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By Alex Lynchehaun
Happy Saint George’s Day! The veneration of this young man (possibly) from Syria is not exclusive to Britain. All across Europe, and parts of the Middle East, Saint George and the Dragon is a common legend. It’s easy to see why; the story is inspirational. A traveller in a foreign land intervened to rid a nation of danger even though it posed no immediate threat to his way of life. It was this decision not just to note and denounce evil, but to act against it, which made such a fantastical story universal. People wanted their nation to be built from that kind of spirit.
This summer mythical stories of world-saving heroes will fill multiplexes throughout Britain. The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spiderman, Dredd, G.I Joe, Men in Black and Avengers Assemble may make this the most super summer yet. Each is a tale of a hero intervening, often at great cost to themselves, to try and save the world. Captain America, one sixth of Marvel’s multi-million-pound-movie-monolith Avengers Assemble, is perhaps the closest cinema will come to St. George. A traveller (in time rather than across medieval Europe) fights against a dragon (see the end of the trailer) to save a land that is not his own. The U.S. may not have Saint George but through Marvel they come pretty close.
Genre busting superhero movie Kick-Ass, from the summer of 2010, demonstrated the role superheroes play in society. The unlikely protagonist falls on a fleeing man (a failed attempt to rescue a cat) and defends him from attack. The antagonists ask him ‘The fuck is wrong with you, man? You’d rather die for some piece of shit that you don’t even fucking know?’ to which he replies ‘Three assholes, laying into one guy while everybody else watches? And you wanna know what’s wrong with me?’ Kick-Ass encourages the audience to act; encourages them to intervene in the world around them, just as the legend of St. George did sometime around the 3rd century A.D.
Unlike Saint George or The Avengers, in the real world there are no dragons, there are no superheroes hanging around in Headington. Rarely are single monologue-reliant bad guys responsible for our woes. In few instances are countries ravaged by fearsome lizards. Alas, the problems that plague us cannot be solved by getting Hulk angry. Neither superheroes nor saints can intervene in the real world but they do serve as an inspiration. These stories- separated by centuries, continents and CGI – are united through their ability to give people hope of clear-cut solutions; a belief to persevere in the real world. The Midgard Serpent may be unlikely to attack anyone soon, but that doesn’t make the legend of Saint George any less pertinent. Superhero movies occur in a parallel universe, but their popularity comes from the same source as Saint George’s, as an inspiration to action.