I named this post after Joseph Campbell’s marvelous book; The Hero’s Journey. However, I have nothing to contribute to the (I imagine) already giant backlog of Internet chatter about the man’s brilliant insights -I kindly take ‘em for granted, am grateful for Star Wars… and that’s about it- so I won’t.
Instead I want to talk about a great hero; an Inspiration in fact.
This man is Prince Vegeta of Dragon Ball Z fame.
As many of my Imaginary loyal readers are aware I’ve recently started re-watching the DBZ series. It is something I watched when I was 15 and at home with mono. It was comforting to watch. I don’t know why. Vegeta fascinated me. There was something about him that made me want to be stronger and better.
At age 15 I was the usual teenager; pretty much an asshole all around. Confused. Angry. Annoying. Always right. Socially Awkward. And Stupid… Really, Really Stupid… Oh, and really lazy. Basically the perfect person to be completely infatuated with the arrogant Prince Vegeta…
Of course, by now I’m totally awesome. Really, really smart and pretty with a brain like butterflies and cookies and razors (yes… That is possible… and Awesome). So, it struck me as odd that whilst having changed so much and grown so much, I was still attracted to Vegeta.
When I say attracted, I don’t mean in the “O my Gosh, I love him!” Way (Been there, done that.. besides, Trunks is way Hotter -Just kidding… or Am I?– )… But more in the way that you are impressed by someone. His way of life and ideas and character is so beautifully sculpted.
To those of you not familiar with the story of DBZ, stop reading now. I’m gonna go into specifics that you really won’t care about… Just take away from this story that I am in love with animated manga characters. That is a nice story too! (True as well… Aladdin and I go way back)
But to those imaginary readers who do know their DBZ, think about it. Vegeta is the greatest hero of all time. I’m talking in the story telling sense, though arguably he’s a damn good saviour as well.
Most people are more drawn to Goku. He’s good and kind and warm-hearted, innocent and loves his family. I’m sure those are all wonderful characteristics… But when you look at it from a story telling point of view… He’s not the most interesting character. There is hardly any conflict. He pretty much does whatever he damn well pleases and everyone loves him irregardless of it.
While he was born as a machine of destruction, one blow to the head made him the bestest of people. He won’t hurt a fly (except maybe his wife… talk about abandoning your family over and over again) but that is just the way he is. Everything he does, he does effortless.
Now Vegeta is a completely different story. We first get to know him as the proud prince Vegeta, on his way to the planet Earth to use the Dragon Balls to wish himself immortal. He’s pure evil.
But already there is a weakness deep within, a pain. He’s merely a puppet of Freeza, who destroyed his father and home planet. He is tied down and powerless. A man, who can kill and destroy millions cannot stand up to this one person that controls him. And then he meets Goku and Company. He sees him progress and is always one step behind. He is angry, mad, tries to become good, tries to love, tries to become evil again… and finally accepts that he’s just not as powerful as Goku.
He went from the purest of Evils to a man trying to be good, to a good man who regrets his many evils, makes amends and learns to respect his one rival. He went from a man ready to destroy planets to a man who threatens to cut back his sons allowance if he doesn’t fight in the tournament… He’s grown so much it is insane.
Now, that isn’t a story arc I don’t know what is.
And to make it even better, whenever I am running and training for the marathon and I can’t go on… I remember how much Vegeta struggled to become a Super-Saiyan and finally doing it. The images of that struggle flashing before my minds eye… always make me push those last few miles out of me. I still don’t know why… But that man wanted something with all his might… and all his pride… and he never gave up… Never backed down. Even when outclasses, he always got back up to fight another fight.
I’m sorry, but if that’s not the ultimate hero… I don’t know what is.