficient. Concentrated. Strengthened. ”Is the slogan on the billboards. Tired businessmen are touted the capsules as a way out of the lack of energy, thus bringing the focus back to the man who, despite every exertion, apparently heroically fulfills his duties. “Being a hero” therefore means overcoming one's own limits in order to be more productive, more concentrated and more masculine; In short: to be more than the ordinary, the normal, the human.

The indestructible need for a meaningful story moves the employee depicted on the advertising poster to go to the office despite all the adversities in the form of tiredness, lack of concentration and a feeling of weakness. It defines itself through achievement, not through the achievement of a higher and universally valid deed. Although he brings Hercules ’strength and perseverance with him, his fight is not directed against an external opponent, but against himself. And the ancient hero no longer understands the world.

You are a hero and you would be embarrassed to say it yourself. But that's not the only thing that is embarrassing. Even at Innocent, it doesn't seem to have arrived yet that the new heroines possibly drink smoothies.

But all in all, this example also shows the very fundamental problem of the modern hero: the greatest good in the modern world is attention, especially in digital media. What's the point of a great deed if you can't like it, comment on it or share it?

The hero needs attention, and that's what he has always needed. He just never had to assert himself next to countless YouTube videos, memes and millions of tweets. The hero needs his narrator platform more than ever today. Innocent shows a way out of this dilemma: We see you and your heroism! The certainty that the feat will be heeded. Even if only collectively. So, if you want to be a hero, you will only become one through our product, very easy.

Haix, a German functional clothing manufacturer, asks in its campaign "When are you actually a hero?"

The answer is a whole selection of professional groups that represent potential heroes: firefighters, rescue workers, police officers. All those who are not afraid, who do not hesitate for a second to help; Those who cross borders and those who protect their Achilles heels with safe shoes.

The instinctive choices for the good are the moments that bring a hero to life. And, despite professions with a very masculine connotation, at HAIX these are both men and women. Because true heroes and heroines are defined by their actions and not by their gender. That might sound pathetic now, but maybe it has to be like that when you write about heroes.

The modern hero has a problem of definition because he no longer fits into the framework of the invulnerable, fearless, adventurous and above all male ancient hero and will not do the same with smoothies, tablets and sports outfits. That is why the true ones must be Contemporary heroes and Contemporary heroines Reinvent them so that they do not perish next to the nostalgic longing and the ambitious hero actors of the digital media.