Should we teach boys that they can be heroes? Should we teach them that they can change the world by themselves?
Colin Stokes issued a TEDx talk about the message that Star Wars is sending boys. To summarize the speech, TED says this: “Stokes asks for more movies that send positive messages to boys: that cooperation is heroic, and respecting women is as manly as defeating the villain.” I couldn’t agree more—with one very, very big ‘but’.
Let’s not abandon the idea of the Hero’s Journey. Let’s not teach our boys that they can’t save the galaxy by themselves— that one man of virtue can’t change the tides.
Joseph Campbell, who mapped the Hero’s Journey, said, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won—the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
The Monomyth, as the Hero’s Journey is named, has 17 steps.
1) This is the moment when you realize that something has gone awry (or has been awry for years) and must be corrected. This can be anything: workers’ rights, gender rights, the price of pizza in your neighborhood. The problem is never too small or too large.
2) This is the moment when the hero realizes how truly small he/she is. This is the ‘refusal of the call to action’. This is not a good moment in the hero’s journey, but it is necessary.
3) A guide or a magical helper appears or becomes known. This is when Old Ben Kenobi reveals himself as actually the craftiest Jedi in 35,000 years of history or when your yoga instructor says that she knows the guy who sets the prices for pizza and ‘might be able to get you a meeting with him.’
4) You journey past the comfort zone but still remain close enough to return if the going becomes too rough.
5) This is called “The Belly of the Whale”. This is when the hero (you) realizes that he/she must become something bigger than before. This requires the hero to be changed.
6) During the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Martin Luther King’s house was bombed, and he was arrested. This is the point in the Journey where ‘trials’ begin to pile up; typically, they come in threes but a firebombing probably counts double.
7) This is the point in which the hero falls in love with “the goddess”. This part can probably be skipped.
8) Hero faces the “woman as temptress”. Apparently, “woman” means all of the material temptations of life. This sexist step can definitely be skipped. Back to being a hero…
9) The hero faces what holds the ultimate power in his/her life. This is called the “Atonement with the Father”. Luke faces Vader in the Cloud City or Martin Luther King leads the March on Washington. This is the most important moment; this is when the hero speaks truth to power.
10) A moment of rest because it’s about to get way. too. real. Examples: The city councilman agrees to “consider your pizza price proposal” or Martin Luther King goes six hours without being thrown into a Southern jail.
11) Success! Pizza is considered a public utility and prices are fixed at a rate relative to average income or the “Voting Rights Act” is signed into law.
12) The hero, having achieved his/her goal, may not want to return to bestow the boon on his/her fellow man. Skip this step; it’s dumb.
13) Someone tries to take from the hero that which he/she has spent the last twelve steps trying to find. See: Supreme Court Decision regarding Voting Rights Act.
14) Someone saves the hero. This is very important because we see that the hero is not infallible. Even heroes need friends.
15) The hero must retain the hope he/she has gained along the quest while returning to the depraved world of men.
16) The hero now exists comfortably in both worlds, “And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land.”- MLK
17) The hero is now a master. A man/woman of purpose. “So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.”- MLK
Photo— Flickr/ Reynardo