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The story of "The Crow" (a graphic novel turned movie) is the story of Eric Draven, a handsome young musician living in the dark gloom of a gothic-industrialized city plagued by continual rain. He is set to wed a beautiful girl when she is raped and left to die by a gang of criminals. Upon arriving to witness it in progress (taking place at his own home), Draven is killed as well; pushed out of a window as high as a skyscraper. The story then chronicles his resurrection from the dead in order to avenge their murders. His only lifeline (or shall we say deathline) is through a black crow. The crow is the connection between the dead and the living, providing Draven with the means to be immortal for one night only. If the crow is harmed then Draven will lose his immortality and assume mortality, putting an end to his plans for revenge. The conflict of the story comes as Draven attempts to execute the criminals one by one, but is cut short by the harming of the crow. He fights to overcome this and prove successful in his journey.
There is a strange duality between the character of Eric Draven as a cultural legend and the actor who played him, Brandon Lee. While Draven became a legend of the story, Lee became a legend in reality. Lee was accidentally shot and killed while filming "The Crow"; the product of a gun and a scene gone awry. Lee's death came at the verge of a rising career and coincidentally, occurred at the exact age of his father's death. Lee, as many people do, became legendary not for his deeds so much as his death.
Eric Draven became a legend, or legendary figure, more from the qualities he possesses as a character. Draven is portrayed as strong, powerful, and in control, fueled by his angry death. Lurched out of the living world, the love he felt while alive has propelled him back into a heightened mortality--a supernatural state of being. He is not the average man anymore, he has risen above that level of mundaneness to fulfill his purpose. But the twist comes in the fact that he still has human characteristics, and suffers because of them. He is burdened with memories of the past, and memories of his previous life.
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"Character Eric Draven:A Hero with Faults in the Film, The Crow." 123HelpMe.com. 17 Jan 2020
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There is one scene in particular where this façade is illustrated in literal terms. After ascending from the grave, Draven returns to his old apartment, now abandoned and empty. He sees remnants of his past life and cries out in agony, falling to his knees. His sorrow is so great that he's unable to face his own reflection--he paints his face with black and white make-up; coinciding perfectly with the date of his return--Halloween. He has painted his own persona so that he may hide his true feelings.
Because of this duality of character, Draven is accessible as a legendary figure. We can relate to his struggles and hardships. He is the fallen angel, the dark, anti-hero. He's the good guy that we root to victory, a symbol of good in a world full of evil. Fighting to the bitter end, he seeks the preservation of justice. He seeks to reinstate a balance between right and wrong in a city seeped in chaos and immorality. He is the savior of his soul, as well as the soul of the girl he loved, an aspiration of no small magnitude. There is nothing more noble than bravery even in the grasp of death.
However, Draven finds retribution through violence, creating a contrast to his good-guy image. He embarks on a killing spree, an act we would reserve for the villain, not necessarily the hero. He murders the murderers, purging evil through their executions and therefore becoming a murderer in his own right. His façade is ever apparent as he solicits the deaths of his enemies. Although despite these facts, he is still upheld as the hero. He is forgiven; the brutality he exhibits towards others is acceptable, if not preferred. It is on behalf of his own defense that he murders, not out of blind insanity, and for that reason alone he remains a figure of just cause. His ability to absorb and conquer the evil around him contributes to his profile as a good guy willing to go to great lengths to avenge his own murder.
It is the personality and character of Eric Draven that bears a strong resemblance to the values and beliefs we hold as a society. He represents our affixation with good vs. evil, right vs. wrong. We are apt to categorize and pigeonhole nearly everything in society by these universal laws, refusing to see the "gray area" between the black and white. At the same time, he forces us to observe that gray area by making us a bit ambiguous of his character, for how can the murder of one person justify the murder of another? How can murder be acceptable and be seen as the right thing to do?
Our fascination of violence as a culture is so great that we may question the motives and validity of such characters like Eric Draven while encouraging them to continue in their struggle. We believe that violence, as a concept, is ethically and morally wrong but make exceptions to the rule all the time. A hero is an exception, a person defending themselves or others is an exception, the infliction of violence for the betterment of others is an exception. Eric Draven is an exception. We aren't necessarily pleased to see the gruesome ways in which he slaughters his enemies but we wouldn't be pleased seeing them go free either. Draven maintains that perfect balance of wrong behavior for all the right reasons.
As Jake Page states in "The Life and Legend of Billy the Kid," "he continues to ride across the landscape of the American consciousness--elusive, irrepressible, lethal, an insouciant reminder that in matters of conformity and rebellion, violence and civility, justice and corruption, we Americans can't make up our minds." But when it comes down to it, I think we can make up our minds about Eric Draven. He is a hero, most definitely, but he is a hero with faults; which is precisely why he has the status of a cult legend. He is a legend representative of two sides within us all--the dark and light, the ability to be at once heroic and hideous. For even in death, we are our own saviors.