Outcasts, Misfits, and Heroes

by Trish and Nancy

This is a summer for outcast heroes. The seasonal blockbusters kicked off with Wolverine, followed by Jim Kirk in Star Trek. You could also make the case that Spock is a misfit hero, a son of two worlds who doesn’t entirely fit in either. Into the mix dropped John Connor, who spent most of his youth on the run (and if you love strong heroines, check out Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles on DVD).

I love this time of year, when all the big summer, popcorn movies — the ones with superheroes, badasses and things that go boom (to borrow a phrase from you, Nancy) start hitting theaters. I love the misfit heroes because it’s so much sweeter when they become a hero, you know? I enjoyed Wolverine, but I LOVED Star Trek. Have seen it twice, and it was worth the price of admission both times. I think Kirk is a misfit of his own making. He takes actions that purposefully make it an outcast. But Spock is an outcast — from not one, but two worlds — because of something he can’t control, his parentage. I haven’t seen Terminator yet, but I want to. Hopefully, soon.

I’d love to claim credit for the “boom” thing, but I think I got it from Jo. Someone blogged on boom a while back. Anyway, I’ve seen Star Trek only once so far but am eager to see it again. Despite being such a Trek geek, I don’t think I’d love it as much if the characters hadn’t pulled me in. Zachary Quinto was great as Spock, and he had big shoes to fill. The original Trek episode “Amok Time” revealed the dichotomy in Spock (I think it was that episode), but this movie really explored it. You make a good point about Kirk choosing to be an outcast while Spock was born one.

Misfit and outcast heroes don’t just appear in movies, though. They’re a staple in books, too. Acheron spent most of his youth as a despised outcast. Hugo in The Unknown Ajax (Georgette Heyer) is despised by his family until he saves their skins and they realize he isn’t the bumpkin they assumed he was. Beast of “Beauty and the Beast” is a classic example. By extension, so is every hero in stories based on that tale.

Jayne Ann Krentz’s Gideon, the hero of Ravished, is shunned by his community until the heroine, a fossil hunter, forces him into the light. Sabrina Jeffries’ Marcus North, Viscount Draker, in To Pleasure a Prince is feared by Society until love forces him into its circles.

Two of my all-time favorite books have outcast heroes. The first is Simple Jess by Pamela Morsi. Pam is writing contemporaries now, but I first fell in love with her historical romances because they’re Americana and she writes fantastic characters. Jess is a very unconventional hero in that he’s “slow” because he was oxygen deprived at birth. But he’s so very endearing and totally believable as a hero. He reminds me a bit of Forrest Gump — a bit slower but he knows what love is. And you totally understand why the heroine, Althea, would fall in love with him.

The other book is Jackson Rule by Dinah McCall (original cover at left). The heroine, Rebecca Hill, is a preacher’s daughter, and Jackson Rule is a convicted killer who has done his time when she hires him to work in her greenhouse. He just wants honest work, something that is often hard to get if the stigma of prison is attached to you.

Getting back to the geeky movies we so love, the reboot of Jim Kirk has a wild edge Shatner never did, maybe because we didn’t see the original Kirk in bar fights. Is wildness part of the outcast or misfit hero?

I think it makes them more interesting, a bit of the bad boy that readers often love to fantasize about because they’d never date or marry them in real life. The fantasy of taming the wild/bad boy is a powerful one. I do love stories where the outcast hero, who might not seem destined for a happily-ever-after or had anyone believe in him, gets both in a strong heroine. I love that message there being love out there for everyone, even heroes who don’t make it easy to love them. It’s also interesting to see characters like Kirk go from reckless, self-centered men to selfless heroes. It’s a big, interesting character arc.

While not necessarily romantic-type heroes, the misfits are common on TV programs too. Look no further than Monk or House. Or the many different characters on Heroes.


I didn’t even think about Monk! I agree with you about Heroes, too. And one of my favorite series, featuring an ex-covert agent who doesn’t know what to do with himself, is back. If you haven’t checked out Burn Notice on the USA Network, you’ve missed a treat.

Getting back to your point about bad boys, though, I also like to see them find strong women who can get through their armor. There’s a reason the reformed rake (Rhett Butler, anyone?) is such a popular hero, but wild guys don’t tame so easily in real life. Books are a safer way to explore them.

So, banditas and buddies, who’s your favorite bad, outcast, or misfit hero? Do you like the summer blockbuster or like your movies quieter?

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