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Heroes and Villains

Darton Longman and Todd
RRP $34.95

In his book Heroes and Villains Mike Alsford takes the reader through a kaleidoscopic post-modern journey skipping across rapid snippets of the pop culture comic book, TV and film heroes and villains.

As an afficionado of Sci Fi and pop culture, I was drawn to this short book. Anyone who seriously tries to deal with the underlying themes in these is worth a few points at least.

Alsford tries to argue that examining the archetypal roles of hero and villain helps us to be more aware of our own culture’s values and our own ethical standards.

There is a bewildering array of scenes and examples drawn upon as he strolls through his subject. Buffy is mixed with Superdude, Frodo, Harry Potter, Dr Who, Batman and their enemies.

I would have to argue against him that there is some consistent notion of hero or villain. Each, I would suggest, operates as heroes/heroines for very different reasons and on differing levels of moral strength or ambiguity.

He argues that a hero is ultimately defined in serving others interests in self-sacrifice in some form whereas villains gives in to their need for power.

He makes connections between his themes and related points made by a range of philosophers and theologians showing a knowledgeable breadth of familiarity with their work. These include Nietzche, Sartre, Derrida, Pannenberg and Moltmann.

I would have liked a discussion of the underlying philosophical notions and theological assumptions which have been publicly admitted to underlie the works of Tolkien, JK Rowling, George Lucas and Roddenberry.

While not an easy read Heroes and Villains is a thought provoker and, while not at all a fan of post-modern rhetoric, this may be a useful discussion starter to bring theology to the lovers of escapist culture.

Reviewed by Robert Brennan, a Minister at Banora Point Uniting Church