Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
It’s been nearly a year since I wrote The Heroines Journey: The Monomyth with a Feminine Prospective Part 1, and only now am I getting around to writing part 2. The reason for the delay is mainly time constraints and the fact I suffer from creative AADD, not lack of interest on my part for the subject. A lot has happened in the year between the two posts. Not the least of which has been the Me Too Movement. From Harvey Whinestine to Roy Moore the backdrop has drastically changed when discussing women’s role in pop culture and the greater world as a whole.
It is not overstating that we are now seeing millions of women expressing their own journey through the heinous narrative of sexual abuse and violence. Like the character of myth, they are rising above obstacles and discovering a new paradigm. To me this shows the power and endurance of the monomyth, by seeing how well it applies too real people in real life circumstances.
For those of you who may have forgotten or may have never know, the Monomyth or Heroes’ Journey was a theory developed by twentieth century mythologist Joseph Campbell. This breaks down the story line in to seventeen, steps or tropes, exploring the heroes journey from naive innocent to awaken adept. Many genre creators form George Lucas to the Wachowski siblings have used this as a blueprint for stories like Star Wars and The Matrix series.
In addition to the seventeen tropes the monomyth is divided in to three sections. The first is when the hero hears about the possibility of an adventure, called simply enough ‘The Departure.” Part two is the nuts and bolts of his adventure called “The Initiation.” The finial part is when he became a changed person, brimming with new insight to share with others. This is “The Return.” Today we are going to focus on part two.
The initiation is broken down into six parts, the road to trials, meeting with the goddess, the woman as a temptress, atonement with the father/abyss, apotheoses, and the finial boon. As an example of each of these I am going to use a familiar male figure, Luke Skywalker. The road to trials, for the future Jedi is everything that happens to him from when he agreed to go with Old Ben, to when they finial land on the rebel base on the moon of Yavin. Meting the Goddess happens in the detention bloc where he meets the woman who got him started on his adventure in the first place, Princess Leia. Despite the trope’s name, it is Han Solo who offers him an opportunity to escape his destiny with leaving Yavin and taking up a life as an intergalactic scoundrel that is the the woman as the temptress part, The atonement with the father figure will not take place until Return of the Jedi, but does happen a little in The New Hope, when Luke accepts Obie Wan’s death. The apotheosis is when Luke turns off the targeting computer and trust the force to guide the Proton torpedo. The finial boon is not only the destruction of the Death Star but the first steps that Luke has taken to become a full-fledged Jedi.
Though Campbell liberally used both the pronouns he and she, this has been mainly applied in study to male protagonists. This should not be the case we fine that it applies to heroes and heroines alike. We will be using ten different female characters to demonstrate in this post. Princess Diana AKA Wonder Woman, Ellen Ripley bug hunter extraordinaire, Buffy Summers, mankind’s chose one to fight the vampire menace, Kamala Khan the current incarnation of Ms. Marvel, Alice Liddle, the original Alice form Through the Looking Glass, Project Alice, zombie hunter in the Resident Evil movies, Jyn Erso, the heart and soul of the rebel unit called Rogue One, Beatrix Kido AKA The Bride, from Kill Bill. Danna Scully the skeptical side of the X-Files and the anti-heroine Harley Quinn.
It is important that we remember not every story and every character male of female will perfectly fit into this list. Some points seem to be more valid than others. Still I am amazed how well this list does sync up with Campbells original writings.
Road of Trials. This is where and how the character gets to their adventure. If you are a D&D player this is the wilderness adventure that you encounter before you get to dungeon. This does several things, it shows the heroine that the trials of this adventure will not be easy. It also gives her some easier (if not easy) opposition to overcome. It is the journey, the antagonists she encounters and what she learns all rolled into one trope.
In her movie Wonder Woman experiences this form the time she leaves Paradise Island, with Steve Trevor, to the point where she reaches the French village that is eventually gassed. For Ellen Ripley it from the moment that the chest buster jumps out of Kane to till she escapes from the Nustromo. For buffy it takes place in the movie, from the time she is told of her destiny to the battle at the dance. Kamala Khan it is the time that she spends with her family and friends as well as other superheroes, she is not only learning how to be an American teenager. For alive Liddle it is the experiences after she fell down the rabbit hole but before she reached the doors to Wonderland. For Project Alice it is the time between she and the strike team leave the mansion and travel to the underground Umbrella lab. For The Bride it is form the moment she escapes the nursing home and the time she spends with Hatori Hanso as me made her knew sword, For Dana Scully it was pretty much the first season into half way through season two, where she herself is abducted by aliens. Jyn Erso road is half way through the movie Rogue One, to the point to shyer saves the child at Jedda City. Harley Quinn is the hardest character to pigeonhole in this trope, because she first appeared as a full-fledged character in the Batman TAS Joker’s favor, since then DC has told several backstories that would cover this time in her life.
In, Meeting with the Goddess, the hero meets the embedment of the feminine divine. The difference from a female and hero protagonist here is that, a male hero finds the goddess is a separate being and the female fines it within herself. In this post “Me Too” world, that the heroine discovers the goddess within her, is a major positive message.
In Wonder Woman it is the realization that Diana is a literal goddess, or at least demi-goddess as the daughter of Zeus. For Ripley it the courage to go up against the men in her life such as Dallas and As and stand up for her convections that they shouldn’t let an infected Kane into the ship. Buffy’s power as the slayer is revealed to have come from an ancient ceremony preformed thousands of years ago, where a woman was sacrificed to become the First Slayer, she even eventually comes face to face with the spirt of the original vampire hunter. For Kamala Khan it her many family, friends and heroic allies who try to show her how to be a good teen ager, American, Muslim, and hero For Alice Liddle, the stories of Through the Looking Glass, and her adventures in Wonderland are an analogy of a girl becoming a woman. For project Alice it is regaining her memories and remembering her decision to bring down the corrupt Umbrella Corporation. For Dr. Scully it is the realization that as a woman and a scantiest she brings a unique perspective to not only the X-Files but also the FBI as a whole. For the Bride it is when she becomes a mother, and besides not to be an assassin anymore, she becomes a creator rather than a destroyer. For Jyn Erso it is when she discovers that piece inside herself, that allows a hole gaggle of special force troopers to trust her disobey an order to get the Death Star plans. For Harley Quinn it is when she meets Poison Ivy a strong independent woman who tries to show her that she doesn’t need the Joker.
The Woman as Tempter. In this despite the name, the tempter does not have to be a woman. The name for this trope comes from the middle ages, where a knight was oftener tempted to abandon his quest by a woman. The tempter is anything that tries to convince the heroine to give up her path toward the goal.
For Wonder Woman (at least in the movie) it was choosing between saving Steve Rogers and letting him destroy the chemical weapons and weather or not to live in the world of man after she made her choice. For Ripley it was weather she keeps her mouth shut after she returns form he events of LV-426, and live out her life as a low level space dock worker without company interference. For Buffy, it is her idea of what she thinks Angel might think as his type of woman. This is personified when her Halloween costume turns her into a 18th century fragile female potential victim with no powers. It is close to what Kamala Khan experienced in wanting to be a normal teenager, but Ms. Marvel has the added separation of he religious values. In Wonderland Alice is given a chance to be the handmaid to the Red Queen, but she must accept her crazy world view, For Project Alice it is when she leaves the other survivors think they will be safer without her. Agent Scully is offered different positions in the FBI, that wouldn’t be career ending as being stuck in the X-Files. During Beatrix Kiddo’s rampaging quest for revenge, several times she seems tempted to just give up and let her opponents kill he all though that never seems to last long. For Jyn it is when she tried to escape after the rebels break her out of an Imperial prison transport. When Harley seems to be making progress towards self-improvement, the joker jumps back into her life and tries to woe or force her into becoming his subordinate again.
Atonement with the Father. This may not be an actual father but whatever hold control over the heroes life. With heroines in many cases this may be the patriarchy itself. In Sunday Scholl we learn atonement can be broke down to at-one-ment, a state of grace with. In this context it may becoming one with, but it may also be an uneasy truce or just a challenge to the father figures authority.
With Wonder Woman it is coming to acceptance with the way of war and destruction in man’s world. For Ellen Ripley it is her understanding that the parent company does not have hero other workers best interests and are willing to sacrifice them. For Buffy it is realizing that the original shamans who created the Slayer had put limits on her, allowing only one at a time, so women would not become to powerful. For Kamala Khan it is not only developing a relationship between herself and her Earthly father, but it also the coming to acceptance of where Allah belongs in he life. For Alice in Wonderland, her realization that the Red Queen is crazy, is metaphorical for how adults and children do not always see things eye to eye. Like Ripley Project Alice has to come to terms with her relationship with her company, this time in the form of Albert Wesker. With Dana Scully the father figure she must come to grips with is her own government. For The Bride it is her former mentor and over Bill the Snake Charmer. For Jyn Erso it is both her actual father, who she learns did not want to abandon her or work for the Empire, and her substitute father Saw Gerra, who also abandoned her for her safety. For Harlene Quinzelle, she has to come to knowledge that her relationship with the creator of the Harley Quinn personality, The Joker, is abusing her.
The Apotheosis is when the heroine gains the knowledge or insight to continue their mission. It is their “ah ha” moment. They are emotionally and mentally transformed. They are no longer the person who began the journey to adventure.
For Wonder Woman it is that the world of mankind is not perfect, but there are things and people who are worth saving. For Ripley it is the desire to live and a belief she can defeat the xenomorphs. For Buffy it is the importance of the Slayer to the world it protects. For Kamala Khan it how to balance, being a heroine, her role as an American, her religion and herself. Alice in Wonderland gains an instate to the world of adults. Project Alice it that she can help people by running from The Umbrella Corporation she has to take the battle to them. For Dr. Scully it is the knowledge that the occult and the Fortean are real, but that science is a way to protect humanity against them. For the Bride it that she is no longer killing for money, but to live and keep her child safe. For Jyn Erso that apotheosis is hope. Fr HQ it is that she can be her own person and she doesn’t need Mr. J.
The Final Boon is when the heroine takes what she has learned and share it in some form with the others. She takes what she has internalized and gives it to the world as a gift. This can be philosophical, in the form of giving her teaching to the world, or tangible as in sharing the reward that her transformation has allowed her to obtain.
For Wonder Woman it the continuation of her fight, and the strength and stability she gives the Justice League. For Ellen it is the courage to fight the aliens, and the important knowledge she gives to the marines in Aliens. Buffy’s gift to the world is being the Slayer. Like wise KK’s gift is her heroics, but also the hearts of heroes she touched like Wolverine, Medusa and Gemma Simmons. Alice Liddle gift is when she shares her story with her family (and implied the world) Project Alice =boon is taking out Umbrella Corp and keeping the survivors safe. Danna Scully boon is keeping the X-files strong and impartial even after Mulder leaves. Beatrix Kiddo gift to the world is her rescued daughter. Jyn Erso gift to the rebellion is both the Death Star plans and hope. Harley Quinn boon is a message that you can leave an abusive relationship.
Again tropes don’t perfectly mesh with every story but they do often enough for me to believe that when it comes to the heroes journey it’s not just a man’s game.