Continuing on from last week’s post about the risks and possible benefits of holding heroes in one’s heart, I’ve decided to build a personal hero profile – a compilation of people whom I admire. This is basically an exercise in crystallizing the people-characteristics that are dearest to me. Digging deep into one’s own psyche should be of some benefit; “know thyself,” and all that noble stuff, right? In the spirit of getting beyond shiny one-dimensional heroes, I’ve decided to plumb my mental databases for fan-girl crushes and awed reverence alike. With such broadened search parameters, the results will hopefully be a diverse cross-section of my personal heroes. I’ll post the first three this week:
*Assumes “please don’t judge me!” cringe*
The Hollywood Hero: ELLEN PAGE
This gifted actor is cerebral, articulate about her craft and industry, and rocks smudged eyeliner like she was born to it. In interviews, she has wit for lighter subjects and earnestness for her serious points. Page seems well rooted in a place and community, and her vibe alternates between sensitive and high-spirited. In "Juno", she manages to nail the quicksilver shifts between brashness and vulnerability that are so characteristic of precocious young women.
Reporters often asked Page about the purported "anti-male" violence of her movie "Hard Candy" – in which she played a young girl who baits, traps, and threatens to castrate a would-be child molester. Each time, Page countered by highlighting the incongruity of viewers' shock:
“I’m like ‘you know what? You can get over it.’ There are how many shows on TV that could be called Naked Women in the Dumpster Part 7 — Who Did it? Who Raped Her, and Cut Her and Threw Her in the Dumpster? Guys can handle one movie.” (Quote taken from Page’s interview with OK! Magazine.)
That response alone sold me on her. The SNL skit in which she asks – maybe rhetorically – why she can’t just “hug a woman with [her] legs in friendship” just sealed the deal.
The Courageous and Accomplished Hero: STANLEY ANN DUNHAM
Free spirit, world-traveler, anthropologist and weaver. A white American woman who married a black Kenyan student, and later re-married an Indonesian man in the 1960's – a time when some U.S. states still had anti-miscegenation laws. She lived a short but evidently exceptional life, raising two children across a number of cultures and continents while accruing staggering academic and life-experience credentials. Described as a secular humanist and a feminist who lived well ahead of her time, this remarkable woman’s oldest child is one Barack Obama.
The Lived-through-it-all Hero: MY MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER
My grandmother is one tough lady. She survived - oh, how she survived. She lived a hard life, yet still knows how to enjoy what she has earned.
Grandma was born in China to a landowner. As a girl, her feet were bound, but her father relented when he saw her pain. Her marriage to my grandfather – by all accounts a difficult union – was arranged. In the upheaval of mid-twentieth-century China, my grandmother and her firstborn - my uncle - nearly starved after her in-laws kept the money my grandfather sent from Hong Kong and turned them out. Thankfully she kept her wits, and with her unbound feet they survived.
The young family reunited in Hong Kong. They made do in a shack near the Chinese border, where my mother used to wake in the night to find emaciated refugees standing at the window, desperate for food. My grandmother gave what she could. Later, there were five children to feed. Each morning, my grandmother took up a long pole with a basket on either end: in one she placed cloth scraps to sell; in the other she placed her two toddlers. She carried this burden forty minutes to where she (illegally) set up shop by the roadside. This, too, they survived.
My grandmother was a plain woman who worked hard and kept a sharp tongue and a good heart. She was illiterate when she arrived in Hong Kong but taught herself to read. Over her husband’s objections, she placed my mother in school and eventually saw her graduate from university. Today, she likes her tea strong, her food spicy, and her Tiramisu from Starbucks. Each morning, she reads Hong Kong newspapers online.