From the beginning Americans have always loved their heroes and superheroes. This love affair is probably as American as apple pie and possibly goes back as far as the settlers disembarking off the ships in America.
So why do Americans love heroes?
Most likely it’s because heroes represent hope, honesty and certainty which people in this country value even today. This may also explain the popularity of movies like the Iron Man franchise as well as the X-Men, Batman and Superman movies.
Television has had their heroes too, but more importantly heroes like Superman or Batman came into homes every week as opposed to someone going to see a movie about a superhero. The television heroes were able to make a bigger impact on the viewer and upon American society just by the frequency of their visits into the home.
As television evolved more so did the image of the hero/superhero. During the early days of television heroes were dashing men that had perfect hair, bodies, teeth and perfect lines that seemed to flow out of their mouths. There were no chinks in their armor because that was part of the image that television wanted to portray; that heroes were more perfect than any person walking the streets. It was also something young boys could aspire to be or to develop the values similar to those of their favorite hero.
Eventually heroes started to transform into every day men; men who were still perfect, but worked every day jobs that didn’t require them to change into a costume. These modern day heroes were cowboys such as Little Joe on Bonanza, Clay Culhane in Black Saddle and Davy Crockett in Davy Crockett.
Eventually television turned its attention to cops as heroes because what’s more heroic than someone who puts their lives on the line. Police dramas over the years had become increasingly popular and people were never without a hero or two to keep them company. These heroes came in the form of officers Reed and Malloy on Adam-12, Joe Friday on Dragnet, Sheriff Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show, Inspector Lewis Erskine on The F.B.I., and Detective Lieutenant Steve McGarrett on the original Hawaii Five-0.
Somewhere along the line the public tired of the image of the perfect hero and wanted something a little more real out of their heroes so television executives answered the call by portraying heroes as flawed human being such as Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue, Mick Belker on Hill Street Blues, Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica, and Detective Mike Logan on Law and Order.
Another new trend was women as heroes. Well it wasn’t as much of a new trend as it was a transformed trend. There were women heroes, but these were few and far in-between and were often sexualized in order to make male viewers comfortable and to show women viewers the importance of staying feminine. Some of these images of sexualized female heroes were Wonder Woman (Linda Carter), Charlie’s Angels (Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith), Jamie Summers (Lindsay Wagner), Pepper Anderson (Angie Dickinson), Nancy Drew (Pamela Sue Martin), and Jennifer Hart (Stephanie Powers).
Today the female heroes are beautiful and ooze sex appeal, but they have much more going than that; they have brilliant minds and aren’t afraid to use them.
As the definition of what a hero is continues to evolve there are 10 excellent heroes on television today and here they are.