[16 June 2009]
Kinship in Heroes
A unique feature of the TV series Heroes is a consistent sub narrative of family. Indeed, most characters in the show are developed through interactions across generations. Healing and suffering, defeat and care, are all demonstrated through family interactions through time and space. In later seasons, adults meet their kid selves and arrive at sense of peace with the loss of loved ones. Yet, it is intriguing that despite the closeness of kin, each heroine and hero is left to discover their own identity in a vacuum of guidance and care, again mimicking a common queer experience.
Hiro, the master of time and space came out to his father, played by original Star Trek bridge officer, and out-spoken gay activist George Takei. Claire the invincible girl comes out to her folks under several incidents of blood-n-gore and supreme duress. Flying man and his omnipotent little brother, come out to each other and their folks only to eventually find out that their parents belong to an entire generational cohort of heroes bent on domination and manipulation.
That older cohort faced trials similar to those of the present-day characters that likewise stumbled upon, clustered in groups, and then betrayed one another. In spite of the interaction, there are few instances where any generation is afforded the luxury of the experiences its elders. This, too, is an aspect of queer culture that is only recently receding to inter-generational mentorship.
For most of the first season, anchor-character, time and space-bender, Hiro, informs many of his heroic actions on legends his father read to him as a kid while tucking him in. In season two he travels back in time and finds out that the actual hero of those legends is a piss drunk “scary white man.” Hiro, being the hero that he is, stayed back in 1671, somewhere outside of Kyoto to help the legendary hero rise to the occasion.
In this one example of many such instances, Hiro Nakamura assumes responsibility for the welfare of humanity through his own experience of humanness and inspiration. Inspired by his own parents, this is the sort of care our culture rarely demonstrates and encourages outside of the parent-child relationship.
Hiro’s heroics in time reads like a real fantasy come true. It’s like me going back to the early ‘80s cartoon He-Man to help the young Prince Adam become a hero. I’d be the magic sword itself: “By the Power of Gray Skull,” the hero would shout out, raising me high up in the air. Radically, the legendary He-Man character in Heroes evolves into the modern day foe. He is the actual mastermind behind the plots that generated the heroic show’s first season.
The Obama Hero
In the first season, the young Micah comes out to his parents only after mediating his mother coming out to his father. Then, while his mom is away in therapy, Micah stays with his granny, played by original Star Trek veteran Nichelle Nichols! Micah, whose ability is to dialogue with computers, shows one of his cousins acceptance and helps them come out, too.
Interestingly, though family members in the series regularly come out to each other and to themselves, Micah is the only character to take on any responsibility for his kin. ‘Yes, we can’ he says both directly and indirectly to his folks, urging them to take cues from comic books and use their powers for good. The little guy advocates a Justice League!
Micah, with his caramel skin and curly-q hair is really like a little Obama raised by his white mamma. His dad could pass through solid objects, so was never really and truly present. Still the young prodigy’s relationship with this man and his family inform his values despite the absence. Perhaps different from the Obama narrative, Micah’s mother was like Supergirl while at the same time suffered from schizophrenia as a result of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her own father who incidentally, abused and murdered her identical twin. It is this young, dialogue-oriented Micah who provides all those around with the motivation to do good.
Though sci-fi veterans George Takei and Nichelle Nichols ultimately exhibit a great deal of understanding as caregivers, they never come out with their powers. Nonetheless, their presence in the show effectively evokes a larger narrative to consider. It implies that coming out as heroes has a myriad of dimensions and particularly, long distance inter-generational differences and tensions.
Having the only two non-white original Star Trek cast members—and even Heroes season 3 casts Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation as Mr. President—implies a progression as well as coming out in regards to natural yet, socially stratified identities. As viewers, we are asked to consider our complacency in hindering civil rights and basic civility towards this unique group of citizens and kinfolk.
Heroes’ links to kin and race provide a sound foundation for real-world viewers to consider the progression of how our society contends with difference, disputing the idea that modern folks are disconnected from our past. This is the point President Obama makes in his first-term campaign speech ‘A More Perfect Union’—that ignoring, or willing ignorance of our past stifles our lives today.
Forgetfulness breeds shame while forgiveness provides a broader path of happiness, mutuality and success. Respect for our kin provides a roadmap for forgiveness. Heroes’ historical narratives through time and space—literally, or through kinship—are ingeniously left to the imagination, yet emphatically demonstrate our universal connectedness in determining our collective fate.