Saturday, September 7, 2013
"We love to watch heroes suffer" - Neil Cross
Last year, Neil Cross won the 2012 Ngaio Marsh Award for his outstanding novel LUTHER: THE CALLING, which was a prequel to his multi-award-winning TV show Luther, starring Idris Elba.
The third season of this vivid, brutal, remarkable crime drama has just premiered in the US earlier this week, and today I came across an intriguing interview Cross gave with BBC America.
Cross makes some really interesting and insightful observations about writing for an audience ("The truth is that I think it’s a mistake for any writer to try to analyze why people like or dislike stuff that you do, because in the first instance you want to write things that you would want to watch, and hope that other people want to watch it too"), and what we want to see our 'heroes' go through.
Talking about the perverse enjoyment we have in watching heroes taken to the very edge, Cross says:
"[M]uch as we would hate to admit it, we love to watch heroes suffer. And the greater the suffering and the more emphatic ability of the hero, the more we admire the hero. There’s no link between the two characters but I’m a massive fan of Indiana Jones. What I love about Indiana Jones is he always bites off slightly more than he can chew. The guy he’s fighting is always slightly tougher than he is but he just refuses to give up. And that’s what makes Indiana Jones a hero, not his superpowers, but his refusal to be beaten.
Similarly, I love a scene in ‘Spider-Man 2′ where Spider-Man has to stop the elevator train before it comes off the end, and it nearly kills him, it’s beyond the capabilities of his superpower, and he passes out, and the passengers take off his mask and they say, ‘oh my god, it’s just a kid.’ Every time I see that I cry. And that’s what I like in my heroes. I love to see heroes who fuel some kind of moral furnace inside them, who are driven to take on the evils of the world, despite the fact that the evils of the world are more powerful than them. And essentially can never be defeated, but they refuse to bow down. And in order to enjoy that aspect of the hero, you’ve got to put them through hell."
You can read the full interview with Cross on the BBC America website here.
What do you think about Cross's comments on heroes, and writing for an audience? Do you like to watch (or read about) heroes facing the biggest, near-insurmountable struggles?