The Chosen One WON’T Save The World

I am super hungry, but I’ve also been thinking. So I’m listening to Star Wars music and jotting down some thoughts about the trope of The Chosen One.

I think everyone on some level knows this trope. The Chosen One is generally the hero who has been “chosen” (obviously) to fulfil some great destiny, usually defeating the Big Bad. Who chooses this person? The names can defer according to the cultural property we’re talking about – in theory, they could be chosen by some person, or by birthright, or some magical force – but the answer at the heart of this question is usually: fate.

See, the Chosen One is destined for greatness. They are the centre of their universe, the centre of their plot, the one who inspires awe and ire in equal measure. As Katy Rose Pool’s article on Tor.com points out, we actually tend to ascribe “Chosen One” status to our leaders, too.

But I’ve not been thinking about fictional Chosen Ones. I’ve been thinking about the end of the world.

Between coronavirus, an economic depression, global warming, and ever-increasing political tensions both at home and abroad, it has become very difficult for some people (LIKE ME) to find any kind of optimism in their daily lives. If we were living at the beginning of an SFF novel, this would be the ideal time for the Chosen One hero to reveal themselves and save the day.

Yet, no hero is coming. No Chosen One will step up to the challenges of our time. And it makes me wonder about this trope’s place in our popular imagination, as society grapples with unprecedented threats.

I think we find Chosen One stories comforting. Because they’re about someone with extraordinary skill, skill we don’t have, stepping up to the dangers of the day and saving humanity. Our religious scripture is rife with Chosen One stories. It has an enduring charm that captures us even today, from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games, and everything in between.

So what role does this type of story play in our world now? Because sitting around waiting for a Chosen One to save us won’t be enough. A Chosen One will not stop this pandemic. A Chosen One will not reverse climate change. A Chosen One will not halt the destructive tide of late-stage capitalism. So what do we do?

I propose it is time for a new kind of heroics. Because one person cannot save the world, but in our small ways, we can make it a kinder place to live. You may not be fighting the Dark Lord, but you’re protesting against police brutality. You may not be overthrowing an evil empire, but you’re believing victims of sexual assault. You may not pull out the sword from the stone, but you are feeding the starving street dog.

Ordinary heroics matter.

Open your heart. Listen to those who often go unheard. Speak truth to power, and never forget the power of hope.

Small acts of kindness will save the world.

If you like my writing, please follow me on Instagram at @daminikane for more updates!

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