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Double Hero as a Modern Phenomenon in Hollywood Movies



Jack et son corps humanoïde.png
Victor et Rick.jpg
Whyte et Billy.jpg
Thelma and Louise (1991) - En coche conduce Louise girando.jpg
Hartman et Guignol.jpg
Jack et son corps humanoïde.png

Single-hero films marked the beginning of cinema and it could be still the fashion in making films until now. On the other hand, many other films emerged after the World War II and used 'double hero' as a technique for passing more elaborate messages.

Two main types of films

We can simply classify Hollywood movies into two categories: those which amuse and those which teach and amuse. When amusement or excitement are the only objectives of a movie, the film makers are not restricted by reality. They can change whatever they want to come up with fanciful ideas, exotic scenes and imaginary stories etc… and a single hero is sufficient to grasp the viewer's interest and sympathy . As far as social and intellectual issues are concerned, the need to handle issues related to people and their lives becomes essential, and hence the need for more elaborated methods to intrigue the viewers, and have them think about the movie and its message even after the movie is over.


A definition of the term

Before presenting examples from movies about 'double hero', and touching on its significance, I would like to define the term and mention some possible reasons for its emergence. In fact, double heroes or ( hero and a heroin) did exist since the birth of cinema in love-story films, but that is not what I mean by 'double hero', which could refer to either two heroes, or two heroines, or one hero and one heroine who are not necessarily lovers. I mean by the term "hero" that who appears more than other characters in the scenes, and whose actions, words, choices and destiny contribute to conveying the message. In regard to the reasons why double heroes came into existence, I would speculate that 'double hero' was a response to three main factors: first, the new tendency in cinema to instruct and touch on social and intellectual issues rather than to amuse. Second, the influence of reader's theories in literature for producing films that can intrigue the viewers and have them ponder over its message after leaving the cinema. That entails, of course, and an increased awareness of target groups. Third, the need felt during and after the second world war to change the whole principles and ideals in society, thought and arts which led to war and destruction, and hence a less emphasis on extreme emphasis on individuality.


Examples of double-hero as a technique

One example of double-hero technique is manifested in Casablanca. This representative film, in which several characters stand for countries and policies, shows two distinctively different heroes: an outlaw hero versus an official hero, a husband versus a lover, a single-minded hero versus a dubious hero. The existence of the first good hero, Victor Laszlo, was meant to camouflage the apparent ideological propaganda in the film which is to justify the American intervention in the world war. He was entrapped and unable to escape and he badly needed the help and intervention of the second hero, Rick, to escape. Both of the two heroes stand for goodness and virtue and the viewer could have the same amount of sympathy for both of them, but once the first hero, takes action, dissolves the crisis and makes a sacrifice, he definitely gains the viewers' full sympathy in the end.

In addition to Casablanca, Easy Rider is another film where we find a couple of people standing for the hero. Unlike Casablanca, Easy Rider provides identical heroes(Whyte and Billy) who have the same situation, choices and destiny and they play the same role in the movie. They are involved in the same actions and both of them stand for individual freedom ( transcending  society and its rules and ignoring the need for its protection) and both of them die in the end to deliver one message. The fact that we have two heroes rather than one in this film has almost no significance apart from presenting more realistic elements with people of slightly different characters ( Whyte is silent and wise while Billy is less intelligent but more expressive) and emphasizing the message by saying it is not a special case what we are having in this film. A duality of the same type and role is found in Thelma and Louise, where we have two female heroines who have the same situation, destiny and role though different in characters. Yet in Thelma and Louise the differences in characters disappear gradually as both of them become involved in crimes and violence and finally they kiss each other and commit a double suicide.

According to my definition of the term 'double hero', Full metal Jacket is another film with two main characters playing the hero: Hartman and Guignol (also called Joker). This film is unique in presenting its heroes because each of the heroes is different in many respects. If we consider the first part of the film alone, we will definitely consider sergeant Hartman and Private pyle a 'double hero' while Guignol might be seen as merely a secondary character. Hartman stands for order and tries to build a flawless system, while Pyle proves the impossibility of building this flawless system, and hence the revelation of the film's nihilistic point of view. Although viewers might not sympathize or admire Sergeant Hartman too much, but he plays a major role for conveying the message. Sympathy and admiration are vital in conveying the message and having a certain influence, but they are not the only elements for achieving that. On the other hand, Guignol is not eliminated like the other main characters and the film ends when he is still alive. He is the character who is expected to catch the attention, sympathy and probably admiration when looking at the film as a whole. He is also the one who talks directly to the viewer. Furthermore, he plays a major role in introducing, developing and finally conveying the message. The  question of identity which he poses in the very beginning: “Is that you John Wayne? Is this me?” introduces the philosophical theme. His dubiety and his survival in the end intensify the nihilistic message which is only graspable by considering the other single-minded hero, who stands ironically for certainty and order. Clearly both heroes were fundamental to make and get to the film's message and its harsh criticism of mechanism and typicality as it poses questions like: should all of us be John Wayne? Should we all follow the system? Will not this system collapse and come out of control?


Avatar is another film with a 'double hero'. In terms of logic and reality, we have in this film only one person who controls his own human body and another humanoid body; but in terms of art we have two characters as the humanoid body is a real character that contributes to the development of the movie and catches the viewer's sympathy and admiration. On the other hand, the human  hero, Jack, is silent and inactive and does little for the development of events except his personal reports on which the company's decision to destroy the Na'vy territory was based. However, merely being an American or a marine plays a significant role in making a highly repetitive message in Hollywood and that is the marine who saves other people. Furthermore, the hero has many voices: one is revealed by Avatar, his humanoid body, another by Jack the marine and another who speaks to the viewers commenting on events and scenes. As his different voices help reveal the message in many ways, they also emphasize and manifest 'double hero' as an important  technique for delivering messages and sustaining interest. As this movie is a good example of the double objective of instruction and amusement, the combination of reality and fantasy, and the manifestation of 'double hero', I will refer to the fact the it presents a real hero and a fanciful hero who both cooperate to teach and amuse viewers.

In conclusion, Hollywood has presented several films with double heroes who show a variety in the way they are presented and the thematic roles they have. In fact, some films present identical duals (in gender and characteristics) while completely different pairs are seen in other films. Moreover, film makers from the time of the World War II on seem to be experimenting and trigging off the potentials this new technique possess. Clearly, these films differ to a considerable extent in how they employ the double-hero technique to convey the film message.  

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