Heroism in the Apocalypse

Literary works, regardless of genre or medium, are often interspersed with displays of heroism. Yet, nowhere else are they more necessary than in texts that feature the apocalypse. Because apocalyptic texts create dire situations that demand drastic action from its characters in response to the impending threat, heroism becomes an inherent aspect of such texts; a hero or group of heroes must step up in an attempt to protect others from danger and save the world. Apocalyptic texts are thus replete with opportunities that take us through the multi-faceted notions of heroism and, more importantly, push the ever-expanding boundaries of heroism.

Heroism is not only in the man, but in the occasion.

Calvin Coolidge

In this issue, the authors will take you through various depiction of apocalyptic heroes, starting with the all-time classic superheroes whom we are no strangers to. Are these heroes nothing more than their powers? Or do they have something else to offer, even as the apocalypse beats them down to their knees? Next, we examine everyday heroes, the ones who consistently show up even if they are nowhere near “extraordinary”. Then, we aim to shed light on the heroines of the apocalypse, who are equally if not even more underrepresented. These heroes are in constant battle across two fronts: against existential threats as well as gender discrimination. Finally, we hope to take a step back and appreciate heroism on a larger scale, reflecting on whether such changes in perspective are necessarily accompanied by fundamental shifts in what heroism entails.

While we deal with wide-ranging texts and perspectives, ultimately we seek to reveal insights surrounding the question: What makes apocalyptic heroism unique?

Wei Ming starts off by exploring a more magnified form of re- or arguably de-humanisation of superheroes in Avengers: Endgame as compared to the attenuated humanisation portrayed in the past MCU films. In doing so, he will examine the purpose of such dramatised humanisations and how Endgame has effectively leveraged the juxtaposition of contrasting superhero representations and tropes to inspire an unprecedented sense of heroism that should be imbibed by heroes and the rest of humanity alike.

Valerie’s “The Overlooked Heroism of Humanity in WALL-E” prompts us to reconsider our ideas of what makes a hero. We typically associate heroes with physical strength or superhuman feats achievable by few, leading us to view the robots in WALL-E as the heroes. Yet, in an apocalyptic world, ordinary people are pushed to fulfil their heroic potential as well. Valerie thus calls for a closer examination of the heroism of the humans in the film. She argues that WALL-E subverts hegemonic ideas of heroism; rather than laud physical strength and superhuman feats, it depicts everyday, relatable heroism that the average person can attain, and prompts reflection on our own climate crisis and environmental heroism.

Shannen explores exceptionalism of the apocalypse in the Chinese novel, Feng Ce Chang An (2021). While the novel is set in a historical patriachial society, it deviates from typical texts such that it features female heroes that play significant roles in the storyline. However, the trials the female protagonist not just consists of defeating the enemies but also to fight gender discrimination. Shannen will analyse how the novel conveys the difficulties of advocating for women empowerment, how women empowerment in the novel is exclusive to the circumstances as well as the double standards of societal views on gender in her article, “The Exceptionalism of Apocalyptic Heroines in Feng Ce Chang An“.

Danie’s analysis on Collective Heroism in The Wandering Earth vs Individual Heroism in Interstellar questions the false dichotomy that exists between the two concepts that seemingly stem from cultural differences. Under the context of an apocalypse, he argues that the lines between individual and collective heroism inevitably blur due to the alignment of common interests. Furthermore, present definitions surrounding heroism may prove to already encompass both the individual and collective as integral to heroism. Thus, further distinctions are not always productive.