Never Meet Your Heroes, Right, Renton?

Your heroes will all eventually let you down.

This was a particularly hard lesson for me to learn as I transitioned from childhood into adolescence. We all encounter this feeling to some degree as a part of maturation, but it was maybe especially harsh for one who worshiped at the foot of pop culture and sports as I did.

In that way, I feel a kinship with Renton Thurston, who is likewise a hero worshiper, but with a far stronger obsession. In Eureka Seven, the young Renton joins the crew of the Gekkostate, led by his hero, Holland Novak. But things are not what they seem, or what Renton pictured. It’s a painful experience for him when Holland begins abusing Renton, both emotionally and physically, out of jealousy over the boy’s relationship with Eureka. Eventually, Renton leaves.

The young man’s ordeal is a confusing and frustrating one for him, as Holland’s character doesn’t line up with what he imagines him to be. Renton is doing exactly what I did, but with a counterculture criminal rather than athletes and actors—he’s participating in “hero worship,” setting Holland up as a sort of god.

As I grew older, this obvious hero worship faded away, but it turned into something subtly different. I still project images—as Renton did with Holland—onto others I hold in high esteem, whether I really know them or not.

It was this way with my favorite author, one who had a profound impact on my life. I attended a Q&A where she was the featured speaker, and was selected to ask her a question in front of the crowd. I then stood in line for a book signing. When it was my turn to meet her, though trembling with nerves, I explained how much her books meant to me and how they helped define the person I became. She barely acknowledged me, simply signing my book and looking toward the next person in line.

More recently, I connected to a voice actress who voices one of my favorite roles from a series I loved when I was young. I was excited to schedule an interview, and though she initially expressed the same, things fell apart quickly and dramatically. The actress asked me to circle back a few weeks after our initial conversation, but in my excitement, I reached out earlier than agreed upon, and she was not happy, angrily snapping at me through a text.

Better getting snapped at through text than slapped by Talho.

The reaction really shook me up. When evaluating this incident later, I returned to that idea of projection, of creating an image of who I wanted her to be, of who I wanted that author to be. I think it’s the same for Renton— he’s built up an idol that doesn’t match Holland’s character. Instead, his image is of the Holland he wants and expects him to be.

I can’t fault a kid for acting that way, but as I mature, I know I need to do better—not just to protect myself from the fallout of the inevitable imperfection that I’ll see, but to treat the “hero” as human, as a person. The more I see others as complex people who exhibit both great aspects and severe flaws, the more I grasp my own sinful nature and the more I remember how I’m forgiven by one who is perfect. And in knowing this, I can see others more as they truly are, or even forgive them if they somehow harm me.

Ultimately, only one can stand under the scrutiny that hero worship invites, and it’s meant to be that way. Holland is no better than Renton, and your hero is no better than you—we’re all equal in our humanity, both in displaying the beautiful image of God and in our sinful natures, so worship from one to the other is both misplaced and unwise.

For all of us, there is only one perfect hero who deserve such attention—and thankfully, his words are kind, his actions are merciful, and he never has and never will let us down.

Eureka Seven can be streamed on Funimation.


3 thoughts on “Never Meet Your Heroes, Right, Renton?

  1. “Holland is no better than Renton, and your hero is no better than you—we’re all equal in our humanity, both in displaying the beautiful image of God and in our sinful natures”. Thank you for this article, Charles! I would commend, though, gratitude and devotion to one’s own heroes, those who have brought us signs of hope, be it by creation which opens new worlds for us, by inspiring us with some amazing feat, or by saving our lives, physically or morally. I think is part of the gift of God, that we can channel His image to each other. They make us grow in amazing ways, and their shine may lead us to Christ, who is the true Hero from Whom all true loves partake.

    Of course, such a thing may be just a coincidence or a facade, and in that case, the admiration may just stop, as the feeling is redirected to its real object. But there are heroes that are, at least in particular aspects, better than me, in the sense that they bring before me examples of mercy, courage, joy, sacrifice, freedom of spirit, generosity, creativity or wisdom I would like to honor and take inspiration in, in my own way. I agree that Renton projects his own teenage rebellion onto Holland Novak, so his admiration here rests on an illusion. But I think some other heroes (like his father, I think, though I have yet to finish Eureka Seven) could have been valuable examples and referents in his own path.

    One of the things I like the most about anime is how many shows (BNHA, Ping Pong the Animation, Haykuu, Toradora) depicts what I think are good, healthy examples of due reverence to heroes, often with that name. Those are people who make us grow, even if they are sometimes flawed and confused, or let us down. I link it with the Fourth Commandment: Our parents are not the godlike, all-knowing and allmighty people we saw as kids, but they have brought us a true and precious gift in the name of God, and we can honor that gift. They partake (to a greater or a lesser degree) in God’s own Fatherhood. When we see that they are as we are, we can truly appreciate it, too. Some childhood or adulthood heroes turn out to be greater, and more rich and nuanced, that one would have expected, and their fight against darkness more poignant. I think that sometimes, with the help of God, we can even inspire or help them in turn, or other people, as flawed heroes ourselves.

  2. Lemme break out this church organ because you’re preaching my dude.

    You really gotta feel sorry for Renton. My dude went from having this idealistic vision of being a member of the Gekko and her crew, only to get the rudest of rude awakenings over and over and over again. Seriously, it needs to be a drinking game each time Renton gets his expectations dashed or if he gets abused in some way.

    However, I feel that if Renton didn’t learn the truth, he never would’ve grown as a character. Its a running theme through the series… Renton sees the truth behind the people he holds in high regard and through that truth, good or bad, he learns from it and grows.

    I’m of the belief that you should meet your heroes… But just remember to carry a baseball bat with you to shatter expectations…or if you’re Renton, self defense.

    Prodigious article, boss!

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