Personal heroes, religion, and transcendental metanarratives

Abstract

With the increased sociological interest in popular culture, many studies have examined the hero types lauded by the media from situation comedies to movies, books, and magazines. Few studies, however, have examined who, if anybody, actual individuals identify as personal heroes. To the extent that the hero identification of individuals has been examined at all, it has generally been the hero identification of children and adolescents that has been studied. The study of heroes is important because heroes are one indicator of who we are and what we stand for. That is partly what motivates the recent attention to the media's identification of heroes. Yet while the media represent a very visible aspect of culture, who individuals privately cite as their heroes is, although less visible, just as much a part of who we are as a culture. Accordingly, this paper reports on findings from two telephone surveys conducted in Philadelphia that, among other questions pertaining to the meaning of life, asked adults over 18 whether they had any heroes and if so who those heroes were. The tendency to identify with heroes was found to be related to transcendental concerns with the meaning of life and to religiosity. Overall, the pattern of findings discloses an unstudied dimension of cultural disenchantment.

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Porpora, D.V. Personal heroes, religion, and transcendental metanarratives. Sociol Forum 11, 209–229 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02408365

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Key words

  • personal heroes
  • religion
  • transcendental metanarratives
  • moral meaning
  • identity