Hero Bashing

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See also: Grovelfic, Accusation Fic
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Hero Bashing is something of a mixture of both character bashing and the tall poppy syndrome[1]: the hero (in the classic Joseph Campbell sense) is the canonical center of attention, the focus of the show, and thus needs to be taken down. Only then can the playing field be level, and secondary characters can come into their own.

The leveling mechanisms used are pretty similar across fandoms. The talking points are usually along the lines of: the hero is uptight and whiny; the hero is moralistic and judgmental; the hero uses the people around him/her and doesn't really care about them; the hero is self-centered, selfish, and arrogant; the hero puts themselves and their beliefs first; the hero always gets their way, the hero is "weak" for having doubts or getting emotional about a situation.

A good chunk of the time, shipping plays a big role in the bashing. A hero who is canonically paired or implied to be in love with a character the fans prefer with someone else is often treated as "in the way" of the fan-preferred pairing hooking up.

Common targets of Hero Bashing

Hero Bashing in meta

Like character bashing, entire communities and archives have formed around cutting the hero down to size, which in turn created groups such as the Duncansluts or Jimbabes, fans who reacted by supporting the hero character. Sometimes the types of attacks on the hero were so frequent and so standard that generic defense letters were created.[2]

Hero Bashing in fiction

In fanfiction, as opposed to nonfiction canon analysis and discussion, Hero Bashing can result in both grovelfic and apologyfic, where the heroes must abase themselves to other, more preferred characters in order to display the proper amount of humility for being at the center of the show's attention. Frequently, the task of teaching the hero the error of his/her ways is handed to an OFC, who then gets to monologue and explain at length why the hero is so, so wrong in his approach to friendship and his world view. (Also frequently, this character shares many traits with a Mary Sue and can result in accusations of Issuefic, definition 2.)

Hero Bashing in slash

In slash fiction, especially in fandoms with one main pairing, there is an ongoing tension between fans of the hero character and fans of the sidekick character. Hero bashing happens at the same time as Wussification of the sidekick and the two go often hand in hand. The bashed hero is often painted as cruel, insensitive, and in need of a severe chewing-out if he wishes to make it up to the sidekick and prove himself worthy of his love. Other times, the hero is relegated to a Satellite Love Interest for the sidekick, who inexplicably becomes the "real" lead character of the story.

"[Name]" should be the hero instead/is the real hero!"

Hero bashing is frequently accompanied by the belief that the sidekick, secondary protagonist, side character, or even antagonist is the real hero of the story or should at least be the focal point. Fans who believe this will back up their argument by putting heavy emphasis on the character's moments of development or exaggerating them to sound like they took up more of the story than they really did. Examples include the Team Rocket Trio in the Pokémon anime or Rosalie Cullen from Twilight.

In cases where the secondary character, sidekick, or antagonist do have their own story that runs parallel to the hero's, fans will dismiss the hero's story as just a side plot or criticize it more harshly. Examples of this include Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender and Lucina from Fire Emblem Awakening.

Implications of prejudice

If the hero is a character of color or a woman and is bashed in favor of a secondary white male character, this can come off as racist or misogynist, especially if the fan believes the secondary white male "should" be the hero instead.[3] This is especially a concern in Teen Wolf fandom (lead of color Scott McCall is bashed in favor of the white Stiles and Derek) and Avatar: The Last Airbender fandom (Zuko is light-skinned and from an imperialist nation, Aang is a light-skinned boy of color from a religious tribe).

Meta & Further Reading


  1. ^ Tall Poppy Syndrome on Wikipedia
  2. ^ Duncan Defense Form Letter (accessed October 26, 2008)
  3. ^ here are some fandom red flags