Heroes and villains have clashed in American pop culture since D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation in 1915, but today's heroes are oddly at war with another foe—themselves, Jeff Jensen writes in Entertainment Weekly. Like Lost's castaways, modern heroes are "flawed or messed up," reflecting "a culture that feels powerless and pissed." From Iron Man's Tony Stark to the meth-making dad on Breaking Bad, "we can't staunch our doubts that good is up to the task."
In a time of terrorist threats and environmental meltdown, when "we should logically be drawn to tales of strong, valiant souls," American heroes "need to be saved from themselves before they save anyone else." Meanwhile a new breed of villains, epitomized by Joker and Saw's Jigsaw Killer, "are scarred rogues" with "world-saving ambitions." Our cultural road-map has clearly been jettisoned. "The current state of heroism can be summed up in a word: Lost."