Holding Out For A Hero

April 14, 2009 at 9:49 am (Random Thoughts)


Sometime this weekend, while my brain was in screensaver mode, an interesting thought bubbled to the surface like my own personal version of Pop-Up Video. It struck me that the current decade of movies has been awfully super-hero heavy, and I mean that from capes and tights to swords and wands. It made me wonder about movies and the current socio-economic culture, comparing the current decade to the 1990s. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s look at the lists, shall we?


According to this site, here is a list of the top 25 grossing films of the 1990s and the 2000s. (I actually had a little trouble finding this information, thinking I’d find OfficialMovieResults.com but there was no such thing. Or I got lazy and didn’t look hard enough. However, this site feels okay enough for me to go with it and I think will illustrate my point.)





Look at the 1990s. There’s a wide variety of movies in there, everything from Toy Story to Forrest Gump to Dances with Wolves to Liar Liar. It feels like there was a little more stretching by the public, a little more willingness to watch a movie that really wrenched your heart out. (Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, even Ghost)


Now look at the 2000s. Of the top 25, I counted 16 (in italics) that were in my capes/tights/swords/wands category—that’s practically 2/3 of the list (64%). And of the remaining 9, 3 were cartoons, 2 were sci-fi/fantasy, 1 was action/adventure, 1 was comedy, and the oddball was The Passion of the Christ (and I’m not touching that one with a ten foot pole.) By my reckoning, the public wanted to see the good guy win the day, be he an Everyman (Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean or Sam Witwicky in Transformers), a Superhero (Batman or Spiderman), or a Wizard (Harry Potter, Gandalf.) It seems as though we, the public, wanted a hero bad enough to let our movies give us one, even if he/she was only imaginary.


Now I know the theory that ‘good times allow for a wide range of creative endeavors/bad times call for feel-good entertainment’ is nothing new. Heck, last week the New York Times did an article on romance writing titled Recession Fuels Readers’ Escapist Urges. If that doesn’t illustrate this theory, I don’t know what does.  


So, for all of us fiction writers, is this recession a good thing for us? I guess only time will tell. I know the flip side of the coin is that with the recession, getting published is more of a struggle, so where the public may want your type of book, the slots in the line just may not be there.  


But, this is me and my glass is half-full. I know the slots are there for good stories and good writers, recession be damned. So, I will practice my craft, and develop my voice, and maybe one day, one of my books will be on a list.


With a lot of zeros after it.





  1. coffeegirl88 said,

    I agree with the good/bad news of it all. As a romance writer, it’s good to know romance titles will always sell. There may not be quite as many slots, but then again, getting published in the first place is a gamble. Even getting your foot in the door doesn’t guarantee another published book.

    I’m trying very hard not to let the doom and gloom of the news get to me, which as a self-admitted news junkie, is difficult. Perhaps all this negative news is why I’m so driven to get my nano book out of the way so I can start my fluffy romance that’s been waiting (very patiently mind you) since mid-February.

  2. Barrie Summy said,

    How very interesting….

  3. Melissa Blue said,

    I would like to debate that The Dark Knight doesn’t fall into the good guy wins category. The star who stole the show, in the movie, was the Joker. There is no way you can say deep down he was a good guy. Same goes for Iron Man and Pirates of the Carribean. Definitely the anti-heroes stole the show. It might speak to the dark side of humanity that even though we may want to be the hero who saves the day, we really want to be the bad guy while the bad guy is on top.

    But then again, I have no explanation for Meet The Fockers.

    And, did I hear a birthday being mentioned elsewhere?

  4. Pamela Cayne said,

    Coffee–I say if your fluffy book is talking to you, listen. I’m guessing your nano book isn’t as fluffy. Ooh, internal conflict! 🙂

    Barrie–I try. I think this post showed the lack of caffeine in my system. Har.

    Melissa–Ooh, debate! Who else wants to talk to the anti-heroes with Melissa? (As long as they’re not erotic paranormal werewolves…) *snork*

  5. Marilyn Brant said,

    I really agree with the need for the availability of feel-good stories during difficult times. I think people are, as your title suggests, looking for heroes–or, at least, for people who can provide a sense of guidance through the darker days. Even better if they can do it with a sense of humor :).

    But I also think, to a large extent, that we need to just write what we write. That our “voice” is as much about theme as it is about stylistic ticks–and, global recession aside, we need to have a range of voices out there to pick and choose from. To fit our shifting moods. Because I want *everything* available to me as a reader! Lots of it! And new stuff! I’m greedy that way…and I hope publishers will realize how important it is to offer that…

  6. Caryn Caldwell said,

    So true, Pam! You will definitely be making that list! As for comparing the top movies like that, I’d never thought about it, but you are so right!

  7. Pamela Cayne said,

    Marilyn–Amen! The ironic thing is my current books are very dark, so I don’t even know that they’d make any kind of “hero” list, but they are what I have to write. It would have been so much easier had I just written vampires… 😉

    Caryn–aw, thanks. I think there’s more to be debated and analyzed up there, but, like I told Barrie, I just don’t have the correct amount of caffeine in my system. 🙂

  8. Montana (curtbooks) said,

    I think this is an interesting comparison. Then if we pull the scope back another decade or two we find audiences willing to watch and enjoy movies like Network, Gandhi, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, and even earlier, On the Waterfront. I wonder if those movies would even be made today. But maybe it’s not because people won’t appreciate them, rather that producers are too frightened to find out.
    By the same token, given the chance to watch a small indie film with an intense message (like the hundreds I watched during my college years) and a big-budget super-hero film, lately I always seem to opt for the super-hero film. I think it has something to do with the bright colors and loud noises helping to calibrate my hearing-aid.

  9. kpinco said,

    In the book world, there is also that trend to really promote one book that appeals to a large market. In this case, I’m thinking ‘Twilight’. I read somewhere that it accounted for a huge portion of all books sold this first quarter of 2009.

    And yes, romance is doing the best. Not encouraging for this mystery writer. But at least I have romance in the mystery…

  10. Melissa Blue said,

    KPinco, the untold secret is no matter the economy, romance sells well. (okay, not a secret to those who write it.) And, from the numbers I’ve looked at it always does the best. It’s a huge market that outsiders only recognize, always with the term bodice-ripper attached, when the numbers slap them in the face.

    But maybe it’s not because people won’t appreciate them, rather that producers are too frightened to find out.

    The chicken or the egg theory, but Montana I have to agree. The viewers/readers really don’t get a choice in the matter. At the end of the day it’s the options presented to us that we make huge sellers.

  11. Pamela Cayne said,

    Ooh, debate and discussion! I love it, I love it!!!

    Montana–yes on the scared producers bit, and how many of us are looking at that comparison like the editors and agents who say, “I love it but don’t know what to do with it.” Makes me appreciate Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith even more. And similarly, instead of reading the literary piece just waiting for Oprah to recognize it, I go for the feel-good book.

    Hi. My name is Pam and I love genre fiction.

  12. Pamela Cayne said,

    Kpinco–welcome! Please come back again and again! And yes, you’re right–publishers love the front-runner and will jump all over it. As much as part of me would like to see a less intense but broader marketing of books, if pushing books like Twilight get people (especially the younger generation) reading, I really can’t complain. It makes me think of a friend of ours who read Harry Potter as a child and is now reading them to his toddler.

  13. Pamela Cayne said,

    Melissa–oh yes, we have the numbers. We also have the scorn, the rudeness and the ignorance, too. But I, like you, wouldn’t trade it for the world. And your comment about “the options presented to us that we make huge sellers” really has me thinking. It makes me wonder what we’ve missed, what we’ve been led to purchase and so on. Hmm…

  14. Robin said,

    Another keen observation, Pam! And great discussion.

    But more importantly…Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Pam! Happy Birthday to you!

    Can’t wait to see you in a couple of hours! Yay!

  15. Melissa Blue said,

    Just look at the difference in what wins awards and what is #1 in the box office. Example: I think the name is Master and Commander. Crowe was a captain of a ship. A really, really good movie, but it didn’t get much play time until it won the Academy over. (I believe it’s called the Academy) The top money making movies that year was Finding Nemo, Bruce Almighty and Pirates of the Caribbean. Not to say I don’t love these movies (I heart Finding Nemo), but Master and Commander doesn’t fall into a niche, something easily sold.

    What sells well and what’s good doesn’t, always mean the same thing. It’s sad. Makes me want to give up sometimes, but I think that’s the point–hopefully, with the right timing, marketing those two things can be the same.

  16. Melissa Blue said,

    See, I knew it was birthday time. Hence, all the love and discussion. *smooches.*

  17. Griffin Asher said,

    Love this post, Pam.

    For me the trend favoring “happy ending” books is all good. I write epic fantasy and one thing I love more then anything else is to have a happy ending.

    I think another element may be that people like to see hope at the end of their movies. Now I haven’t seen the Dark Knight in a while (to tell you the truth I wasn’t all that impressed with it), but it seems to me that the movie ended with a sense of hope. Batman was still going to be protecting the city, still fighting against evil and there was hope that in the future the people would come around to seeing him as the “good guy” again.

  18. Kyle said,

    LOL… I’ve seen 48/50 of those movies! 😀

    I’m not so sure it’s a “need a hero” thing, more as an escapist thing. Most of those movies are pretty depressing if you think about it, but it’s the fantastical elements of the films that are able to bring people out of the banality of their lives. Yes, the good guy usually wins in the end, but it’s the 2-3 hours of time where nothing else is as important as the journey that’s the key. At least, that’s just my opinion…

  19. Marilyn Brant said,

    How did I miss the birthday?? (Thank you, Robin, for the alert!) And, Pam, even though it’s a day late–HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOUUUUUU!!!! Hope you did lots of fun, celebratory things :).

  20. L.A. Mitchell said,

    Where’s the party, Pam?? I want a full run-down of the festivities I was not invited to 😉
    Happy belated Birthday, hon!

    Your comparison is an interesting one. I’m hoping these hard times will refuel people’s love of books and the simple things in life. I can’t help but think when we catch the ride on the way up, NY will gobble up everything they can get their hands on. A girl can hope, right?

  21. Pamela Cayne said,

    Melissa–what sells and what’s good is indeed a difficult cross-section to find, but as I write that, I feel like saying that on the other hand, who is to decide what is good? I, for one, didn’t like Twilight, but I know I’d get some argument on that!

    Griffin–love your thought on seeing hope at the end of the movie. To me, you’ve hit Dark Knight right on the head–Batman may not be a classic hero, but his actions create the good ending, i.e. hope.

  22. Pamela Cayne said,

    Kyle–good comment on the journey part of the story. I’m still getting through my Vogler, but I think we could have a great couple of posts on that aspect. (And now I’m curious which two movies you haven’t seen!)

    L.A.–regarding New York gobbling up everything, I just say from your lips to God’s ears!

    And thank you to everybody for the lovely birthday wishes. Believe it or not, I felt the love and it made me feel very special. I’d tell you about the party, but since I’m the birthday girl, I’ve declared it birthday weekend and the party is just getting started! 😀

  23. Hollie said,

    Happy Birthday Pam!! (i wish you a wonderful weekend!!)
    I am not a writer!! but i do love to read and in this economy i love to escape!! and if a hero is there to help me do that then i say bring it on! whether it’s in book form or movie form!!

  24. Kyle said,

    I haven’t seen Dances With Wolves or The Fugitive… 😀

  25. Pamela Cayne said,

    Hollie–thanks! And it’s hard to resist a good hero in any economy, isn’t it? 🙂

    Kyle–I’d have to recommend both. Maybe they’re on hulu? 😀

  26. Sandra Ferguson said,

    Pam, cool post. Eye-opening for anyone wanting to bring cartoons into their life. Me, personally, I love the thought of the good guy winning — tights or no tights.

    The list made me smile.

    Have a great week.

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