The Doctor as a role model

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For anyone who has ready all the posts in this blog it should come as no surprise that the final role model on this list is the Doctor. Seriously I’ve been doing this blog for months, stating at the beginning that I’m a big fan and yet somehow I haven’t wrote anything about Doctor Who yet. He wasn’t even the last role model on my list. He was actually number four and on a list that had been written before the series returned. But I’ve saved him until last because he has more than any of the others been the biggest influence on my life. The main role model who has been there from when I was a kid in the eighties to today. And it is surprising how sometimes it has have had parallels with my life. For example the first Doctor novel I was reading back in 2007 Venusian Lullaby which dealt with the loss and remembrance of loved ones was the same time I lost my nan. The eleventh Doctor’s relationship with married companions Amy and Rory came to an end at the same time as my friendship with a couple I was close with. To this day I still haven’t seen or heard from her much to my sadness. And now the Doctor after being male for all his life is now becoming a woman in the same year I start to question my own gender identity. It’s not surprising that my dissertation in uni was based around Doctor Who. A Modern Myth for a Post Cristian society. The idea that Doctor Who could act as a replacement for religion.

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It’s hard to know where to start with the Doctor as a role model, there have been twelve Doctors so far, each with their own personalities and traits and I don’t really want to go through each Doctor listing their differences. Because basically, at heart, there is a fundamental Doctorness that comes through each incarnation. Even Eccleston who I though initially was not suited to the role had it and it’s why I have little fear that Whittaker will be able to pull it off.
There is a phase that has been used to describe the Doctor that writer Terrence Dicks came up with and that in recent years has been used by the Doctor himself. Never cruel, never cowardly. It is a good phase to live by. Not to be cruel to people and never to be scared of standing up for yourself and others even if deep down you are scared.
But there are other things I take from the Doctor. His sense of wonder at the universe, his love of exploring the unknown. His search for truth and knowledge. I have three favourite Doctors. Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy and Matt Smith. The fifth, seventh and eleventh Doctors respectively.
It was of course the classic Doctors that I grew up with and the fifth Doctor was the one from my childhood. Just to see his youthful energy and pleasure at life. The following exchange is the best example of this.
The Doctor: Emotions have their uses.
Cyber Leader: They restrict and curtail the intellect, and logic of the mind.
The Doctor: They also enhance life. When did you last have the pleasure of smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well-prepared meal?
Cyber Leader: These things are irrelevant.
The Doctor:

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The fifth Doctor had an honest charm about him and would often hesitate before making rash choices always trying to find a better way to solve the problems usually trying diplomacy first. He is the Doctor that perhaps shows the most conscience. It is telling that unlike his bombastic incarnations either side he died saving just the single life of his companion, willing to sacrifice himself for his friend.

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The type of passion and youthfulness that the fifth Doctor showed is one of the reasons the eleventh Doctor is one of my favourites from the new series. He too values the little things in life but is also willing to do what he can to help his friends and others. He has a great childish nature but this hides a calculating side of him where his enemies underestimate him. I find the eleventh Doctor to almost be a mix of both the fifth Doctor and the Seventh.

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Sadly the series went off air in 1989 with the seventh Doctor who continued his adventures in a series of novels. This made him become another favourite of mine. But unlike the carefree fifth Doctor who just seemed to get caught up in things the seventh Doctor was a master planner. He engineered plans to defeat his enemies and at times this caused conflicts with his companions but there was lessons to be learned here. I learnt that it is possible to make plans and to try and work out all the angles but at times things can go wrong and you need to improvise. But from the seventh Doctor’s flaws I leant that it is important to be mindful of your actions and to be careful not to hurt those close to you. To keep in mind the bigger picture but to also not forget the small stuff.
But overall there are aspects from all Doctors that are good with morals and lessons from all the incarnations.

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We see the first Doctor changed over time from a selfish suspicious alien to a character that dares to stop the villains he comes across. The second Doctor continues this, continuing to fight and to save the people he comes across and yet having the sense of fun with his adventures and touched with tenderness towards his companions. The third was all action and became part of a team. There was a lot of Buddhist themes during his era especially where he learns that his own thirst for knowledge can be seen as a greed and finally learning to let go of his old life in order to become a new man.
This of course was when he became the fourth Doctor and it’s interesting to note that after changing he abandons his old life, leaving behind his job and his ‘family’ and goes out to wonder the cosmos looking for adventure. A great lesson for those who want to change their life. With regards to the sixth Doctor the lessons learnt here are more to do with the aftermath of this incarnation. His predecessor comes to think of the sixth doctor in a negative light and it is only later that he comes to realise that his own memories are twisted and learns to forgive himself, a lesson in forgiving your past. The eighth Doctor regains his love of life again and living in the moment. His glee in his first adventure over a simple well-fitting pair of shoes is a great moment.
The ninth Doctor had some nice moments but above all when we meet him he is broken by his actions in the past and through his friendship with Rose he heals himself. Rose says it herself that the Doctor showed her a better way to live life.
That you don’t just give up, you don’t just let things happen. You make a stand, you say no, you have the guts to do what’s right.

 
The tenth had a story arch where his arrogance is eventually his downfall and the twelve questions whether he is a good man. So there is something that can be learnt from every incarnation

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But my favourite quote concerning the Doctor comes from writer Lance Parkin.

No one can be The Doctor, he’s more than human, but we can try to be like The Doctor – peaceful, intelligent, witty, reasonable, aware of what is truly important.”
Take joy in life, plan the big stuff but take pleasure in the little things. Stand up for yourself and others when scared. Remember who you were but keep moving forward. Search for truth Hate is always foolish and love is always wise. Always try to be nice but never fail to be kind. Laugh hard and run fast. And be fantastic.

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Angel as a Role Model

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When I wrote the original role model piece years ago Angel was the last one I added on it. In fact the series had just ended. Although originally a character in Buffy, the vampire slayer the series found its own way to go. The main theme of Angel is quite clearly one of redemption. Angel was a vampire killer but was given his soul back and so now feels guilty about his past. He is quite literary battling his inner demon(s). At the time I was going through some things that resonated with this theme and so it is little wonder that I felt a little connected to the character. As such it was what inspired me to write the original piece about the role models I my life as I tried to put myself back together.
It would not be the last time that life knocked me down and like Spider-man I would have to force myself back up and to carry on. Like Duncan MacLeod I would have to explore inside myself and find inner peace with my decisions and the bad things of my past. To carry on trying to be the good guy that I wanted to be led by the morals and the sense of right that I had learned as a kid from He-man and Robin of Sherwood.
But with Angel there was a sense of trying to get out there and do things to make up for my past. To try and make a difference in the world and to the people around me. Spider-man felt a responsibility to go out and help people. He-man too was given his powers to be the hero. Robin Hood felt a sense of justice to fight back. For Angel it was all about trying to make amends by doing the right thing.
This is clear in Buffy where as a character he helps Buffy until that time when completely happy he turns back into his dark identity of Angelus. By the time he comes back to normal he realises he must leave Buffy and Sunnydale behind. Buffy the series is a metaphor for growing up, the demons metaphors for the trials and tribulations of going through teenage life and into adulthood. Here is after season three a bit of a shift in tone for the series as we see Buffy trying to make her way in the world after high school. Angel the series is a lot darker. (well for the most part)

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This is now showing us a metaphor for being a grown up and having to live in the world. Angel and his friends may start their investigations agency with the aim to help the lost souls of Los Angles but it’s not long before the reality hits that they need to charge sometimes for their services. The must make a living from what they do. There is no great wealth hidden away for our heroes to concentrate simply on helping people. The closest hero on this list that comes close to being in the same situation as Angel is Peter Parker who is seen always struggling to make ends meet while trying to still help the world as a hero. What we do get with Angel is a show that considers what makes life meaningful in amongst the rigors of everyday life in which we get caught up in. We see this not just with Angel’s actions but also the relationships of those around him.
The series also deals with loss and with making sacrifices. We have Angel initially trying to forget the love of his life and get on with his life, shutting himself away from people, a brooding figure, and it’s interesting to see how the cast grows over the five series as Angel becomes more at peace with who he is. But there is also more lost to come with one of the initial characters dying in the first part of the first season. It is made clear from this moment on that this is a show that is going to deal with darker issues.
And it does this most with season five showing what can happen when you make compromises to get what you want. Even though death has been shown throughout the series the death of Fred is both sudden and shocking. As for the final, it is possibly one of the darkest endings for a show that I have seen. (The only other one I can personally think of is Blake’s 7) It’s an emotional rollercoaster which left me in complete shock. In hind sight I can see it was really the only good way the show could end and it also highlights the whole theme of redemption as Angel and his team make the ultimate sacrifice in order to do the right thing.

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The line that sticks in my mind most from the show, and one of the most quoted, is one that I try to live by. “If nothing we do matters then all that matter is what we do”. It is something that resonates with me even more after I studied philosophy. Sometime are actions might not make that much of a difference to the world. Sometimes it may make thing a little better for a while but the actions will soon be overshadowed by the realities of life. But we should still do what we think is right even if such actions are futile. And this is true especially if we are trying to make up for something in our past. This is something that Angel learns when he finds out that there may not be some great destiny of final win to aim for. It’s about little acts of kindness.
As mentioned in the Highlander post there is the point about accepting yourself for who you are good or bad. With Angel there is the message that you can make up for that past by trying to be a better person and do the right thing no matter how dark things are. Angel realises this at last. It’s not about doing it for any reward or redemption but simply to help. It is important to try and make that difference, to stand up and be counted. And maybe then when we finally face death we can do it with courage, safe in our knowledge that we lived the best life we could and tried to make a difference and what more could someone want in that final moment.

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Highlander as a role model

So eventually returning to the hero series it’s time to talk about my next role model. He is Duncan MacLeod, The Highlander.

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Now with Highlander and indeed the next hero we have something a little different because where the heroes before were heroes from my childhood influencing me as I grew up. But I came across Highlander one night watching sky back in around 1994 if I remember right (either way it was half way through series two). By now I was what could be considered a young adult but I believe that we can always find mentors, role models and lessons throughout our lives so there was still stuff I could learn from Duncan MacLeod.
For a start there is the fact that once again we have a sword bearing hero and to be fair the sword fight scenes in the series are one of the highlights. But unlike He-man and Robin of Sherwood this is just a normal everyday sword not some magical powerful artefact although the lighting effects that follow a beheading is cool. MacLeod is also very well trained in martial arts (as is Adrian Paul, the actor who plays him) and it was because of watching this programme that I eventually took up martial arts myself including sword work.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that I was not that good at it, I didn’t practise as much as I should have and at times I found it quite difficult. I did it for about a year but I did get to my yellow belt (the first upgrade) so it’s still something I can be proud of.
The show also taught me to be aware of life itself and how short it is. There is one episode where MacLeod berates a fellow immortal of not following his dreams stating that most people grow old and die before realising them. This to me is a great lesson that we should get out there. Life is for living and to strive for our goals. It’s interesting that Macleod and the final two heroes on the list are immortal in a way or at least live longer than normal lives. It does show that immortality can be more of a curse and what it means to be human.

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MacLeod also shows other traits such as personal honour, a sense of moral duty and an acceptance for who you are. If we take a look at the character we see that in his life he has fought in many wars and taken down many immortals and mortals. He is at heart a warrior raised by a warrior clan in the 1400’s. Where you could draw a similarity with the early MacLeod and He-man, both being warriors He-man is always a clear cut good guy. It is impossible for him to do bad things. MacLeod on the other hand has chosen sides in wars, he has killed people. He is more realistic and therefore not as clear a hero as He-man. The same can be said with Spider-man in that Spider-man never aims to kill anyone. The closes comparable hero we have looked at so far then is Robin Hood where we have someone who has chosen to fight for honour even if it means having to kill at times. (and it should be just pointed out here that I’m not justifying killing per say but that it does mark these two heroes as flawed heroes or even to a degree antiheroes.
Here is a role model who in later life is disciplined and uses meditation to reflect on problems in his life and to bring calm. Thus he is able to balance his role as a warrior and being peaceful. Many time in my life I have battled my way through life that sometimes it has felt like I’ve been fighting a hard battle and sometimes I need to step back and take a rest and enjoy the good things I have in my life. Such times have come and gone but there has always been some other good thing come along and that keeps me fighting against the difficult things in life.

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Finally in his final episode there is a line where he thanks fellow immortal Methos saying that he has taught him that life is about change, about accepting who you are, good or bad. He knows he has done some bad things in his life, as mentioned above, even if he believed he was right at the time. But he has come to accept who he has been and made peace with that. This too is a lesson that can be taken from the show. I have made mistakes in my past and there is nothing I can do to change them but I can learn from them and move on and try to be a better person. The part about accepting change is also very poignant. Over the course of the series through the use of flashbacks we see how his life had changed and it highlights how people and places have come into and out of his life. In the second season we see his long term girlfriend killed and after a time MacLeod had to move on. The fact that the song Dust in the wind is used following the aftermath of Tessa’s death is very apt. It is something that I have kept in mind ever since that people and situations will change throughout my life and I’ve learnt to enjoy the moment knowing that it can soon be gone. Uni is a great example of this as I was very aware that it would end one day.
MacLeod therefore ends up being the role model that makes me look at my inner self and to my past and try to find peace with myself and that past. He also make me more aware of my limited time in the world and to try and make the most of it. To enjoy friends and adventures while I can.

 

Robin Hood as a role model

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Ok this time we are going to look at another hero that I fell in love with when I was a child and that was Robin Hood. More pacifically the Robin Hood that was portrayed in the ITV series Robin of Sherwood but I will touch on other Robin Hoods that we have seen over the years.
I was about seven I think when Robin of Sherwood hit the screens and growing up surrounded by woodlands as you do when you live in the Forest of Dean I used to love pretending I was him as I ran through the woods playing with my friends. This wasn’t my first encounter with this character, I had of course seen Disney’s Robin Hood (and yes I do own it on DVD) and I can remember listen to records when I stayed with my nan including Gary Miller’s Robin Hood (and yes that song is on my MP3 player along with the theme from Robin of Sherwood and Everything I do I do it for you.) I’ve watched many of the films with Robin Hood from Sean Connery to Russell Crowe.
So I have always had a love for the character and its bleed through to other characters most notably I think is the Arrow, a show I really enjoy. It is like a cross between Batman and Robin Hood. Two of my favourite heroes rolled into one. My character on the online game Neverwinter is an archer and when I use to be into Warhammer years ago I collected Wood Elves.
So what is it I love about this character? Well like a lot of my heroes he fights for the small guy, trying to defend people’s rights. In the modern world he can be compared to someone fighting against the big corporate companies and there is something that I think many people can relate to.
There is also something of a sliding scale with the heroes I have listed so far. He-man is an accepted hero loved across Eternia, well except for Skeletor and his gang. Spiderman has had his stages of being a vigilante but is generally seen as a superhero plus his secret identity as Peter Parker allows his to live a normal life away from the world of Spiderman. Robin is an outlaw. In this respect he is more of an anti-hero as he is living outside the laws of the land. And it is clear that should he be caught then it would mean death. But this is a world where there is injustice and bad things happen to people because of those in charge. Robin Hood has given up his ‘normal’ life in order to fight against this system, the reason he now has to live in the forest in hiding. So from Robin Hood in general there is a role model that shows that sometimes you have to take a stand against injustice in the world and fight for the people.
But returning to Robin of Sherwood what I liked about this show was that it was steeped in mysticism. You had the supernatural aspect of Herne the Hunter and foes that used black magic. Robin himself was armed with Albion. A mystic sword with the powers of light and darkness. (Again a connection with He-man and his sword of power, I love swords) so this gave the show another edge where our hero is connected to the forces of nature. (This is something that will feed into another blog about my next blog about my beliefs) So this show at such a young age also provided in a way a connection to my spiritual or mystical side. The other thing I have learnt through this interpretation of the character is to be in touch with my spiritual side and to be at one with the natural forces around me. There is nothing I enjoy more than going for walks in the woodlands around me. Not only do I find it very relaxing but there is also a little bit of excitement from being in the woods that connect me to my childhood. (I’m also reminded of the speeder bike chase from Return of the Jedi) I find that not only does such walks relax me and gets me in touch with nature but it is also a chance to reflect on things in my life. Even the name of this blog has a connection to it.

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It should also be noted that Robin Hood is a leader of men. He-man may of lead but the people who fought alongside him were likeminded people who thought it was their duty to fight for good. Spiderman although teaming up with others at times is mainly a lone hero. What Robin Hood did was come along others and managed to get them to follow him in his fight making him an inspirational leader.

Robin Hood represents that part of me that wants to stand up for injustice, to be a light against the dark and inspire others to do the same but most of all it inspires me to be in touch with the more naturalistic side of myself.

Spider-Man as a role model

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So the next hero I want to talk about that has inspired me over the years is also from my childhood but has in one way or another appeared in my life throughout. That is Spiderman. I‘ve read the comics, I’ve watched many of the cartoons. There’s been the movies and when I was about eight one of the best moments of my childhood was coming home from school one day and finding a Spiderman costume on my bed. I think I ended up wearing it for two years finally growing out of it. I think it almost ended up as a Spiderman crop top. (Oh if I only knew then what I know now.) I have also read many articles (philosophical and otherwise on the character) including one assignment in Uni with regards to freedom and Responsibility. He is probably the character on this list I can write most about bar one. However I will be restricting this post to simply writing about why he is such a role model to me personally and not discussing the many philosophical and interesting aspects of the character.
So what is it about Spiderman that I look up to so much? Yes I would love his powers and the idea of swinging a round above the city. I love the scenes where Spidey is just resting against the wall as easily as some people relax in a chair. When out with friends I use to squat on the top of wall probably looking less like Spiderman and more like I was on the loo.
First there is the most famous moto associated with Spiderman which is with great powers comes great responsibility. This is a lesson that Peter Parker leans after the death of his uncle. Since then he has done everything he can to help out his fellow man. Yes there have been times when he sees his powers as a curse and on times even tried to give up being Spiderman and yet he always comes back knowing he can help mankind. It is something that seems to be ingrained into Parker’s nature. In fact there is a What If? Story where it’s not Peter that gets the Spider powers but Flash Thomson who goes on to become a criminal. Parker uses his scientific knowledge (with help from Doctor Octavius) to build a Spider like frame and defeat Spiderman, So even without his powers Parker wants to try to help people and do the right thing. As with life we too have to take responsibility for the lives we lead and for me personally this also means doing my best to help out the people in my life. This also means having to take responsibility for the mistakes that we have made in life. In one story ‘Parallel Lives Doctor Octopus rants at Spiderman blaming him for denying him a normal life and blames the world for making him suffer. In other words he fails to take responsibility for his own life. The philosopher Sartre indicates in Being and Nothingness that a man’s freedom comes from absolute responsibility. This is something I learned in Uni but could relate to due to Spiderman having been that role model for me.

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The second thing that I draw from Spiderman is the fact that no matter how tough things gets he never gives up. Even when the odds are stacked against him he still finds the strength to carry on. No matter how many times he is beaten down and brought to his knees he will find a way to get back up. Either this is because he is aware of the responsibilities he has or because of the people in his life he finds a reason to rise back up. There have been many times in my life that I have felt exactly like this. Ok I May not have been physically beaten down but sometimes that is how it has felt with life beating me down. Spiderman is one of those heroes that I think of in those times that makes me get back up and try harder.
Finally he also adheres to a strict moral code and never crosses the ethical line he has set for himself. He doesn’t kill. There is of course a similarity here with the lessons I take from He-man in that there is a strong sense of right and wrong and always choosing to do the right thing. But with He-man it is more basic, whereas with Spiderman there is times he doubts himself and questions his actions but yet he still tries to do what he thinks is right even if it doesn’t always work out the best for him. So although both these role models give me a sense of right and wrong from Spiderman I also take a sense of responsibility for my actions and how I live my life. I therefore by my own sense of rules have a responsibility to try and help people. This coupled with never giving in and getting back up is why Spiderman is one of my role models.