The Hero’s Journey Sucketh?

Recently, I’ve seen threads addressing an article called “Eight Reasons Why the Hero’s Journey Sucks.”    Personally, I think the article was written to trigger conversation and debate, and in that regard, it has succeeded.   You can read it HERE (http://io9.com/345313/eight-reasons-why-the-heros-journey-sucks)

 

I thought I’d contribute my own thoughts on the matter.

  • It’s a formula.  Sure it is, like a basic recipe for pancakes.  But there are infinite versions of pancakes, as well as slight tweaks in instruction that create waffles, biscuits, corncakes and an infinity of other baked or fried goods.  Recipes are fine starting placed.

 

  • It discourages originality. Nonsense.   All creativity is just recombining pieces we already have to express the artist’s unique vision.   In general (and there are of course spectacular exceptions) the further away you get from patterns we understand, the smaller your audience gets–as long as you   don’t mind that…go for it.
  • Why is one hero so special anyway? Because the story is being read, or listened to, by one person at a time.   Who can, in general, empathize with one person at a time.   You can write multi-protagonist stories, but if they don’t all want one thing, or their goals cannot be connected thematically, chaos reigns.
  • The “hero” is always a d00d.   No, but that is mostly what Campbell studied.  But most stories featuring female protagonists can also be mapped on the HJ.   While there are useful and interesting variations, it is about human life, not gender roles.

 

  • It’s cheesy as hell.   Opinions vary.

 

  • He shoehorned a lot of myths into his theory.   Yes, he looked for similarities.  Considering that most other cultural anthropologists either simply gathered stories together, or looked for differences, Campbell’s work was ground-breaking and important.  It points out the similarities between all world peoples, something critically important for us to understand as a species.
  • It confuses personal growth with solving problems.    I don’t know about you, but my greatest growth as a human being was always on the other side of some perceived problem.   And often, the corollary was that if I had been a stronger, more mature and realistic and “aware” human being, there wasn’t really a problem at all–just an opportunity.  Muscles grow because they are challenged, minds expand because the old paradigms are violated. That’s just the way it is.

 

What are YOUR thoughts on these positions, or on the Hero’s Journey itself?  I say that the HJ is one of the most powerful and flexible tools for structuring, creating or understanding fiction or human lives.  Your opinion?

Namaste,

Steve

(of course, I have a vested interest here, having created an entire system for writing and living based on the Hero’s Journey.    You can check it out HERE (http://www.diamondhour.com/LifewritingYearLong.en.html)

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One comment

  1. I think it is important to not let our cynicism toward other issues color an effective formula. I have my issues with Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but the complaints against the Hero’s Journey are misplaced.

    The nay-sayers have some points, but you can make an effective and progressive story WHILE keeping close to the tried and true formula. To say the Hero’s Journey is inherently sexist (or something along those lines) is incredibly short sighted.

    Like

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