I’m currently researching for a series of articles on Joseph Campbell, and want to invite any of you who are interested to participate in some discussion in the forum. Campbell’s views have been taught like scripture in film schools and writing courses for some time now, and they center on the “journey of the hero”, a process of intertwined character and story development he believed to be present in every culture.
A handful of critics consider Campbell’s facts to be questionable, and his interpretations suspect. Everyone else seems to agree he is the venerated saint of storytelling.
And he assures us there is no journey of the hero for women, because they’re already born fully-realized.
In the whole mythological tradition the woman is there. All she has to do is realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to. When a woman realizes what her wonderful character is, she’s not going to get messed up with the notion of being pseudo-male.
The danger of that assertion is its seductive quality. It sounds like you really love and respect women if you go around saying they’re so wonderful they needn’t go through the process of self-development. But is that really so different from saying women are unworthy of self-development? Is putting women on pedestals any different from placing them under glass ceilings? I don’t think so.
Imagine someone saying that poor people are so fully-realized in menial jobs that they shouldn’t let themselves get “messed up with the notion of being pseudo-accomplished” by becoming doctors or lawyers. Just how long would it take someone to realize, um, wait a second, that doesn’t sound quite right?
We’ve been studying Campbell for decades, and the light bulb still hasn’t switched on for the vast majority. Writers trained in the Ways of Campbell probably believe they’re honoring women when they create ethereal female characters that don’t grow and change. The females in their stories are frozen portraits of womanly accomplishments, not living, breathing humans. As with Mona Lisa, we wonder if they were ever real, or just an artist’s idealized rendering. And we turn, once again, to find a male character to whom we can actually relate.
Anyway, that’s just a part of what I intend to touch on. Anyone reading this is invited to participate in the discussion.