THE HERO’S JOURNEY: A Primer

Premium Beat does us all a great service by taking a long-needed new look at how mythologist Joseph Campell and his #1 acolyte, a guy named George Lucas, changed the showbiz story template:

heros-journey-drawing

The Recurring Myth Behind Your Favorite Films
by Scott Porter

American thinker and writer Joseph Campbell spent considerable time exploring the facets of myth and religion. But he is perhaps best known for two concepts that have permeated modern culture. The first is the idea that you should “follow your bliss.” You’ve surely seen the phrase written on chalkboards in coffeeshops. In an interview with journalist Bill Moyers, Campbell (referring to Sinclair Lewis’s satiric novel, Babbitt) asks:

Remember the last line? ‘I have never done a thing that I wanted to do in all my life.’ That is a man who never followed his bliss.

The second of Campbell’s most influential concepts, first presented in his novel The Hero with a Thousand Faces, is that of the monomyth. More simply put, the monomyth is the literary and philosophical theory of the hero’s journey. If you are a fan of film, you are already intimately familiar with it. In Campbell’s own words, the hero’s journey is a tale in which:

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.

Sound familiar? Here’s why.

A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away… And Everywhere Else, Too

You’ll find plenty of monomyth tropes in the art and religion of every culture throughout history. Campbell didn’t really invent the idea. He identified it. And then Hollywood ran with it, creating and adapting content based on the template. During his tenure as an executive at Disney, Christopher Vogler circulated a studio memo that outlined the hero’s journey in twelve steps. Those steps are bolded in the summary quote below:

The hero’s journey, once more:  The hero is introduced in his ORDINARY WORLD where he receives the CALL TO ADVENTURE.  He is RELUCTANT at first to CROSS THE FIRST THRESHOLD where he eventually encountersTESTS, ALLIES and ENEMIES.  He reaches the INNERMOST CAVE where he endures the SUPREME ORDEAL.  HeSEIZES THE SWORD or the treasure and is pursued on the ROAD BACK to his world.  He is RESURRECTED and transformed by his experience.  He RETURNS to his ordinary world with a treasure, boon, or ELIXIR to benefit his world.

Below is a handy graphic representation of Vogler’s summary. Use this as a blueprint for your next script and you just might end up wildly, stupidly successful….

Read it all at Premium Beat