Recently, I watched a few episodes of Little House on the Prairie, a show I absolutely adored growing up. Watching it as an adult, however, I have a slightly different perspective on it. I had not realized how much it had informed my concepts of heroes, life, and story.
The show would probably never be made today because of its emphasis on morality and religion. Little House on the Prairie was never meant to be a religious show--instead merely to represent the people of that historical period--but it does not shy away from themes of faith. Nor does it avoid themes involving doing the right thing, honesty, hard work, or the power of love and family. Rather, it embraces these things.
In the decades since the show was made, fiction has gotten dark. Antiheroes have become common, and morality and any sense of the good in religious concepts are very much the exception. There’s nothing wrong with dark themes, antiheroes, or exploring new territory, but watching this show again, it reminds me that heroes, true heroes, should live like heroes, not just fulfill the part in the climactic scene.
A big part of what makes Little House on the Prairie work so well is because the characters are genuinely good people. They hurt and suffer, and the audience wants them to get the happiness and joy that good people should get. The stories are more satisfying because it’s much harder to successfully hold onto humanity in the midst of adversity. Their ability to stay true to their noble selves is what makes the Ingalls family all the more impressive and admirable, and that’s what makes them true heroes.
Amidst our darker antiheroes and amoral stories, it’s good to remember that stories like Little House on the Prairie exist. It’s good to remember the kind of heroic qualities that are worth striving for in real life. It’s good to remember that adversity, prejudice, hatred, misfortune, disease, poverty, greed, loneliness, disaster, and even death do not have to ruin or rule us, and in fact, they shouldn’t. It’s good to remember that what makes anyone a person of true and noble character is how they conduct themselves in the midst of such hardships. Stories like Little House on the Prairie are our reminder.
Stories have power. Wield yours wisely.