I read a book recently that really got me thinking. It's by Jennifer Ashley and titled The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie. In it, the hero, Lord Ian Mackenzie, has a disease of the mind. This is set in the 1880's, when medicine was still pretty archaic. Treatments were often worse than the original affliction. Lord Ian spent many years in an insane asylum, where they tried to beat the madness out of him. I won't get into too much detail, because you should check out the book.
His affliction was Asperger's Syndrome, which I believe is on the same level as autism, just not usually as severe. According to Wikipedia, people with Asperger's lack nonverbal communication skills, demonstrate limited empathy with their peers, and are physically clumsy. Ms. Ashley did a wonderful job portraying this in her book, especially the limited empathy.
'I can play this piece note for note' Ian said, his breath warm in her ear. 'But I can not capture its soul.'
My question is- how much illness or injury can a hero have and still remain a hero? I know we generally like to read about stong, handsome, extremely masculine men sweeping the heroine off her feet. But what if, like a very large part of the rest of the population, he has glasses, or is overweight, or diabetic? Or what if he's been molested? Or, oh my gosh, maybe he's losing his hair! We have a large influx of wounded veterans returning home right now. The very fact that they fought valliantly for their country makes them heroes, right? Yet I've only seen one or two books deal with the subject.
I never thought Asperger's could be portrayed in a hero, and have the story work. I've seen the occasional case of OCD, but nothing more serious than that. I admire Ms. Ashley for what she has put out for the public. I think this was a well thought out portrayal of a not quite perfect hunk.
Check out her website here. You can read the first chapter of her book.
My question to you is- at what point does a hero physically, and mentally, stop being a hero? Or, what aspects/characteristics/flaws would you NOT give a hero? Or heroine, for that matter? Would the public be interested in these flawed heroes?
Let me know your thoughts...