What’s With Everything Being a Dystopia and Can Real Heroes Exist?
I swore up and down that I was not going to watch the Hand Maid’s tale. I had read political commentary on it and didn’t want it to make me angry. That firm resolve must have been merely a shell of resistance however because I crumbled at the mere suggestion from a good friend that I watch it. She did not even have to push and there I was signing up for a stupid Hulu free trial. Three days later, I had finished… still haven’t cancelled Hulu.
As a very brief synopsis, the Hand Maid’s tale is a television show based off of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel of the same title. The basic plot is that fertile women are rare and so those who can bear children are basically captured by an elite Puritan American ruling class and become slaves for their fertility. There is no freedom, everyone mistreats everyone, and every episode gets worse. No one is as good as they seem and the bar is low to start.
The Hand Maid’s tale is simply another dystopian drama in a long line of dystopian stories released in the past few years. There is of course, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Giver, The Walking Dead (apocalyptic) etc… This year we have seen “13 Reasons Why” causing an uproar in the media and America’s beloved “Game of Thrones” is utterly hopeless. Surprise, everybody dies and everyone is twisted. Even the small commercials that came on while I was watching the “Hand Maid’s Tale” were advertisements for other dysfunctional societies.
Seriously, how much darkness can we actually handle?
What does it reveal about a culture when its new media is overwhelmingly hopeless? When artists no longer find the good interesting or heroic characters to be worth developing, shouldn’t we take a moment and ask ourselves why? Perhaps, we no longer believe that heroes can exist or that people can be as good as they seem. Maybe somewhere deep inside us, we no longer believe in redemption, or that we are worth redeeming.
I sympathize with these sentiments. Every day I hear of someone hitting a new low. Every day there is a new statistic that proves to me that we are all headed for hell in a hand basket. As our society continues down that path of mental break down, ones does have to wonder, where are the heroes? Where are the honest politicians, the families who stay together, the teachers who teach and the students who want to learn? They aren’t on the news and they are not the majority, but they are real.
Despite what popular culture would have us believe, heroes still exist. People CAN be as good as they seem and it is attainable for each one of us. Redemption is real. You are worth redeeming.
Enter the modern example.
St. Theresa of Calcutta.
This week was her feast day. This little Albania woman was a hero in every sense of the word and she only died recently. Here was a woman who believed that goodness not only existed was attainable. Her goodness was solely attributed to the goodness of God even though she did not feel him at all for the last forty years of her life. For forty years, she prayed, helped the poor, ran her order and challenged the secular world to heroism merely by uniting her will to the will of God. Her virtue was all in action, not in feeling, as she would describe her interior life to be darkness. She was as good as she seemed and even better. No, she wasn’t perfect. She was fallen just like every single person on this planet, but she believed that God could make her good and He did. Her faithfulness magnified His faithfulness to her and she died a hero, immortalized for her goodness. Her work made her interesting and eventually gave her influence. As for skeleton’s in her closet, there were none. Goodness is attainable, heroes are real and virtue is interesting.
After every episode of the handmaid’s tale, I thought of St. Theresa as I asked myself why there couldn’t be a genuinely good character? Of course, she is not the only example, just the one that came to mind. There are many, and their witness flies in the face of our cultures glorification of the villain and the anti-hero. Those societies are boring and so are their characters because sin is predictable. It always leads to destruction. The world can’t predict the saints. It doesn’t know what to do with them.
If the message you receive from culture is that you can’t become fully and truly good, please don’t listen. We have the witness of real flesh and blood that tells us otherwise and we choose to follow their examples, virtue, character and goodness won’t seem so much like a myth in our modern world.