Thursday, September 9, 2021


A long time ago, we actually liked each other, for the most part. Societies run off people who have to like each other on some level, after all. 

Back then, we liked to read and watch stories about normal people just like us who strove to be the best (or those who fell apart under the influence of darker forces) and watched in nail-biting tension wondering if they would survive their ordeals intact. After all, they were just normal people like you or me. All we wanted to do was see them survive, just like we hope to get through our trials in life. Stories reaffirm our love of life and existence and adventures stories were made specifically for this very purpose.

Which is why it is detestable that the mainstream art and entertainment landscape is so abysmal these days. Everything has been flipped on its head, and turned around backwards. And we celebrate this subversion as if it's a good thing. Storytelling has been vandalized and we refuse to clean the graffiti off despite knowing how dirty and soiled our monuments have gotten. Now we are at another crossroads: do we let our art die, or do we fight for something better than the status quo of misery? One thing is for sure, and that is that the path we are on leads to nothing but a cliff into bottom of jagged spires. We're going nowhere worth going.

So I would just like to say this right out. There is no point beating around the bush when we all know part of the issue that's in plain sight, and I don't like to waste time.

Antiheroes are a plague on storytelling, and people who swear by them do no understand heroism whatsoever. Catering to this crowd has obliterated adventure as a genre. This is a truth that should be obvious to anyone who has been paying attention over the years.

Back in the 1990s, there was this trend we called Edgy. What it was was simple: the constant danger and harshness of existence is too much and so overbearing that it will even overwhelm so-called pure heroes and drag them into the darkness. This means that in order to win against evil, only the most vicious opponent will win by any means necessary. You must be evil in order to comprehend evil (which is probably actually just a misunderstood victim that the true evil people, "good guys", created) or you will lose. You must stain your soul, otherwise you are no better than an ignorant paladin saying prayers to some useless god who probably doesn't exist don't think about it too hard. Doubt it if you want, but then ask yourself when the last time you saw a paladin character in the mainstream that wasn't a hypocrite or stupid. This wasn't always the case, either, but we let it become mainstream and it ruined the concept of heroism.

This was the decade where heroism was finally overcome by the creeping nihilism of anti-heroism that had steadily been rising since the 1960s. Now good guys were lame and weak--they didn't understand the true depths of evil in this world! To fight fire you have to use napalm and burn yourself in the process. Basically, everything before Current Year was made of childish delusions. Now we're adults and see the world for what it truly is! We went from morally certain Cannon Films-style action movies at the decade's start into amoral Tarantino rip-offs where everyone hates each other and the world but they are cool for it, as you can tell by the wordy and vapid speeches. This all happened in the same decade: the 1990s.

And we've been living in this world ever since. Nothing has improved: we still think evil people are cool, morality is passé, and the only thing worthy fighting for is the right to hedonism. Around a quarter of a century of the same boring archetypes with no change.

To this day you have adults who think Flaws make characters Interesting and that White Hats are inherently less Interesting than Black Hats because of it. They think this due to growing up in a world where good was treated as a banal boring thing for all the lame normies and excitement is being against all authority and for yourself as a hyper-focused individualist. The result of this is the death of communities (no, your hobby group or art scene is not a community and it never will be) and the atomization of people into tiny clusters of detached bugmen who only care about themselves and their own appetites.

Leave that boring small town and come to the exciting city! That's where the action truly is! If you grew up in the latter half of the 20th century, you heard this all the time in media. Anyone who has ever been to a city knows how big a lie this is, but so many still believe such a thing and blindly follow this dead end path to this day. All because of a narrative that has been an objective failure and has nothing to show for it.

The anti-hero is the embodiment of this selfish and empty modernism that has led to no good art, no lasting culture, and has only created a more miserable world from the one they subverted. The will only cease when we finally admit to how utterly worthless the concept of this table-flipping culture truly is.

There are heroes, and there are villains. These are the only two that matter. Obsessing over anything else is just the same sort of paint worship that caused the obnoxious trope reverence that is stifling creative writing these days and being taught in scam artist writing courses. If you want to stand out, try not listening to these people.

Let us start from the beginning, since the term has gotten so diluted over the years that it means almost nothing anymore. Heroism is a very simple concept that anyone can understand. Here it is in a single sentence:

"Heroism definition is - heroic conduct especially as exhibited in fulfilling a high purpose or attaining a noble end."

I have to point this out because definitions have gotten so muddied that there are people who think characters like The Shadow are not heroic, but are actually anti-heroes. How you get that is a mystery to me, unless you don't understand morality from the get-go. This topic was a lot clearer a century ago than it is these days.

What happened is that at some point heroism became equated with upholding the Status Quo against those who wish to change it for whatever reason. The implication being that the modern age is an age that needs heroes in order to even function properly, because without them we would kill ourselves and devolve into an anarchy of animals. The question is never asked as to why the highest cause a hero could fight for is to be glorified police officers for a world of overdoses, morbid obesity, suicide, depression, and societal decay. Heroes would never fight for these things--they would fight to change them.

And these is where we get lost in the reeds a little.

So what you began to have in some places like Italy were films where the harsh consequences of modernism had begun to be apparent to everyone and implode on itself. Now lawlessness began to overwhelm the supposed civilized world. '60s and '70s Italian crime films ("Poliziotteschi" as the genre is known worldwide) bleakly portrayed the outcome of the modern world as it fell to ruin and disorder from entropy. This of course didn't mean such films were guaranteed happy endings, but neither did it mean they featured heroes, such as you and I would know them. That wasn't what these movies were really about. Having a protagonist is not the same thing as having a hero, and these movies weren't meant as classic adventure fare but more about encapsulating the turbulent times they lived in and try to understand them. To call such protagonists "anti-heroes" misses the point of what they were made to actually do.

That didn't preclude heroes from existing, however. Inspector Tanzi from The Tough Ones is an unabashed hero in the classic mold. But many of the genre's movies were more along the lines of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock: stories about moral and spiritual decay and what unfolds from them. They are more like classical tragedies than adventures. 

The same could be said of the spaghetti westerns of the time also being a more fantastical reflection of the era through a different setting. The Italians were not the most subtle, but they were very reflective as they attempted to also entertain their audiences. At the end of the day, Justice still mattered. Even when not telling hero stories this is an important thing to remember. You don't partake in these sorts of movies for heroes and villains, but to see Justice win through any means it can even if through an imperfect vessel. Audiences back then, however, knew that.

So why such a thing such as this is said by spiritual boomers of today is beyond me:

This isn't just a shallow reading of the genre, it's a shallow reading of heroism to begin with. Just about everything from that passage was incorrect.

But did you catch the terminology? There it is again: "realistic" and "interesting" as synonyms for "good" when neither actually mean anything at all in the context given. The above passage was written by a postmodern disciple of misery and meaninglessness who has long since lost the thread of what reality actually is, never mind heroism.

You might understand this, but obviously many do not. So let us repeat it louder for the ones in the back.

John Wayne protagonists are aspirational. You want to be the type of man that can have the kind of courage and bravery he has. That you don't think someone can live up to being the very best of men is "realistic" says more about your morally dead worldview than it does about movies enjoyed by millions back when heroism meant something. Advertising your own spiritual vapidity is a weird way to make declarative statement, but here we are.

On the other hand, the protagonists in spaghetti westerns are not meant to be aspirational. They are (usually) meant to be imperfect instruments that dispense the Justice that is sorely needed in this broken land. As said above, it was a funnel for escapism in the climate that Italy had at the time. It was too show that Justice always finds a way, and things will always find a way to work out, even if not as expected.  In this sort of story, heroism isn't really the point.

These are very two different approaches to the western genre. So why are they compared at all? Agenda and poor education in regards to morality.

Of course the above separation completely misses the point of both in order to say another prayer to the God of Realism and Interesting Characters that he has been told through garbage media criticism of the last 50 years are actually elements of good writing. These are the same people years back that argued Game of Thrones was better than Lord of the Rings because it didn't start with a birthday party. Lightheartedness is childish and bad writing. So says the spiritually hollow.

And yet we let them dictate quality standards to us regardless.

"Shades of grey" as a concept doesn't mean anything. Heroes don't have shades of grey: what makes a person a hero is doing the right thing exactly when he needs to: rising above being a normal passerby and turning into an active Hammer of Justice against the unjust where there wasn't one moments before. There are no shades of grey in that. None. There is only right and wrong. 

And this is why so many (post)moderns have been attempting to muddy up the waters ever since Easy Rider was thankfully murdered by a bunch of trigger happy hillbillies back in the day. Such people hate heroism and wish to overturn the definition of it to something far lesser in order to enshrine their own baser tastes instead.

As a different reviewer says of the same above spaghetti western:

You can already see the contradiction, I assume. Both reviewers praise and love the same bog standard modernist philosophy, and yet they come to different conclusions on the same movie which impacts how good they think it is. Insanity runs deep. This movie is simultaneously a subversive mature epic for smrt people and a cliched kiddy carnival ride for the hicks. It would be impressive if it wasn't so obviously crazy.

So which is it? Is Django a movie about a grim anti-hero in a nihilistic world where nothing matters, or is he a "goody goody" declaring objective moral statements which reaffirm the existence of a natural order of things as he saves the day? It can't be both, but apparently it is. However, you might also notice that the second is considered a Bad Thing.

We have become so morally dead that a character saying a forceful statement such as "That's not right" is considered embarrassing and worth recoiling from. And yet somehow a selfish character that cares about nothing but himself but somehow still does the right thing (which isn't actually realistic, but hey, we ignore that when it's convenient) is somehow Interesting. Except that is isn't, at all. There's nothing interesting about an asshole who just happens to do the right thing because it benefits him in the moment. He's just a villain that walked down the wrong alley at the right time. How does that make for an interesting character? It doesn't, and I'm tired of pretending it does.

Heroes do the right thing because they choose to. The requirement is rising above yourself to dispense the justice that is needed in the moment. That's it. These characters don't have to be aspirational like John Wayne, but they have to exhibit behavior worthy of being called a hero in the first place. That might not be considered "Interesting" to those who think the cool bad people are deeper and more complex than the lame good people, but it is interesting to people who actually do love Justice and desire to see it play out through any means possible.

To return to the earlier example of The Shadow, ask yourself how he could be considered an anti-hero by the above morally grey gruel crowd. The reasons are fairly shallow, just as they are for arguing Flawed Protagonists are inherently more Interesting than aspirational ones. Which of the two is The Shadow? The latter, and one of the best examples of such. This is why the industry has been frantically trying to scrub him from existence over the last few years.

Just look at the arguments one hears about how he falls short of the heroic idea. Warning: they aren't good arguments.

"He kills people!"

Everyone he kills is an objective evil scumbag threatening innocents.

"He thinks he is objective Good! That's dangerous! No man can judge another!"

He IS objective Good. That's part of the appeal of the character. We don't know who sent him or even what he really is, and yet he is so mysterious and all-knowing that we find him intriguing regardless. He is an unabashed agent of Good. There is no grey in The Shadow.

"He laughs like a villain and dresses in black! That's anti-hero behavior!"

He does this to reflect the villains' evil back at them and make them afraid the way they make their innocent victims afraid. For those who love "nuance" or whatever, simple color schemes do confuse them quite easily.

"He doesn't answer to the law!"

Justice is above the law. If the law doesn't run in accordance with Justice then it is evil and must be destroyed. The Shadow proves this over and over again. This is White Hat behavior.

"He's too dangerous and unhinged to be considered a true superhero! Batman would never kill or assert moral superiority!"

The Shadow is a pulp hero, which means he is already morally superior to all superheroes. Superheroes uphold the status quo and bow to the law in order to keep the machine grinding along; pulp heroes fight for Justice and Truth above all else, even if the law or other "good people" don't agree with them. Again, heroes fight for Good, not the Status Quo.

But we've forgotten this, just as we have forgotten that objective good and evil do exist outside ourselves. Corporately owned heroes, however, have another agenda they need to serve instead. That is, how to make sure readers keep buying stories about a hero that will never affix any real change on the world.

That sounds pretty evil, but what do I know. Maybe it's grey and Interesting instead.

The above also explains why the last Batman/The Shadow crossover comic had Batman morally preening to a broken Shadow about how much better he is. This despite the fact that Batman is a pale Shadow ripoff without any of the Justice or search for Truth but with plenty of merchandising opportunities for his safer brand of law enforcement. Upholding the (post)modern order in place as it crumbles under its own weight is quite a heroic feat. He might not have killed the Joker who just escaped Arkham for the fifth time and killed a crowd of 5000 but at least he isn't a murderer! Yes, this is an argument you will hear from supposed hero fans.

This is a sign of how bad it has gotten.

Sorry, Mr. Reeve, that's not "Interesting" or something.

It wouldn't be half as annoying if this view evolved in some way since its first real push into the mainstream back in the 1960s, but it hasn't. It's only gotten lazier. Still the same arguments; still the same examples; still the same shallow worldview at the heart of it. Nothing changes, except the stink of decay getting worse every day.

This was the major criticism thrown at the currently mega popular My Hero Academia manga and anime series. You might have heard it at the time, I know I did. It was called generic and bland, but no one could give examples of it being such or give a reason why. I'm certain said critics are still buying Batman comics and ready to line up for the next movie though. Apparently half a century of declining moral certainty and repetitive plots brought about due to corporate mandate is far less generic than a series that literally deals with the very issue Western comics refuses to address. But you'd have to actually give it a chance to know that. Comic book readers don't like new things very much, as can be gleamed from what actually sells. So a new series coming out to outsell their market must have been quite upsetting.

I'm feel sympathy if the industry didn't deserve it, but it absolutely does.

For those unaware, My Hero Academia has slowly since it started revealed itself as a hero story dealing with the inherent contradictions in modern life, upholding the current status quo at all costs, and burying the inconvenient past to construct a utopic future over the remains. It goes where a corporate western comics refuse to, and that's what makes it generic next to the 500th retcon of Peter Parker's love life over the last decade. Go figure.

My Hero Academia is a hero story exploring what heroism actually means at the root of it, which means there is little room for grey goo. And this is one of the reasons it has achieved the massive success it has. Black and white exist, no matter how you might think otherwise.

Now, I'm not trying to overanalyze this. Kohei Horikoshi is telling a fun hero story at the heart of it, but he never mucks about in the grey. While there can be hard situations and tough choices, a hero still picks himself up again and strives to make the best one he can. He does not stop dispensing Justice and saving the innocent to indulge in his appetites instead. This isn't a western comic. 

The one "anti-hero" in My Hero Academia was designated a villain. He inspired terror across the country, the repercussions of which are costing lives and wellbeing in the series at this very moment. This happened because of his selfish actions that he wrapped in Truth as a shield for his reprehensible actions. In other words, he was still a villain. There was nothing heroic about any of his actions. And unlike a modern western comic fan, the series readily admitted this as the truth of it.

Right now the story concerns itself with the hero society falling apart because of how fragile their lives of carefree modern living were. They got fat and happy, soft, and let it all fall apart around them. All it took were those who hated the world for various reasons of their own to want to tear it down more than people wanted to protect it, and that happened quite easily. There wasn't much to protect aside from comfort held up by organizations stifling things like natural abilities and freedoms which caused even more problems of its own. What is there to protect? Essentially, good rolls out from good and evil rolls out from evil, good intentions or not. Now the question remains how the protagonists can fix this mess before the villains wipe out everything. Can they rebuild society or will they collapse under the weight of the sins of the past? We'll have to see.

Doesn't seem very generic to me, and I've been reading manga for a long time. But you would have to look past the surface level of "shonen" and "superpowers" and actually give it a chance. It isn't a western cape comic, no. It actually progresses and develops as a narrative. Oh, and it will actually end, too.

I should also say the above is a reason that Japanese manga has overtaken comic books in sales and popularity. It has none of the faults which crippled the western industry. The morality is also simply much sharper in manga these days, and that's clearly what audiences actually want after being fed a diet of morally ambiguous garbage for over half a century now in the west.

People want moral certainty and real heroism, not murky grey gunk from limpwristed losers. And they've been wanting it for a long time.

But it will never be the same.

Another recent example of such obvious dichotomy of black and white morality is in the manga series Edens Zero by Hiro Mashima, the creator of Fairy Tail. However, unlike that series, Mashima has really turned up the heat and pulled out all the stops to make something better than he had before. He created a cosmic adventure story between the forces of good and evil. As someone who didn't really like Fairy Tail, I'd say he is definitely succeeding where that one fell flat for me.

For those unaware, Edens Zero is the story of Shiki Granbell who is traveling across the universe on the Edens Zero spaceship to meet Mother, the mysterious supposed goddess of the universe. Along the way he meets the worst scum the cosmos has to offer, and it is up to his crew and himself to set them straight while they head out on their quest. It's only been running for a bit over three years and with over 150 chapters, but so much has happened in its pages that it puts all modern western comics to shame. No one in the mainstream is putting something out like this.

Edens Zero is a shonen adventure series that manages to avoid the power creep problem the genre has become known for since Dragon Ball while also maintaining a high level of excitement throughout its onslaught of action. It's just a good old fashion adventure story. I'd call it sword and planet, except there are also guns, androids, virtual planets and planes, tokusatsu power suits, time travel, space pirates, space cops, and superpowers. Mashima isn't afraid of throwing everything in but the kitchen sink into this one, and he makes it all fit together as a neat whole.

It's a fun read of heroes against villains with some "grey" characters along the way (that will always eventually turn black or white, as it always goes in proper stories) to wild worlds as alien and inventive as anything you can imagine. It is quite a bit different than Fairy Tail, and quite a bit more inspired.

This is because, unlike Fairy Tail, Edens Zero is completely planned out and not done by the seat of the writer's pants. He used everything he learned through both Fairy Tail and first series Rave Master in order to write an epic adventure through the cosmos with cyborgs, magic, spaceships, and aliens aplenty, and a good bit of action to wash it all down. 

But most importantly: the good guys and the bad guys are always clearly defined and the line between them is never blurred. There are characters not on either line that will eventually be made to choose a side when trouble arises. When alliances are tested then you know precisely who everyone really is. This moral certainty is what gives the series its hotblooded drive and spark that makes it a blast to read through.

If it was just a bland hodgepodge of "grey" characters it would be like every other western comic set in space. And none of those are anywhere near as popular as Mashima's work is. 

This is why it feels like the Japanese are dominating the medium where the west is constantly stumbling. It is because their competition has completely ceded the moral ground which has in turn affected the interest audiences have in their anemic comic books. Who wants to read about miserable people being miserable to each other while fighting slightly more miserable people with slightly meaner motivations?

Nobody, apparently. It seems normal people don't care about "interesting characters" or whatever they are calling that grey mush these days. Audiences want heroes and villains. They probably always did despite being told they couldn't have them.

And this is also why movies like Dirty Harry or The Tough Ones still hold up today. They give the audience exactly what they crave, and they do it incredibly well.

Ambiguity of any kind does not preclude depth.

This is the main lesson to take away from the quest for "realism" and "interesting" is that it has led art off a cliff and should be abandoned. there is clearly no future in it, proved even more by how it has directly led to the climate we know live in. It is time to abandon this path just like heroism was abandoned back in the '60s. Enough is enough.

We deserve better.

While NewPub and the evaporating mainstream gives more room for such stories to finally flourish, it won't mean all that much if we don't change our understanding of real heroism. The fact of the matter is that we let this climate exist to begin with. It won't just evaporate overnight.

So let us start today in offering and indulging in more art and entertainment that celebrates the good instead of the evil. Change can only start with us, after all.

Then maybe we can finally turn this whole ship around before we steer right off the world's end. We don't have forever, after all. We can like each other again, and we will. As long as we remember to celebrate the good we can connect again.

The past is over, but the future always has the potential to be better. The more we work on it the more we can turn it around. No more celebrating the corrupted and the tainted: we will bring the good back to where it belongs. Once things are put back in their natural place everything will finally make sense again, just as it was always meant to.

And won't that be good?


  1. This blog post sparked discussion for most of the day on my writing Discord. We disassembled Marvel movies and various other books and media, looking at the way characters develop and whether they stay gray or become black and white. Thanks for writing this, I just love your rants. They always make me examine my thinking. For instance, the thing about how characters must have flaws. I honestly don't think about giving them flaws. I give them problems to overcome. That's way more interesting. I'll figure out their shortcomings as I go. :-D

    1. Glad I could help! I enjoy thinking and talking about this sort of thing with others.

  2. People who claim John Wayne characters are simple are clearly people who never watched the movies. Black and white movies probably repulse them.

    I was recently watching the Japanese show Sukeban Deka, and my wife ended up joining in. One of the things that most impressed her was how likable the good guys were and how utterly evil the villains were. The primary villainess, Remi, literally has no limit to what she'll do just to get her way. Not only is she fine with murdering innocent children, she'll laugh about it. My wife said, "This is the most evil person I've ever seen in a show." She didn't question it, though. She was totally involved in seeing her get her comeuppance. It reminds me of how Chester Gould designed Dick Tracy along lines of pure good vs. pure evil. Dick and his friends are very good people and the bad guys are utter bastards who will torture and kill elderly people or animals. Very few people do this kind of storytelling anymore. It's all shades of grey and mistaking motivations for justification.

    1. This is precisely the sort of thing I hope we see more and more from mainstream alternatives. We need a return to escapist stories of good and evil again, and I think we're on tap to get it.

      The grey goo isn't going to last forever.

  3. so.... is wrong to have some nuhance or sides? not saying from me, but in the point of view of a outsider

  4. I don't know if you've ever watched the recent Hannibal TV series (I would recommend the first season), but there's a scene in the third scene where Jack Crawford systematically beats the crap out of Hannibal Lecter. After all the psychoanalysis babble and the morass of moral relativism, the show finally gives the white hat the nod for a beatdown. It's so satisfying.

    Perhaps one of the ways to make a moral hero interesting is to give him one or two fanatical transcendental beliefs. The Thanos of Infinity War is more interesting that Endgame simply because he is a regretful and somber, yet driven by a higher mission. He isn't just a genocidal psychopath - he's still capable of personal love. I also notice that the ultra-loyalist fanatic General Zod from Man of Steel has proven an audience favorite in the years since, despite being more ethnically obsessed than Hitler.

    Instead of anti-heroes, therefore, perhaps people like a flawed hero who's obsessed with one all-consuming mission or transcendental good. Hollywood generally makes such people the villains; maybe there's a starving audience out there for heroes of such cast.

  5. "Superheroes uphold the status quo and bow to the law in order to keep the machine grinding along"

    I don't think this is always so. For example, Captain America frequently disobeys orders or even outright breaks the law in order to do the right thing, in both the comics and the movies. Sometimes he even becomes a fugitive because of his steadfast insistence on doing what is right regardless of the cost.

    "This despite the fact that Batman is a pale Shadow ripoff without any of the Justice or search for Truth but with plenty of merchandising opportunities for his safer brand of law enforcement."

    Just because he doesn't kill doesn't mean that he's trying to uphold the status quo. He is fighting to deliver justice in a city in which most of the police are either corrupt or inept. He is trying to clean up Gotham and end its crime-ridden status quo.

    "This was the decade where heroism was finally overcome by the creeping nihilism of anti-heroism that had steadily been rising since the 1960s. Now good guys were lame and weak--they didn't understand the true depths of evil in this world! To fight fire you have to use napalm and burn yourself in the process."

    "He might not have killed the Joker who just escaped Arkham for the fifth time and killed a crowd of 5000 but at least he isn't a murderer!"

    Aren't these two complaints contradictory? The reason for Batman's no-kill rule is that he thinks killing would be "using napalm and burning himself in the process", as you put it. Maybe this wouldn't necessarily objectively be the case, but I see no problem with some heroes thinking this way.

    For example, take WWII medic Desmond Doss, who refused to kill or even carry a gun due to his religious views, and saved dozens of lives at the cost of becoming grievously wounded. I personally don't agree with him that killing during a war is wrong, but there is no doubt that he was a hero.

    "He's too dangerous and unhinged to be considered a true superhero! Batman would never kill or assert moral superiority!"

    Batman asserts moral superiority all the time. The reason he refuses to kill is that he thinks it would make him lose his moral superiority.

    And it's not as if no-kill rules are some recent postmodernist invention. The Shadow's fellow pulp hero Doc Savage had a no-kill rule starting in his third novel. The Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet, both of which predated superheroes, had no-kill rules as well. No-kill rules were very commonplace in the 1930s and 1940s, especially with heroes aimed at a young audience.

    Also, "status quo" isn't inherently a good or bad thing. It depends on whether the current status quo is good or bad.

    I've heard an interesting argument that part of the reason for the popularity of murder mysteries of the Agatha Christie type is that most of them view the world as a generally just and moral place, with murders presenting a temporary interruption of justice and morality. The detective is there to smooth out this temporary hiccup and help justice and morality re-assert themselves as the norm. This makes these stories a particularly comforting form of escapism, regardless of whether they are accurate to the real world.

    "The question is never asked as to why the highest cause a hero could fight for is to be glorified police officers for a world of overdoses, morbid obesity, suicide, depression, and societal decay. Heroes would never fight for these things--they would fight to change them."

    Police officers exist in a world where those things exist, but they don't fight FOR them. They fight to keep society from falling into complete decay (at least when they do their job correctly instead of enforcing draconian laws like mask mandates), which is a useful and noble task regardless of whether society happens to be in rough shape at the time.