Story Icons: The Protector

This post first appeared on my former blog February 28, 2011.

I’m wild about heroes who play the role of “Protector.”  From True Grit to Terminator 2, there are hundreds of stories that feature this iconic hero.  Often a loner or someone who has been shunned by society, the Protector defies convention and risks his life to keep the heroine safe.

Of course, there are heroine twists on the Protector, too.  Sigourney Weaver’s character in Aliens must protect the orphaned girl, Newt.  And John Grisham has a boy who witnessed a suicide hire an attorney (played by Susan Sarandon in the film) to protect him in his story The Client.

The big name superheroes tend to be Protectors.  Obviously, they’re protecting mankind in the larger sense, but the films tend to give us a specific heroine who becomes the focus of that attention.  Superman has Lois Lane.  Batman has Vicki Vale. Spider-Man has Mary Jane Watson.

In romance fiction, Protectors abound.  Firefighters, cowboys, Navy SEALs, cops.  In today’s world, the heroines aren’t necessarily shrinking violets—they’re capable women who can take care of themselves.  But when faced with overwhelming odds or life-threatening circumstances, the Protector still arrives to provide comfort, support and to help defeat the villain.  They never intend to fall in love, but when they do, it’s forever.

One of my recent favorite Protectors is The Fifth Element.  Bruce Willis plays a retired military officer driving a cab in a futuristic world under siege.  He protects a girl who literally lands in his lap, only to discover that she’s the key to defending the Earth.

And I’ll be honest–I’m thinking about Protectors because my nephew just graduated from basic training at Fort Jackson.  He’s starting his advance training today.  A huge cheer for all the men and women who help protect our country!

Do you have a favorite Protector character?  Why do you think this role has survived as a hero icon for hundreds of years?  Do you find Protectors romantic?

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