White Knights / by Frixos Masouras

To be a hero, one would have to do something selfless and courageous. Often to save a golden-haired damsel in distress from the clutches of a fierce dragon. A story that has been told a thousand times through the ages, even before paper came into the picture! Without a hero/heroes you don't really have a story. Be he or she a person in armour, or just someone whose plights in life would make us laugh or cry. Or even both! 

To create a hero one must not look far from one's self. You are bound to have done something in your life that made people happy. In that instance, you were the hero. That is what defines a hero in a narrative, their actions. Of course heroes don't just spring up from nowhere. They need a back-story, often one that we can relate and connect to. For the sake of this article we will overlook the very appealing concept of the anti-hero, and we shall return to them at a later date.

A great example of a hero everyone loves to root for is the "White Knight", the clean hero who will face adversity and overcome it in order to achieve his or her goal. There are countless examples of such heroes like John Rambo himself. And no, he is not an anti-hero. He followed his orders, did his time, completed his duty yet he returned to an unwelcoming home only to be seen as a monster and killer. Of course he later on goes to become one of the greatest action heroes of the silver screen, spanning no less than four films. A plethora of wonderful heroes have had their sequels and trilogies, often evolving as characters from film to film. This trend was mostly introduced north of 1990, and no, Michael Corleone is not a hero! Nor did Indiana Jones evolve much through his adventures albeit being a wonderful character to observe. 

A Knight...

A Knight...

The simple mention of heroes evolving through a series of films should spring to mind one of the most intriguing (to say the least) trilogies of the last two to three decades. Say what you want about Keanu Reeves but his delivery of Neo in the Matrix trilogy was exactly what the doctor had ordered. A hacker who becomes a martial arts superhero only to finally sacrifice himself in order to see a truce through with the lifeless and merciless machines that threatened all the awakened folks of earth. His journey alone was enough for us to witness him evolving and this is what makes him stand out as one of the great White Knights of cinema. Of course you don't always have the luxury of three films to tell the story of a man or a woman. Sometimes you only have 90 minutes tops!

William Wallace,  Wendell "Bud" White, Helen Ripley (the real one, not the clone!), Jesus Christ, Erin Brockovich, Captain Miller and Chief Brody have all carried the White Knight banner brilliantly. Kind-hearted individuals with only good intentions. To write a well-rounded hero one must understand what the hero's task is and why that hero is going through with it. Should the task ahead be monumental, all the better for us the viewers! Gandalf quivering in his robes at the idea of facing a Balrog is exactly what such a hero is made for. Granted, most of the literally world knew that he would emerge triumphant but in that moment, Gandalf the Grey took it upon him to face that which he feared the most in order to save the Fellowship.

Now, that's all fine and dandy. Sometimes though you need to shake a hero up a little bit more. Throw more trouble their way. Make the trip increasingly arduous and perilous (unlike the "perils" that Sir Galahad faced in Monty Python's Holy Grail!) for the hero or heroine, bringing them to the point of breaking. Not all heroes have happy endings, even if they manage to achieve their goals. Samantha Morton's Sarah from In America is a good example of a heroine with a very troubled road ahead of her. She sees the pain and anguish through to its happy end in order to extend her family as a mother of two having already lost one child and immigrating to a strange, and often unwelcoming, land.

...and a Dragon.

...and a Dragon.

The greatest example of a hero as such is Dae-Su Oh from the masterpiece that is Oldboy. A teenager spreading a rumour that sets in motion one of the most heart-wrenching stories and sending the very same teenager (as a man) through a path of utter ruin. Dae-Su Oh was a White Knight, make no mistake about it. Yet unbeknownst to him, he was facing a very different dragon and rescuing a damsel (and lover) with a secret that is beyond dark. More of these Knights, please! What was that? A remake you say? Sorry. There is no such thing as a remake of OldBoy.

Which White Knights have dazzled you?

 

- Frixos Masouras 2014