Heroes: Bitter and Jaded Misanthropes

I’m still watching Season 1 of Heroes, and I’ve noticed a tension that crops up now and again. It’s between being jaded and bitter in isolation, and loving and being loved within a community.

Peter Petrelli has encountered a bitter figure who’s able to become invisible. I’ll call him “Invisible Man.” Invisible Man uses his power to steal from others, and, although he’s quite misanthropic, he cares for his birds. Invisible Man is trying to train Peter to use his powers. Basically, Peter is able to imitate the power of whatever mutant he happens to be around. If Peter’s around someone who can paint the future, then Peter can paint the future. If he’s around someone who can regenerate her wounded body, then Peter can regenerate his wounded body. You get the picture.

Invisible Man is teaching Peter to recover the abilities that he’s imitated in the past, even when Peter is not around those particular mutants. He tells Peter that he needs to have no associations with other people: he must be on his own, with no attachments. Peter learns, however, that he regains an ability when he thinks about the mutant who possesses it. For example, Peter was able to regenerate his wounded body after falling down a building when he thought about Claire, a cheerleader with that ability. He remembered how Claire is a sweet and nice person. “You told me that I need to detach myself from others,” Peter tells Invisible Man. “But, actually, I draw on my abilities when I attach myself to others–by thinking about them.”

In a later episode, Hiro’s partner has ditched him to help out a babe in Las Vegas (or so Hiro thinks). The babe locks Hiro in a closet, and he is busted out by a man who wants to catch the babe and take whatever she’s stolen. I’ll call him “Bald Guy.” Bald Guy talks about how he hates having partners, since they’ll stab you in the back. When Hiro says that his partner is an exception, Bald Guy reminds Hiro that his partner has ditched him to go with some babe. Hiro then rescues his partner is a crossfire, but he concludes that he must bear the burden of his mission alone. And so he says to Stan Lee!

Both Invisible Man and Bald Guy have had bitter experiences with other people. Invisible Man doesn’t explicitly say that, but there has to be some reason that he’s misanthropic and steals. He doesn’t fit into a community, and so he doesn’t see himself as entitled to a community. And Bald Guy has had some pretty bad partners in his past!

Peter Petrelli and Hiro, however, have had good experiences with people, so they have a more positive view of attachments, people, and community.

Personally, I identify more with Invisible Man and Bald Guy, which is why I don’t get all warm and fuzzy on the inside whenever I hear the word “community.” I admire seeing community on television–as when I watch Desperate Housewives or Stephen King’s It–but I usually don’t think of community as something that is possible for me, so I don’t get enthusiastic about it in the realm of real life.

Does such an attitude turn away others? Perhaps, but being nice doesn’t always bring a reward. We may talk about community, but, by and large, people are only interested in themselves and their friends.

But I don’t want my misanthropic attitude to degenerate into utter selfishness, which, in some sense, is what happens to Invisible Man and Bald Guy. Invisible Man steals, and Bald Guy wants to get whatever the babe has (either as part of his law enforcement job, or to get some money for himself). It’s easy for an alienated person to develop an attitude that does not care about others.

At the same time, there is always some hope. Invisible Man, after all, is training Peter to use his abilities more effectively, so a selfish person can try to make selfless decisions. Maybe Invisible Man practiced doing so by caring for his pigeons!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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