The Color of Heroism
Updated: Aug 12, 2020
In a previous blog, we discussed how evil is not confined to Black mana, and in fact has the potential to manifest itself in any of the other colors. We learned how certain aspects of any color's philosophies can lead them down a dark path. But what about the flip side of this topic? What does heroism look like within the four other colors that are not often associated with such a trait?
While White mana usually consists of the best representations of those who do heroic deeds, all of the colors hold heroism within them, and yes, that even means Black. So let's find out what types of heroes the other colors have within them, and what about their philosophies creates them. If you missed the previous artcle, then don't worry; you won't need the information found there to understand this one, but I would suggest you check it out after. Alright, let's start things off with the color that is typically furthest removed from idea of heroism in our minds: Black.
Black's personality is most often viewed as intentionally antagonistic and vile. Now while it is the color most comfortable with these types of characters, that doesn't mean the whole color is damned to be villains. A lot of the misconception around Black lies in its perceived lack of morals or its active disdain for them. The true difference, and an important distinction, is that Black is amoral. The difference being that they do not prescribe to traditional morality, as morality is a man-made construct that restricts action. What this means is that Black will not bend its will to fit within the laws that others create to restrict it. Now, this doesn't mean that Black is actively trying to be antagonistic towards moral thinking, it's just that they will not bend their intentions to them if they feel that those moral choices inhibit their will to act upon their desires.
To an extent, I feel the tenets of Satanic Temple best encapsulate this type of Black character. Especially the fourth tenet, which states:
“The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one's own freedom.”
This group believes not necessarily in the laws of man, but instead lives by a few guiding principles that are routed in realistic and human thought. This side of Black wishes a world where each may act according to their own will as long as that will doesn't encroach upon another. So this type of Black character may see an entity which wishes to restrict and oppress others as a great threat, not only to themselves, but to all. As an example, it could witness White's oppression through strict law and forced morality as a great sin against a people who deserve to live out their lives as they see fit. To this end, Black could rise from oppression to be the hero an enslaved people would look to in a time of need. This hero would be acting from a place of self-interest, but in the end, those interests would align with all who fell under the same oppressive thought. The freedom to act according to one's own will is something very important to Black, but in the end is important to us all.
So now let's talk about the one aspect of Black that often labels or leads it into its more dark intention, but if looked at differently, can be a force for good. It's no surprise that Black can be a greedy and selfish color, but ask yourself what trait combines those things and is quite accepted within society? The answer is ambition, for without the desire for more and a focus on one's own needs, there would be no ambition.
How can ambition be a force for good when it is routed in selfish desires?
This is how I think about it: Imagine any great person, any true hero who has led a charge for change. What was the trait that drove them to accomplish those great deeds? Well, I think you know the answer: it's ambition. It's in striving for greatness where any person can make a significant difference within society. Think of a character like Rock Lee. He was born weaker than the rest, but he pushed himself harder than anyone because of it. He is a character consumed with the ambition to become the best despite his disadvantage, and in turn, he's able to protect the ones he loves with it.
So what we have learned is that Black's desire to protect its own freedom can lead it into conflict with those who wish to encroach upon not only their freedom but also the freedom of others. Ambition, when aligned with a noble cause, is something that can lead Black to do great things in service of others. For change only comes when someone stands up and demands it. Now let's take a look at the color Red and see an example of the heroic archetype done in service not of desire, but of the heart.
When we talk about a color like Red, it's always a matter of emotion over the mind, and in regards to what pushes it into selfless acts, this is no different. Unlike some of the other colors, it's not much of a stretch for Red to become a hero; it's just a matter of its motivations. Red is the color of fierce loyalty to those it cares about, and with enough empathy, that is extended to all. It's like I've said time and time again: Red is the color that feels and it feels stronger than anyone else. If that feeling is empathy for those too weak to save themselves, then what you get is the perfect archetype of the selfless hero. It is this motivation, driven by empathy, that would lead Red into harm's way in service of others. In many ways, this is the true motivation of any hero. It strips down any obligation to nothing more than acting on the heart's wish to protect the weak.
So we have figured out what motivates Red heroes into action, but what kind of hero is Red? Well, let's start with its fundamental heroic traits and go from there. You see, Red is intensity, hope, and courage unwavering. It is a hero of action without thought, unclouded by indecision. It is the hero that rushes into a burning building or is the first to charge into battle. It is the character that stories are told about for ages to come.
In a lot of ways, Red can be the most archetypal hero aside from White.
What sets Red apart from other colors' thought is that it's the color that has the most fun being the hero. Sure, they are driven by their convictions and passion, but at the same time they do it for the love of the fight. They enjoy being the hero and almost get off on putting themselves in harm's way. The best way to illuminate this kind of hero is in characters like Goku. Sure, he is driven by a desire to protect those he loves, but above all else, he simply enjoys fighting for fighting's sake. This side of Red may even be a bit of a showman and might derive pleasure from the act of being a hero. In the end, there is nothing that this version of Red would wish to be except a hero.
When it comes to Red, we have a Color that is driven by the most basic instinct that lies deep within us all, and that is empathy. For some, it my be a small, gnawing voice in the back of their head, but for Red, it is a thundering boom in their heart that they cannot ignore. To Red, there is no standing on the sidelines while others fight. Its up to them to act, and if Red has a little fun along the way, then what's the harm in that?
Now let's step away from Red's outward acts of flashy heroism and move onto the more methodical and structured approach of Blue when talking about heroism. When it comes to putting oneself on the line for others, the motivations behind such deeds are the most important part. For Blue, this motivation may not be so obvious, as it's the color that takes its time to chart the best path forward. To Blue, reckless acts of heroism found colors like Red would be out of the picture. So then, what in Blue's philosophy would lead them into danger for the sake of others?
Unlike Red, the reason is less about the action and more about the result. Blue is a lot less about what it feels about injustice and more about what effect injustice has. It knows that within a world of chaos and suffering, perfection may not be obtained. It may not be driven by empathy, but the result is the same. It is moved to put itself on the line for others, as it may be the only one with the ability to do so. Sometimes Blue can come off as cold, but it does see the value in others. To this end, it cannot stand by while unneeded suffering and destruction takes place. When it feels the call to action, it will step in and, with the help of its technology or magic, it can be a hero unlike any of the other colors.
So now we know that Blue is driven by the results of heroism and less about the deed itself. So what kind of hero is Blue, then? Blue is the kind of hero that leans into its own abilities in order to make sure it has the advantage in any situation. Blue thinks about its next move, and only will rush into combat if it is the last resort or best option. It's a tinkerer, detective, and a master of every art it needs to get the job done. For me, this description pulls Batman to mind. Here we have a hero that displays a level of intelligence and confidence that is unparalleled. His ability to tackle any situation with intellect and ingenuity makes him a great example.
Alright, lets formulate the overall picture of what kind of heroes are found in Blue mana. Firstly, a Blue hero is someone who has a grander plan for their heroism than that of simply reacting to injustice. It sees the effect that chaos has on the world and wishes to right it. For in a world of chaos, there will never be perfection. Secondly, Blue heroes leverage their intelligence and ingenuity to tackle any obstacle with confidence.
Finally we come to Green, the color of harmony and acceptance of the natural order. Green is the color that often says we must be at peace with our place within the ecosystem; and what happens always happens for a reason. Now, this does not mean that Green will not act; it's just that action requires its own motivations, much like the other colors. Where Green is pushed into the service of others comes in its desire to maintain the status quo.
You see, everything happens for a reason but destruction without purpose never has its place.
Green will do, in this circumstance, whatever it takes to uphold the delicate balance of the world around it. There are those who would wish to misuse and abuse the balance, and in the face of this, Green has no patience. This version of Green sees the maintenance of balance and harmony as its duty, a commitment it would give its life for. Think for a moment of the checks and balances that mother nature puts in place so that the planet will not consume itself. You see, harmony is part of any world; it's what holds everything together. So if there are those who would artificially consume past their means and destroy what must live, then there must be an equal force to keep it in check.
For its next motivation, we have an interesting case in that it is a based on an obligation rather than a desire for the role of hero. You see, Green is the color closely tied to destiny. For destiny is merely finding one's role within the ecosystem and accomplishing what you were made for. We each have a duty, and for some, that duty is based in a destiny decided before birth. Of course, this type of hero is seen many times in media, but is usually represented by the reluctant hero, and for a true Green character, there would be no reluctance in their role. For me, the embodiment of accepting one's destiny in the pursuit of maintaining the balance is the hero of time, Link. Here we a hero who does not waver in his duty, one who silently marches forward, guided by the hand of destiny.
Unlike most colors when it comes to heroism, Green is a color that doesn't necessarily wish to abolish all wrongdoing, but instead maintain the balance that destiny has set before them. For Green, there is no questioning its role as a hero. It knows what it must do and simply does it. Unlike the other colors, Green isn't looking to become a hero -- it simply is.
Just as there is no one color that is the sole representation of evil, so too is there is no single color of heroism. Of course, some can lean into these roles a lot easier than others, but none are beholden to those traits. When looking at what it takes to become a hero, it's just a matter of a color's motivations manifested from their core philosophies. For some, it's rooted in an ambition to be better and do better. While for others, it is fate handed down. Whatever the reason is, there is a hero to be found in each of the colors of Magic.
[Edited by Cameron Davis]