January 3, 2010

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: PunchFace or, Why Do We Like Our Heroes Better When They’re Beat Up?

In the new JJ Abrahamson reboot of STAR TREK, skidrow bum/cadet/PunchFace/captain Kirk is slugged by his enemies sixteen times (as opposed to only being slugged by people who would become his friends later four times); shot at with hand weapons, ship weapons and missiles innumerable times; strangled or thrown by his enemies nine times (as opposed to being injected, pushed, slapped, thrown or strangled an additional nine times by his friends); he hurts himself twice, is chased (by security officers, a furry thing and a lizardy thing) three times and mind-melded against his will once. Total number of countable physical and mental injuries in one movie: 40 (allergic reactions are being counted here as one and the same as involuntary injections…)

Kirk in the original series was pummeled as well because of his attitude or by chance or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was always wiping a trickle of blood from his chin and was frequently the punching bag of friend and foe alike.

Lest you think I’m a STARWARS-o-phobe, while I don’t have episodes IV, V and VI on DVD yet and can’t do an actual PunchFace count, I recall Luke Skywalker taking an unnatural number of hits as well. Perhaps even more than Han Solo did; though certainly more than those meted out to Princess Leia.

Nevertheless, and in keeping with my theme of exploring the intersection of faith and science fiction, I’m going to throw Jesus into the mix as well. The Bible even prophesied that he was going to be a PunchFace. Isaiah 53:5 says, “ But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” It’s well-known that He was crucified on a cross after being scourged and humiliated.

While according to the internet, both Muhammed and the Buddha died of poisoning it’s clear that they suffered at the end. While Hindus never die and are either reincarnated or achieve Nirvana, many Hindus have suffered and died in their service as well. It is the ones who suffer that we remember best.

Is it any surprise that our heroes and heroines are the ones who suffer most either before they die or at death? Is it a subconscious Human condition that in order to achieve greatness, someone must suffer and die for their cause? Is it something we’re hard-wired to respect and revere? We even have a saying that can be applied to anything from weight-lifting programs to monastic ascetism: “No pain, no gain”.

So, it is any surprise that our SF heroes and heroines also suffer and die in spectacular ways?

Not to me, it isn’t! How about you?

PunchFace to Eternity anyone?

image: http://pics.livejournal.com/65pigeons/pic/000a3faa/s320x240


Becky said...

I think that they do it in order to make them more human and less god-like and perfect. It is part of the human condition to suffer, feel pain and get hurt both physically and emotionally. So if our heroes never get a cut, always defeat their enemies like nothing and are all in all undefeatable that makes them not human. If, however, they get banged around a bit, fail a few times but keep trying and win in the end then we can relate to them, they become more human and more real to the reader/viewer. Christ had to suffer because that is part of being human and God in His wisdom, decided to become fully and completely human and so had to feel all that we have ever felt, including pain. He suffered what we were all meant to suffer for our sins, took it all himself and died so that we are all saved from our sins. He had to suffer because it is part of human life to suffer, likewise we want our heroes to suffer because otherwise they are less real to us and therefore we could not be so good as they are. When our fictional heroes become more real then we are more challenged to be good like them, to fight the evil of the world, take the punches and keep going for the sake of goodness.

GuyStewart said...


Perfect. Couldn't have said it better if I'd been to seminary.

Absolutely perfect.


ca nadeau said...

Interesting. God knows I make my heroes suffer before they perservere, although not always physically.

Becky said...

Thanks. This is something that I think about a lot. In fact i get rather peeved when the hero is not hurt or if they are hurt but (in the case of film)it does not show or they don't continue to remember the hurt. It could just be I am a ridiculous stickler for accuracy in the things I watch...

slxpluvs said...

What was your intent in posting this the day before school started back up?

GuyStewart said...

None that I was aware of...

scribe said...

Much like with reality TV (shudder) we feel the need for those who exploits we watch to suffer more than us as payback for their more interesting and meaningful lives.