Pure silliness ahead.
A lot of people know that the lyric from Kanye West’s “Stronger”, “N-n-now that that don’t kill me, can only make me stronger” is sort of a Nietzsche quote. Well, I happened to be reading Nietzsche today, then heard “Stronger” on the way home, then the idea for a post came to me. (Plus, a Texas lit prof was banned, temporarily, it turns out, from putting the German version of Nietzsche’s most quoted sentence, “God is Dead” on his office door, so I felt like I needed to spread the Nietzsche as much as possible in retaliation.)
Nietzsche was very critical of everyday morality — the “we are all equal”, “go along to get along”, “subordinate your will to the will of the group” morality — which he felt kept the “higher types”, the truly excellent, flourishing human beings, down, ashamed of the very things they should be most proud of. Judeo-Christian morality, Nietzsche felt, was a complicated and ingrained rationalization for a lot of base human emotions, like envy, resentment, and fear. He hoped that, among other things, his critique and exposure of morality as a disease could help in releasing/creating these higher men.
So, what characteristics did these higher men (and they were always men) possess (you can read more here)?
They were solitary, pursued a unifying life project, healthy, life-affirming, and self-reverent.
Solitary — not congenial, not nice, not eager to curry the favor of strangers. Unconcerned with what “they” think.
Unifying life project – he is driven, he seeks out burdens and responsibilities, rather than shying away from them. But it’s not random boldness: he has a life purpose that animates everything he does.
Healthy — resilient, strong (the Kanye West lyric above). Even when the higher man is down, is tortured, is physically ill, he uses it as a challenge to overcome.
Life-affirming — No regrets. The higher man turns everything somehow to his advantage, makes it a part of the narrative of his life. Would he do it all over again, exactly the same way? Yes. (Nietzsche writes: “I myself have never suffered from all this; what is necessary does not hurt me; amor fati [love of fate] is my inmost nature” (Ecce Homo H III:CW-4).
Self-reverential – not plagued by self-doubt, self-loathing, he has a “fundamental certainty” about himself. He is powerful, and has power over himself. He is severe with himself and others. He is noble, he is of a different rank than other men, has a different bearing.
“Our weak, unmanly social concepts of good and evil and their tremendous ascendancy over body and soul have finally weakened all bodies and souls and snapped the self-reliant, independent, unprejudiced men, the pillars of a strong civilization” (Daybreak 163).
Not all romance heroes have all of these qualities (the Chase cover works better for the pose mirroring Nietzsche’s than for the hero possessing these traits), but it struck me that there’s some interesting overlap, especially when alpha heroes transgress everyday morality to exact revenge, seduce a virgin, steal, etc. in the name of a life-organizing project.
It would be interesting to try to think of a hero who fits all of the above. I’m all out of ideas at the moment.