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Claire Bennet, the cheerleader with the power of rapid cell regeneration, like Wolverine from X-men.
Claire Bennet

Kim Nguyen


Biography

Often referred to as “Claire Bear”, “Little Miss Miracle Grow”, and “Indestructible Girl”, Claire Bennet of NBC’s Heroes is the blond-haired, blue-eyed, former high school cheerleader from Odessa, Texas, who lived an ordinary suburban life. That is, until she found out she could jump off the top of an abandoned gravel plant fifty feet off the ground, walk through fire, be impaled by a tree branch and survive without a scratch. At sixteen years of age, Claire discovers her cells suddenly have the ability to rapidly regenerate, allowing her to recover from any injury. Claire is the adopted daughter of an alleged paper-factory worker Noah Bennet, and his wife Sandra, who had her adoptive younger brother, Lyle. She is a bright, friendly, well-liked teenager who was active in high school (she is now in college), loves her family, and is generally well-behaved.

As Claire learns to live with her ability, she confides in her father with whom she has always maintained a close relationship. Claire then finds out that her father is not a paper-factory worker and that in fact, he is a secret agent of ‘the Company’ who deals with the tracking of thousands of people with recorded ‘abilities’. Claire, despite uncovering her father’s countless lies to her and her family, continues to hold high regard for her father, though she becomes increasingly anxious and mistrusting of him and of others, as her father reveals that she is being sought out by various people who seek to manipulate her ability for evil motives and must constantly flee and go into hiding. Her father encourages her to keep her ability a secret as he moves their family around the country and disappears for days at a time.

Upon finding out she is not alone and that there is an entire population of special people, Claire proves to be a curious, ambitious and brave young woman. While this allows her to learn to use her ability for the benefit of others, like in saving a man from a train wreck, it also gets her in trouble in times where her courageous attitudes and overconfidence in her ability allow her to act impulsively often causing those situations to become more complicated.

For the majority of the Heroes series (until recently), Claire struggles to maintain balance between her different identities as she grows tired of running and being so often put in situations where she has to be dishonest and secretive, causing her to be insecure and at times insensitive. Claire's stubborn teenage character becomes increasingly rigid with her emotions which on certain occasions, push her to act rebelliously. Now in college, and having been through a series of life-threatening situations, Claire continues to be weary of those who might be out to put her in danger because of her abilities, and has become more withdrawn and careful in her choice of friends. Most times, it seems she is unable to trust anyone well enough to allow them to truly be her friend until she meets her second roommate of her freshman year, Gretchen Berg. Finding someone her age who she can confide in completely as she begins a fresh start in college allows Claire to become comfortable with herself and begin to view her power as a gift.



Behaviorist Perspective

From a behaviorist perspective, a person and thus his or her personality, is strictly a product of their environment. As B.F. Skinner put it, “personality is a group of responses to the environment”, and thus the person we know as Claire Bennet is defined by her patterns of behavior which were and are shaped by her environment. Not long after her powers first manifested, Claire sees a train wreck on her way home from school and manages to save a trapped man from the burning rubble. Later in the series, she is faced with several dangerous incidents in which she does not hesitate to become involved. Such as the time she risks angering a man with the ability to produce dangerous levels of nuclear radiation, who in one episode causes a fire in her house, threatening to kill her family. Behaviorist Edward Thorndike would say Claire’s increasing bravery and ambition is due to the Law of Effect, which argues that the consequences of a behavior will either strengthen or weaken that behavior. The event that strengthens the likelihood of a behavior to be repeated is called reinforcement. Since the last time Claire had risked her life, her heroic behavior was reinforced by the successful saving of the man from the train wreck in her previous experience. Had she not been able to save him, she would not have been confident enough to get involved in times after. Her bravery was reinforced by successes and that led Claire to be confident in her abilities. With more successes, her bravery and enthusiasm to jump into dangerous situations makes her overconfident and reckless. At one point she hears that her mother is captured by a dangerous puppeteer who had taken her mother hostage. Without seriously considering the possibility that she might not be able to defeat the man, she jumps into the situation and ends up being held hostage as well. Claire’s cell-regeneration also serves as reinforcement to her reckless behavior. The fact that her cells simply re-grow when she gets hurt, increase the frequency at which she takes risks.

Before her power manifested, Claire was a very well-rounded and active student at her high school. She was a cheerleader who was well-liked in and outside of the squad. As soon as she found out she had an unusual ability, she began to withdraw socially. Her father urged her to keep her ability a secret, ensuring her that it would be dangerous if other people knew. B.F. Skinner would explain Claire’s tendency to keep secrets and withdraw from making friends as openly as she used to, as a result of operant conditioning. With operant conditioning, Claire’s concealing of her powers from people is a behavior that is shaped by her father’s reinforcement and approval when she obeys his wishes, just as he disapproves and scolds her for when she doesn’t, which pushes her to listen to her father. Had Claire’s father never emphasized the importance of staying a secret and rewarding her for listening, while punishing her for disobeying, Claire may have been just as trusting and naïve as she used to be, and might have been taken from her family very early after her ability was discovered.

When Claire finds out about her powers, she is repeatedly told by her father to lay low and keep quiet about her special abilities. Eventually she is discovered by people with the intention of using her powers for their own goals and is forced into hiding and is constantly on the move. At one point, Sylar, a serial killer with the ability to steal people’s powers by killing them, finds Claire and is able to obtain her ability by cutting her head open, which would normally kill a person, but Claire is fortunate enough to have the ability to survive. After her encounter with Sylar, Claire learns that she needs to be careful who she confides in and becomes suspicious of strangers and finds it difficult to make friends because she feels she can’t trust anyone. Social Learning Theorists would say that Claire develops habits of being withdrawn and mistrusting because of her experiences with being misled by people like Sylar. Neal Miller and John Dollard might explain Claire’s changed responses to strangers as a new behavior that was stimulated by the learned anxiety she acquires from her traumatic experience, which she then feels for similar experiences in the future, causing her to behave in similar ways.



Neo-analytic and Ego Perspective

Carl Jung would view Claire Bennet’s brave and ambitious behaviors as a manifestation of the collective unconscious, one of the three components of the psyche, which also include the personal unconscious and the conscious ego. The collective unconscious is the component of the mind that is comprised of archetypes, or emotional symbols, common to all of humanity which predisposes people to react in predictable ways common to recurring stimuli. In other words, there are certain images or ideals that everyone understands unconsciously and when Claire’s powers manifest, Jung would argue that Claire becomes brave and performs heroic acts because while may consciously want to be her best, she is also acting according to her unconscious understanding of the Hero Archetype. The hero archetype is the representation of a strong, good force that works to rescue others from harm, which predisposes Claire to act nobly.

Alfred Adler on the other hand, would not attribute Claire’s beneficence, rather, he might emphasize his ideas on the role of birth order. This theory maintains that first born children have to learn to deal with the fact that when younger siblings are introduced into the family, they are no longer the center of attention, which may cause them to constantly feel as though they need to achieve and assert themselves in attempts to regain their status in a sense. Since Claire is the eldest in her family, Adler might say that Claire acts heroically to regain that ‘special’ recognition from her father.

Aside from her courageousness and secretive behavior, Claire Bennet is characterized greatly by her struggles to balance the conflicting aspects of her life. While she and her dad are constantly chasing what they believe to be a ‘normal life’, Claire knows she is nothing but normal because of her ability and is never sure that she can achieve what she and her father work so hard to get. In public and at the several schools she’s attended, Claire is a normal student, but outside of school and inside the privacy of her own home, Claire is the girl who can’t die, whose blood everyone is after. She is a hero, and still at times, she feels helpless and terrified. At times Claire resents her ability for making her a ‘freak’, yet when she gets into trouble, she is grateful for nothing else.
As an adolescent, Erik Erikson would argue that Claire is stuck in the role confusion realm of the Identity vs. Role Confusion stage of Psychosocial Development in which Erikson argues adolescents are experimenting with different roles in attempts to integrate the identities into a more consistent set that they can truly call their own. Claire is caught between being brave, and terrified, young, and old, strong and helpless. She struggles to integrate the young, scared-at-times, naïve and care-free cheerleader in her, with the rigid, tough, young woman and the selfless hero she feels she has to be. She strives to be normal while simultaneously striving to embrace her uniqueness.



Discussion

Claire Bennet is definitely one of the Heroes. It is not difficult to tell that Claire has good intentions and behaves accordingly. She is young and can be naive, but is growing and learning. While she may be indestructible, she can be hurt emotionally and psychologically as her many encounters with danger and manipulative people have proven. According to the Behaviorist perspective, Claire's personality, or pattern of responses to her environment, are shaped by her experiences, which affect her future behaviors. Her good intentions were products of her parent's teaching of values and her experiences with death and close encounters with abuse and harassment cause emotional wounds that have made her less open about herself when meeting new people. Having to move all the time and feeling hurt when she has to leave everyone she gets close to causes her to be withdrawn. The process by which she learns these behaviors includes Skinner's operant conditioning which involves repeating behaviors that are reinforced, and also the social learning process as suggested by Miller and Dollard.

From Neo-Analytic view, Claire's heroism is more than good intentions instilled in her by the values she was brought up with. Claire's personality would be argued to consist of conscious and unconscious parts. Carl Jung would assert that Claire's personality is derived in part from the collective unconscious archetype of the Hero. Alfred Adler would argue that Claire's outstanding behaviors might be attributed to birth order, and Erik Erikson would argue that her range of behaviors might be due to her experimentation with different identity roles, one of which would be an ambitious and noble young character.


References

Claire Bennet. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 14, 2010, from http://heroeswiki.com/Claire_Bennet
Friedman, Howard S. and Schustack Miriam S. (2009) Personality: Classic Theories and Modern Research.Ed. 4// Boston, Pearson.
Heroes Episode Guide. (n.d.) Online. Retrieved April 14, 2010, from http://www.nbc.com/heroes/episode-guide/