While I was in England I finished watching the last few episodes of the wonderful science fiction TV series Heroes. It’s one of the most creative shows I’ve seen in year--who would have expected this from NBC?-- combining the feel of Marvel comic books and their everyday, imperfect heroes with a lot of mythic images and symbols and key issues currently being raised in current affairs and in science. The whole thing has got a real post-modern, global feel to it with characters living and interacting all over the globe and speaking their own native languages rather than everyone speaking English.
My favorite character is Hiro Nakamura, who lives in Tokyo and seems to have developed the ability to manipulate time and space. As the first season of the series goes on, it’s clear that Hiro (joined by his sidekick Ando) is clearly on a classical mythological quest, making one choice after another to become a real hero despite his feet of clay. And it doesn’t hurt that, late in the season, we meet his father, who is played by George Takei! I’m also intrigued by Mohinder Suresh, who is a university professor in Madras, India and is picking up on genetic research his father had begun and becoming aware of its ramifications.
I think it’d be possible to teach an entire course on mythology using the writings of folks like Joseph Campbell, classical mythologies of various civilizations, and two episodes of Heroes each week as illustrations of various themes and symbols in what the students are reading. I hope the second season stays as strong in this way as the first was!