Transformation of Heroism


As the audience, we have a propensity to seek the “truth” about stars and heroes. We want to know “how they really are” and see the reality “behind” the public performance. Thus, heroes and celebrities are increasingly depicted as common people in the media, which in turn indicates a revaluation of ordinariness. Since the Great Men therefore belong to the past, classical expressions of heroism are antiquated while new forms emerge. These new forms are required by the modern search for identification that presupposes a “bringing down” of the hero to the level of ordinary people. The transformation of heroism results in hybrids that blur the boundaries between the star’s role as a hero and average person, due to the fact that the ordinary becomes a constitutive element in the charisma. Hence, the medialization of celebrities tends to expose formerly hidden roles and spheres. Especially television has increased the focus on emotional expressions and private life. This eager attention to the hidden indicates that we live in an age of curiosity. Secret affairs ought to be discovered, fishy stories should be revealed. This tendency is explained in the light of the fragmentation and mobility of everyday life that create numerous stashes in every personality, to which importance and truth can be ascribed and which thereby can be transformed into desirable secrets. Thus, information about these hidden recesses becomes indispensable to stipulate identities.

How to Cite

Schoug, F., (1997) “Transformation of Heroism”, Ethnologia Europaea 27(2), 105-118. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


Download PDF



Fredrik Schoug (Lund University)



Publication details



All rights reserved


File Checksums (MD5)

  • PDF: c3f3707288c1d5286eda287590f87259