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What I learned about heroes from Clint Eastwood

I saw the movie “Sully” recently, the story of the impossible water landing of an Airbus by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and co-pilot Jeff Skiles. The movie follows a classical hero saves the day plot, and these two pilots fit the bill.

I was struck by how their story and the definition of a hero are similar to the director Clint Eastwood’s fictional movies and the men he has portrayed.

Clint Eastwood has been likeable and unlikeable men in the movies. Some have been relatable, others fantastical. The qualities of heroism shine through in all his characters.

His heros are unassuming and modest men. They rise to an occasion with quiet confidence and they do the job required of them. Faced with injustice, Eastwood’s hero doesn’t back down. He’s quick to praise others. The Eastwood hero isn’t self-promoting and doesn’t brag about his accomplishments, and he makes no claims to perfection. Deep in his core, he is the protector of innocence and kindness.

The Man with No Name was a man of action and few words. He wasn’t perfect and made no claim to be. He was an ordinary man who found himself in extraordinary circumstances (The Civil War in “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”)

In the “Outlaw and Josie Wales”, the hero sets out for revenge after his family is murdered. He’s a loner who takes a leadership role to protect innocent settlers.

William Munny in “Unforgiven” is a reluctant hero who must do what is necessary to take care of his family. He returns to his past self, a gunslinger, which doesn’t turn out well for those who oppose him.

The Preacher in “Pale Rider” protects a small town from a greedy villain. He provides the balance of the scales of justice when the scales are tipped unfairly for the bad guy.

Walt Kowalski in “Gran Torino” is not a pleasant man to be around. When he stands up to bullies, he protects those who need it.

Boxing trainer in “Million Dollar Baby” is another disagreeable type, grouchy and cynical. When asked to do the unthinkable, he makes a selfless choice.

The Romance Genre loves these kinds of heroes. The reader wants likable/relatable men who deserve the heroine. A man who is confident is very sexy. A man who thinks of others and fights the good fight is a man every woman yearns for.

In the romance genre, the hero/heroine are redeemed by love. A romance requires a ‘happily ever after’ ending which makes it different from other genres, but the requirements of what makes a hero are very similar to the action/adventure genre of Clint Eastwood.