High Ideals: The misappropriation and reappropriation of the heroic label in the midst of a global pandemic

Kinsella, Elaine L. and Sumner, Rachel C ORCID: 0000-0002-2421-7146 (2022) High Ideals: The misappropriation and reappropriation of the heroic label in the midst of a global pandemic. Journal of Medical Ethics, 48 (3). pp. 198-199. doi:10.1136/medethics-2021-107236

Text (Peer-reviewed version)
9311-Sumner-(2021)-High-ideals-the-misappropriation-and-reappropriation.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.

Download (224kB) | Preview


The purpose of this article is to offer an alternative, more nuanced analysis of the labelling of frontline workers as heroes than originally proposed by Cox (2020). Here we argue that the hero narrative in itself need not be problematic, but highlight a number of wider factors that have led to the initial rise (and subsequent fall) in support for labelling frontline workers as heroes. Through our related work, we have gathered similar stories from frontline workers where they feel betrayed, let down, or otherwise short-changed by the hero label, and we have sought to make sense of this through understanding more about how the hero label is used rather than what it means. In this article, we propose a way forward where there is greater discussion around the hero label in this context where individuals can be heroes but still struggle, still fail, and still feel vulnerable, and where heroism is viewed as a state of interdependence between heroic actor and the wider group. It is true that heroes can inspire, lead, guide, and build morale and camaraderie, but collective responsibility is held with us all. We can draw hope and energy from our heroes, but we must dig deep and be proactive, particularly in the face of adversity. In doing so, we support the heroes to lead from the front and ensure that even though we cannot physically help; we are not making their situation worse.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Frontline workers; Heroes; Healthcare workers; COVID-19; Pandemic
Related URLs:
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RZ Other systems of medicine
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Health, Life Sciences, Sport and Wellbeing
Depositing User: Rachel Sumner
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2021 14:36
Last Modified: 08 Jan 2024 12:59
URI: https://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/9311

University Staff: Request a correction | Repository Editors: Update this record

University Of Gloucestershire

Bookmark and Share

Find Us On Social Media:

Social Media Icons Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube Pinterest Linkedin

Other University Web Sites

University of Gloucestershire, The Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 2RH. Telephone +44 (0)844 8010001.