Americans love the hero with swagger to the point that it’s almost become a stereotype of itself. I really feel like this applies to the current presidential race, as well as our favorite movies, TV shows, and books. I’m not saying Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders are the Han Solo or Deadpool of the political world, but the appeal of both groups comes from that same visceral feeling deep down inside everyone’s belly. It’s the appeal of being more than a hero, or doing good deeds. It’s the appeal of doing whatever it is you do with a little bit of style and heart. Everyone loves a winner, and everyone loves that guy (or girl) that bucks the system, does whatever they want (even when it’s obviously questionable), and somehow still manages to come out on top.
Let’s look at Han Solo and Indiana Jones (since they are basically the same character I’m different settings, and I have a huge man crush on Harrison Ford) as our example of the archetypal anti-hero with enough questionable morals, charisma, and good intentions to be the perfect representation of what every red-blooded American wishes they could be. Our beloved hero in Star Wars starts off by taking initiative and killing Greedo before he gets a chance. While this is questionable in a moral sense, I think everyone wants to be that decisive, and to take the initiative to get ahead (Oh, and by the way, Han Shot First). The next thing we see him do is make a grandiose claim about what he is capable of, knowing full well it isn’t exactly true, but it isn’t false either. Is the Millennium Falcon fast as fuck? Absolutely. Did it actually make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs like he claimed? Probably not considering a Parsec is a measure of distance, not time. This fact is really not that important since the point of the statement wasn’t to tell the truth, or to actually fulfill that exact promise. The point was the IDEA behind it, the FEELING and EMOTION behind it. The Point was that he wants good ol’ Obi Wan to know the ship is fast, and that he is the right man for the job of ensuring their safety and getting where they need to go without unwanted complications. So at this point we have seen Han murder someone in cold blood (for self-defense), exaggerate greatly in a show of bravado, and we obviously get the picture that he is the epitome of wheeling and dealing without regard to anything but covering his own ass, yet we all still love him just the same because in the end he does none of what he promises (to the point that he never even pays Jabba back, and actually ends up killing him and his entire group of possibly innocent party guests) and still manages to save the day. We don’t love Han for what he does or says really; we love that damn scruffy looking nerf herder because of the WAY he does it.
Now let’s look at our other classic example of heroism without actually being a “good guy.” Indiana Jones is supposedly a tenured archeology professor, renowned finder and preserver of rare artifacts, and apparently father figure for that kid who played Data in The Goonies. How does he have time to go on all of his Nazi killing excursions while still teaching classes? I have never gone to class and seen a note on the door about how the teacher is taking a few personal days to save to world, or find a mythical chalice. He doesn’t seem like a very good professor, especially if you actually pay attention to the plot of the movies and realize that aside from saving his dad’s life the end result would be exactly the same regardless of whether Indy was there or not. I mean the Nazis still opened the arch, and those crazy heart stealer guys are still out and about terrorizing the local villages cardiac units. Indy essentially just gives us something entertaining to watch while whatever is happening in the background goes along unphased. “What about all those precious artifacts that he saves?!?!?!” is probably what most of you are all thinking. Well not only does Indy suck at being around enough to actually teach anything, and actually doing anything to prevent the baddies in his movies from actually doing whatever the fuck they want, but he never actually gets any of the artifacts he is saving back to the museum. therefore, he is a terrible archaeologist on top of being a terrible teacher and world saver. Oh and remember that time he borrowed a small Asian kid and put him into immense danger? Yeah… not doing so good on the parenting front either, but his appeal isn’t about any of that. His appeal is all about his intentions and way of doing things. He WANTS to save the world, and preserve amazing relics, and use all of his mythical experiences to teach others about Archeology. We also put him in the Top 10 list of greatest hero’s portrayed on film because of the WAY he goes about doing a whole lot of nothing. He does it with a sly smile, a few well placed one liners, and a medium-sized airplane hangar’s worth of charisma. The way he goes about doing things completely overrides what he is actually doing because we all want to be like him in some way. Even if it isn’t in the front of our minds, deep down in the little pit, somewhere above the spleen and behind where your appendix was before those quacks took it out because it’s vestigial, is a desire to be a stylish, and charming anti-hero who saves the day without being Dudley Doright or some other stiff goody-goody, because all of us know we are deeply flawed even when we are doing good things. We can look at any number of popular characters that connect with us on a sub-emotional level: Deadpool, That bad ass dude Gerard Butler plays in Olympus has fallen, Wolverine, basically any Clint Eastwood character, James Bond, and the list could go on forever. It isn’t always about being the best, or being perfect, sometimes it’s about being the one who gets it done, and getting it done with some swagger.
Now that we see what makes such broken and questionable characters popular, let’s look at two very polarizing figures in the current race for the White House: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders (I don’t count Hilary because she is the Doctor Doom of politics, Ted Cruz because he isn’t anything THAT different from the norm for the GOP, or Kaisch because he is obviously not going to win or even be remembered by anyone in a few years except as that dude who didn’t quit when he should have). To the Republican party, and anyone who wouldn’t consider themself a liberal (conservatives, libertarians, moderates, etc.) Bernie is a nightmare of socialism, whiny “kids,” and a system where everyone got a trophy, but to his supporters he is a godsend that will fight all the wrongs they see in the world. To his followers he will crush the banks, educate and heal them, and finally give them all the things they have always wanted. I have no idea if he can actually do any of the things he promises (and personally loathe him, and for the most part his followers), but I totally see the appeal. He is flawed in all the right ways, he says what he wants, does what he wants, and has consistently been a thorn in the side of basically anyone he didn’t agree with. He’s charming in a very deceptive way, and at the same time is aggressive in a way that most left wingers never are. He is very much the Old-Jewish guy version of a 21st Century Robinhood. Of course he is popular, everyone loves the guy who will break the law and steal from the rich to give to the poor (not that Sanders would break the law to do it, but you get the idea). Trump isn’t that different in drawing appeal, though it’s from a VERY different crowd. To some Mr. Trump is loud, abrasive, bigoted and racist, but to his followers he is finally giving a voice to the masses who have felt stifled in recent years. For the Trump Train people out there, he is a mega-phone of Unpolitically correct ideals, business man bravado, and winning attitude. Everyone loves to feel confident, powerful, and most of all heard over the crowd. Trump makes his followers feel like he feels, untouchable and “cool.” Trump might not have the good looks of the hero’s we talked about above, or the ones in the picture, but what he does have is that appeal of being broken and kind of a dick while still somehow representing his people. Both Sanders and Trump represent what happens when we start letting our emotions and that little pit of feelings decide who we vote for or back as and candidate. Both are totally flawed to the point that their detractors can barely say a single kind ting, yet to their huddled masses they are a breath of fresh air that allows us to look beyond the glaringly obvious cracks in their armor. I will forever call this effect of swagger and appeal overshadowing the flaws the Han Solo effect. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong to use it in those choices, I’m just saying it very much explains the appeal of both of these outsider candidates to their followers.
Punk attitude/political insight
The Political Punk Dude