Category Archives: Week 1

A Hero’s Journey

1. What movies can you recall–besides The Matrix, which was mentioned in the lecture notes–that follow the thread of The Hero’s Journey? When you cite your film, or films, be sure to judge whether or not you believe the general formula was appropriated well or poorly; and, moreover, describe a few scenes that match some of the stages of the journey, such as done in the video in the lecture notes.

When thinking of what movie I could relate to that follows the thread of The Hero’s Journey, I instantly thought of all Disney movies. Almost all Disney movies have the same theme, the main character is trying to achieve something, example: Mulan – trying to her dads approval and trying to find her place, Lion King – Simba trying to prove he is a good enough cub to his father, Little Mermaid – trying to be with the man she loves. I could go on about every Disney movie on how they are all Journeys.

I will discuss how Mulan is the journey of a Hero today. Mulan starts out with a girl that doesn’t feel she really fits in, especially after she makes a mess of things while trying to be a proper suitor for men. Mulans father then is summoned away due to war, and Mulan trying to save her fathers life and to win approval runs away to war.  This is the start, or the “Call to Adventure” of the story. Next Mulans ancestors call upon little MuSho the dragon to help Mulan upon this journey, the supernatural aid.

Mulan begins her transformation while at camp after she is kicked out because she was “not man enough”. Her helper MuSho provides inspiration and she works past her challenges. Leading to her revelation and surpassing her piers. The Transformation then happens once the others finds that she is a female, and kick her out, only for Mulan to come back and save the King and she is accepted.

The Return is when Mulan comes back from the war and her family is more than happy to have her home safe and sound and with a man now. I believe that this movie was appropriated well because it gave girls a good motivation that if you have a hard journey due to not fitting in well or not ready for a suitor its okay to try and venture out.

2. Do you believe current cinema either meets or fails to meet the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology? Those needs would be: the need for mystery; the need for a picture of the universe in which human beings belong; the need for a picture of our society in which each person belongs; the need for a picture of our own psychology that helps with the transitions of a human life, from childhood to adulthood, from adulthood to death. Can movies meet any of these needs? Why or why not?

I believe that current cinema  somewhat meets the human needs. I feel that the current wants for movies are more important when it comes to making movies and that it was is being produced that the moment. Marvel movies meet the needs of the universe in which human beings belong. But other than that current cinema is meeting the wants of humans instead.

The Hero’s Journey

I haven’t had time to sit down and watch movies for a long time, due to my busy schedule. I decided to think about my all-time favorite childhood movie, The Little Mermaid, and see whether or not it could follow the thread of The Hero’s Journey. In my previous teaching classes, we were always introduced new material using Disney movies, because they have so much hidden within the story itself. In turn, the Little Mermaid worked perfectly for this assignment!

I found that this movie has a very strong “call to adventure.’ Ariel, the little mermaid, discovers that there is a world above the sea. She wants to explore and see what the land holds. She has to helpers, Flounder and Sebastion. Her best friend, Flounder, is always by her side, excited to go on adventures with her. Sebastion, another close friend, is always there to help her with anything that she needs. Ariel faces a challenge when King Triton, Ariel’s father, does not want his daughter anywhere near the land. Ariel challenges her father. Next on her path, she meets Ursla, a very cruel sea witch, who takes advantage of Ariel. She makes the agreement that she will transform her into a human for only 3 days. If she steals a kiss within these three days, she will stay human. If not, she will turn back into a mermaid. Ariel has an amazing singing voice, who Ursla also steals in return for Ariel’s legs. Within the time of her being a human, Ariel meets a man named Eric. She falls hopelessly in love! King Triton notices that his daughter is not around the sea. He confronts Ursla, but is devastated when he can’t break Ariel and Ursla’s deal. Finally, after capturing his daughter, he notices how heartbroken Ariel is. King Triton transforms Ariel back into a human!


I believe that current cinema sometimes meets the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology. Many movies these days have the same plot line. Many times, a woman is stolen, goes through terrible things, and then is saved at the end of the day. Scary movies throw too much material at you, that do not mean anything within the story. Yes, they make you wonder and get people hyped up, but they don’t meet any mythological needs. They are basically just written for the type of things that we like to see. Yes, movies can meet the four functions of mythology if they are scripted from old literature. Older stories used to serve a purpose, nowadays, they seem to be based upon the same script, just with different characters and different areas.

The Hero’s Journey in Lord of the Rings

A  series of films that I thought of which  follows the thread of The Hero’s Journey is The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The formula was appropriated well, because the storyline moves in the usual way that viewers are used to seeing, without being blatantly obvious. The first theme of reconciliation of consciousness is seen in the beginning when the hero, Frodo, sees Bilbo acting strangely while writing and after his birthday party. Frodo is then called to the adventure of taking the ring to Mordor  by Gandalf. Once he leaves the known world of the Shire,  Frodo is given the help of the fellowship to help him through his many trials. The revelation happens at Mount Doom when Frodo is faced with the final act of throwing the ring into the fire. He dies when he chooses to walk away, but is rebirthed when Gollum and the ring are thrown down together. Atonement is achieved when the battle outside of Mordor is won by Gandalf, the fellowship, and the troops. And finally everyone returns hoe to their own land and Aragorn returns to his throne.

I don’t think that movies can meet human needs, but I think they can help in the process of discovering how to fulfill those needs. Movies are a form of art, and I believe that art is made to portray a part of the human condition. People view art to see a reflection of their own selves in the piece, albeit through mystery, belonging, or how to navigate  transitions.

Hero’s Journey in Back to the Future

1. One movie that I believe follows the Hero’s Journey is the movie Back to the Future. Just as Christopher Vogler described in the video The Matrix – Joseph Campbell Monomyth, at the beginning of the film the hero, Marty Mcfly, has a moment when he “knows something is wrong”. Marty’s family is dysfunctional; his mother in an alcoholic, his father is being bullied by his boss, and although Marty attempts to live life normally, he wishes it could somehow be different.

Back to the Future (1985)

The call to adventure comes when Marty finds out that Doc Brown has created a time machine in the form of a DeLorean. Marty is skeptical at first and refuses the call to adventure. Instead of trying the machine himself, he watches as Doc tests the car. As the two stand there, Libyan terrorists, from whom Doc had stolen some of the necessary components of the car, rush upon them and shoot Doc Brown.


In an attempt to escape Marty hops into the car, inadvertently activating the time machine, and finds himself transported to the past to the year 1955. In this way he is forced past his own fear and pushed over the threshold to accept the call to adventure.

While on this adventure he meets numerous challenges. After accidentally keeping his, as of yet, unmarried parents from meeting, he goes to great lengths to push them together. He also contacts Doc Brown, and together the two search for a way to return Marty to 1985. He learns the normalities of living in this decade. He also learns who his friends and enemies are and begins to better understand his parents.

Within this hero story there is a secondary hero’s journey which occurs within Marty’s father, George. George has been abused and bullied by Biff his whole life. After listening to Marty’s encouragement, he steps past his fear and is able to stand up to Biff’s bullying. His reward is that he meets the woman who would be his wife, and because he stood up to Biff, his future life is dramatically altered.

When confident that his parents have fallen in love, Marty proceeds to the clock tower where Doc has arranged a way for him to – hopefully – get back home in the time machine. This moment is a combination of a final test and a return. Marty gives Doc a note informing him about the way in which he will be shot. Marty is returned to his own time to find that Doc’s life has been saved, and his family life is drastically better. This is his reward.

I do not think that, were these two characters to be examined separately, their stories would fulfill all aspects of the hero’s journey. Together, however, the Hero’s journey can be seen perfectly. Any point of the Hero’s Journey which one character does not experience, the other does.

2.           I believe that cinema fails to meet human needs. Cinema, through carefully constructed storyline, is able to give an the viewer a glimpse of another relate able, yet fictional, individual whose needs and desires are being met.

Although the needs of the viewers themselves are not being met, by inserting themselves into the story in the role of the hero, they are able to taste what this sensation of victory over their personal struggle might feel like. The viewer might leave the theater full of hope that they can conquer their own giants, but when such struggles actually appear hope often fails them.

Although a movie in which all humans belong and, in which, transitions – although difficult – turn out for the best, might be uplifting, the reality in which the viewer finds themselves in is often far less hopeful. In the world in which the viewer finds themselves, some people never find their niche and transitions lead not to self revaluation, but to heartbreak. I believe that human needs can be met. I do not believe, however, that they can be met through cinema, or that needs will be met in the neat and tidy way in which the cinema displays.

Hero’s Journey in the Movies

1. What movies can you recall–besides The Matrix, which was mentioned in the lecture notes–that follow the thread of The Hero’s Journey? When you cite your film, or films, be sure to judge whether or not you believe the general formula was appropriated well or poorly; and, moreover, describe a few scenes that match some of the stages of the journey, such as done in the video in the lecture notes.

The Hero’s Journey in Film

The Hero’s Journey, as laid out in the lecture, is easily recognizable as a familiar theme in popular story and in cinema.   There are several that jump to mind initially, such as Star Wars with Luke facing the now infamous adventure of overcoming the empire, guided by Obi Wan and then there is Tolkien’s Bilbo struggling against Sauron’s evil, with Gandalf as a guide. There are other films, however that, while not necessarily myth or fantasy, endeavor to tell their tales through the same tested formula.   In the film, “Ben Hur”, based on the novel by Lew Wallace, the hero goes through great trials as he follows the recognizable “thread” in the Hero’s Journey.

In the "Belly of the Whale".  Ben Hur, having saved his oppressor's life, tranitions from slave to adopted son, a restored Roman citizen.  But this is only another threshold to cross, since he despises the Romans.  Photo public domain.

In the “Belly of the Whale”. Ben Hur, having saved his oppressor’s life, transitions from slave to adopted son, a restored Roman citizen. But this is only another threshold to cross, since he despises the Romans. Photo public domain.

Judah Ben Hur’s life is turned upside down when his family is betrayed by his long time Roman friend for his refusal to bow to Roman domination, a stance he chooses to take, a clear “call to adventure”.   Losing his family, his love and forced into slavery, Judah embarks on an adventure he does not choose, but which exposes him to several thresholds and the “Belly of the Whale”, a true “road of trials”.   A particular fit, is the sinking of the galley he is enslaved on.   Saving the life of the Roman takes him from slave to citizen and adopted son.

Judah Ben Hur receives his first contact with his supernatural help.  He receives water from the Christ, not knowing who he is at that moment.  Photo public domain.

Judah Ben Hur receives his first contact with his supernatural help. He receives water from the Christ, not knowing who he is at that moment. Photo public domain.

Alternately receiving guidance and aid from his Roman benefactor, whom he saved from death, and from the Supernatural in the implied intervention of God and God’s Son, the Christ, Ben Hur passes through slavery to being restored to Roman blessing.   A clear moment of “Atonement” he completely rejects for the return to his family and an “Atonement” with Christ which he finds miraculously at the end.   While not following the thread in its intended mythical detail, most of the key elements are present.   Even the Gift is not left out of the story as Ben Hur’s mother and sister are healed through Ben Hur’s return and willingness to take them to see the Christ, something they were incapable of on their own.   They are healed and in response so is Ben Hur.   The hero gets the girl in the end.

Another excellent match in a based in truth tale versus the myth genre, is the historical movie, “Glory”, the story of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry and the white officer who died leading them.   Among the first colored regiments in the American Civil War to win the respect of their fellow soldiers, the 54th Mass. suffered 40% casualties in the fight at Battery Wagner, on the Confederate Coast.   An unlikely setting for a “Hero’s Journey”, the story nonetheless is told, relatively close to the hero thread.   As an initiate to Civil War combat, young Robert Shaw is wounded in his soul by his horrifying battle experience, which in turn exposes him to the opportunity to serve his community as its representative, serving as Massachusetts first Colored regiment’s commanding officer.

Robert G. Shaw, the reluctant hero in "Glory".  Faced with promotion to an unpopular position, he cannot resist its pull as a chance to accomplish something truly meaningful with his life.  Photo in public domain.

Robert G. Shaw, the reluctant hero in “Glory”. Faced with promotion to an unpopular position, he cannot resist its pull as a chance to accomplish something truly meaningful with his life. Photo in public domain.

A position fraught with social weight and enormous difficulties which the hero, Robert Shaw truly does not wish to accept, but cannot resist either.   The call to adventure, to be the one to lead free African American men into the fight for their own freedom is too much for him to resist.   Assisted and hindered by the truest of friends, hated by other officers, threatened with death if captured by the enemy, Shaw earns the grudging respect, then love of his African-American troops.   At first they are not privvy to the trials and thresholds he must cross in order to serve them; they mistrust the “rich white boy colonel”.   He must at times teach them roughly, for he fears what will become of them if he doesn’t.   He knows their reputation as a community of freed men is at stake.   They must do well in combat.   An unlikely mentor, the former grave digger and slave played by Morgan Freeman gives him the key to his   men’s hearts and he begins to win.

An unlikely mentor.  The former grave digger, played by Morgan Freeman.  Photo from,d.cGU&psig=AFQjCNG55pUUzS7AubOejh_CrlXrMSTa7g&ust=1410670853389397

An unlikely mentor. The former grave digger, played by Morgan Freeman.

While the issues for Robert like, “atonement” and “supernatural” intervention have small places in this true story, the features of the hero’s journey that are present are very strong.   Even his metaphorical “rebirth” is present, as he emerges from his trials, a more assertive, intent driven man, bent on seeing to it that his regiment is given a chance to prove its worth and confident in their qualities.

As in the story of “Ben Hur”, Shaw’s “gift” brought back through his journey is the triumphant ending in this hero’s adventure.   Through Shaw’s willing sacrifice, setting the example for the men of his regiment to follow, his regiment suffers great loss, but achieves forever, the first chapter of the fighting reputation of the Black American Soldier.   A massive, culture changing gift.   In the lead up to the final battle scene, the 54th takes the place of honor, the front line, and as they move into position, the white soldiers, tired from four long years of fighting, cheer them on, “Give ’em hell, 54th!!” A moment of acceptance. For me, the most telling moment in the movie, is when Shaw receives the ultimate warrior honor, intended as a sneer by the enemy as he is buried with his own soldiers, the former slaves.

Shaw and Trip.  Trip is the runaway slave-turned soldier who hates his white colonel, but comes to respect him and dies at his side.

Shaw and Trip. Trip is the runaway slave-turned soldier who hates his white colonel, but comes to respect him and dies at his side.

To a prejudice society, this was disgrace, but to Shaw’s father, it was the place of honor, signifying what his son had achieved.   Using artistic license, director Freddie Fields includes a touch of the “atonement”, as the most difficult soldier to win to Shaw’s cause dies at his side, wrapped in the flag he had refused to carry and comes to rest in the grave upon the breast of   “rich white boy”, colonel who invited him to fight for freedom.   Bear in mind, this movie was made at a time when some in the film industry were intentionally searching for role models and important stories in African-American history.   This is part of the American myth, showing young African American’s their place in our country’s history, their forefathers part in its shaping, not just being shaped by it.

2. Do you believe current cinema either meets or fails to meet the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology? Those needs would be: the need for mystery; the need for a picture of the universe in which human beings belong; the need for a picture of our society in which each person belongs; the need for a picture of our own psychology that helps with the transitions of a human life, from childhood to adulthood, from adulthood to death. Can movies meet any of these needs? Why or why not?

Movies – Fulfilling the Role of Myths

The film industry probably did not start out to fulfill the role of taking on the mantel of the myth tellers in our society, but that is the burden they have come to bear.   As our society has moved from one of book readers and casual movie-goers to a large portion of the population raised in front of the television, the film industry has become the de facto storyteller of our oral history, as well as our baby sitter and morality meter.   Not to get off topic, there are many issues with the moral quality in film today, but there is no doubt that the norms in society are given birth to the masses through film.   Drastic changes to our cultural norms, as well as the intensity of violent behaviors and exposure to traumatic events are created before our eyes from an early age.   This has permeated our society.   Is it meeting the needs of our cultural myth’s, the functions myths perform?   They do, in all four categories.   The two films previously mentioned both endeavor to serve these functions.   Both address mystery, either in death or in healing.   Both show the viewer how members of society find themselves within the cosmos, either creating a place for themselves or having there place forced upon them.   Both heros must defy social norms and pay prices for doing so, which serves to inform the viewer that this is how things were, and how far our society has come.   And finally, both stories show the process of death, either through violence or through a change in life’s security as time passes.   These visual myths cross barriers that families are often not comfortable approaching.   They expose us to the mysteries and take us to places unimagined before.   The create pressure for social change and in particular, remembering the film, “Dad”, with Jack Lemon, they help us cope with the changes in life, even as we go from adult to elderly and finally death.   They serve these functions, and although film is a very powerful force in our society, the myth functions are not exclusively the realm of the film industry.   What an incredible responsibility to society.


The Hero’s Journey

1. After reading about “The Hero’s Journey,” one particular movie comes to mind and that is a Disney movie of course: Finding Nemo. In this movie, Marlin is set out on a journey to find his son caused by a fight between the two. Resulting in Nemo getting taken by a couple of divers when his class goes on a field trip during the first day of school. The first challenge he faces is when he must go out in the open ocean and find his son, which Marlin is afraid of. Along the way, Marllin is faced with difficulties in which he cannot overcome without the mentors that help him. Dory, which is his first ally, helps Marlin get over the fact that he is scared. Since Dory has trouble remembering things, she must go about life by living in the moment. This enables Marlin to overcome fears that he would not of without her help. Another character that helped him along the way was Crush, a turtle that he met in the current. Marlin and Dory are shoved in the right direction in order to find his son. There were also set backs that Marlin and Dory had to get through. For example, they ran into sharks in which they thought were there friends but ended up chasing them and trying to eat them. Also, Dory tries to ask a whale for help which resulted in them getting swallowed forcing them to find a way out.

During this journey, Marlin was faced with a lot of challenges and obstacles in which he had to overcome to get to the prize which was his son. Knowing Nemo was out there somewhere, this gave him the courage to go out and search the ocean for his son. I believe that this movie follows “The Hero’s Journey.” In the end, Marlin learned that he has to let Nemo grow up on his own and know that everything will work for the better. Marlin was taught lessons during his journey, which also led him to become a better dad for Nemo which he knew was the ultimate achievement.

2. I do not  believe current cinema meets the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology. In order to stay within these four functions, I think the movie needs to written from a piece of literature. Movies today are so caught up in what people are in interested today, which is why they get the ratings and popularity that they do. If a movie were to go off of mythology, it would have to stray so far away from the original story because people just aren’t that interested in it and that is why it is not going to do well. This is also why you see so many reoccurring themes in all the movies. They are too focused on giving the people what they want (like sex, drugs, horror, etc in order to make money) instead of writing movies about the human needs of belonging to a society.

A Hero’s Journey and the Four Functions

Discussion Question #1 Part 1

For my comparison to the Hero’s Journey, I have chosen “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. I felt that the films spent a great deal of time covering the transitions of Frodo, the main character, as he fulfilled his destiny as the hero of Middle Earth and the formula for “The Hero’s Journey” was applied well throughout the course of the story.Frodo

Frodo had many of the features that normally compose a hero described by Campbell’ formula. He had no known parents to speak of, he was male and a Hobbit (lowly birth) and he had no desire for wealth, fame or adventure. His intitial “Call to Adventure” came with the appearance of a ring, which was bestowed upon him to bear, by relation to the previous owner, Bilbo Baggins. This ring held the fate of Middle Earth and the inhabitants there of.
Frodo’s “Departure” of the story begins with his “Call to Adventure” and he must carry this ring a great distance to the Elves, in order to decide the fate of the ring. After some slight preparation, he leaves his “Threshold Guardian” Gandalf and joins with a few friends, which symbolized a few characteristics common to Hobbits that would bring challenges to Frodo, teaching him new aspects and giving him determination to complete his journey. Frodo’s “Supernatural Aid” comes through a variety of sources throughout the tale, but primarily it is the ring itself that works for and against him at all times through the journey.
“Initiation” comes to pass through many triumphs and some dis-heartening failures. The ring wraiths are constantly chasing Frodo across the land and almost take his life early in the adventure, but he survives at the help of an Elven Heir to Rivendel. This would normally strike such fear into a hobbit, but during a meeting of races Frodo views the ring for what it has done in history and how it tares apart those who desire the power of the ring with the greed in their hearts. This quality of Frodo, this selflessness, is the inherent strength of his people and the key to his determination and ultimate success in the story, which is why he steps forward and offers to carry the ring to the firey halls of Mordor. The “Ulitimate Boon” of courageous selflessness was shown by Gandalf early in the story in his refusal to take the ring for himself or to try and conceal it, knowing that the ring could corrupt even the heart of a powerful wizard. Throughout the story he shows courage and the sacrifice of his life at the hands of a Balrog, but is renewed a life as a white wizard, even more powerful than before because of the power that lied within his own heart. Frodo grows to gain this same characteristic throughout the story and stands up to those that would destroy all, giving up his own safety, freedom and the ring as it is dropped into the volcanoe of Mordor.
The “Return” of Frodo takes the form of a “Refusal of the return.” Frodo feels disconnected and segregates himself indoors often. Longing for the adventures of his previous trials and after all that he has learned, he no long keeps the inherent characteristics of a normal Hobbit. He chooses to withdraw, from the society that he was raised, to Forbidden Isle of the Elves, where no one is to ever return.

Discussion Question #1 Part 2

There seems to be a great disconnect between the cinema of today and and the needs of the four functions of mythology. A lot of focus is placed on the fourth function, that of the psychology, which does drive a story to have some interesting twist or aspect of introverted thought or perversion through our society (the third function). Many of the movies are created with such a theme or idea, that people can not relate to them, but only see them from the oustide and pass judgement, based upon prior experience. Many films avoid the first function, the mystical or metaphysical function, entirely in order to keep the content light. In the beginning of many films, the main characters feel set apart from society, which may appear to be an unaccepting barrier or organism and they are unable to fit in, but through the story many find themselves accepted by the whole or rejected completely for their rebellious view of society. Most films do have a general lesson to be learned, whether it is simlply teamwork, trust, or courage, which would fulfill the need of a transition in psychology. Movies can meet the needs of the four mythological functions, but few provide all of them in a single film, mostly due to the regurgitation of messages, short attention spans of the audience, focus on emotional or physical desires, or crude humor and lack of content.

Will Farrel

Hero’s Journey – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)  is based on a short story by James Thurber. In the movie version, Walter Mitty is a “negative assets manager” at Life magazine – his job is to document and archive photo negatives, as well as deliver them to the photo department for  publication in the magazine. Walter is a guy who’s kind of just coasting through life – managing his elderly mother’s budget and trying to work up the courage to send a “wink” to his online (and office) crush. He’s also a complete  space cadet. He  daydreams himself into the photos he sees daily, always ending up as a hero saving either the office staff or his crush, Cheryl, from the “dragon” – in this case, the nasty  layoff manager Ted.  When it is announced that most of the employees will be laid off after Life ceases to publish paper copies of the magazine and goes fully digital, Walter’s last job is to deliver a negative that captures the “quintessence” of Life and will be the last cover photo.  Unfortunately for Walter, that negative – sent to him personally by the legendary photojournalist Sean O’Connell – is missing. Thus begins our unlikely hero’s journey to find the missing photograph before he loses his job. Walter Mitty Awkward Office GuyThere are a few scenes that stood out to me after learning to recognize the Hero’s Journey stages.  Walter’s call to adventure begins when his job is threatened after discovering that the negative of the last cover photo of Life is missing. He sets out to find O’Connell and almost immediately refuses to answer his call – boarding a helicopter to take him to the ship where O’Connell is rumored to be on. (In his defense, the pilot is not a sober man.) However, one of his daydreams takes over and he sees a vision of Cheryl urging him on (his supernatural aid),  and before he knows it, he’s jumping on the helicopter as it lifts off. From here, his road of trials begins as he tracks O’Connell through multiple countries, shark-infested waters, a volcano, a quick command  stop back in New York,  and finally to the Himalayas, where he finds that O’Connell doesn’t actually have the negative (his belly of the whale moment). O’Connell tells  Walter that the negative was inside the wallet that the photojournalist sent  him as a gift for all  of  the years of dedicated work Walter put in at Life. Defeated, Walter  heads  home, only to get stuck in LA  (due to a little misunderstanding with security), which results in a Refusal of the Return  moment:  with no job and no negative, why is he even going home?  During his  previous stop in New York, Walter had been fired for failing to recover the negative and had thrown away the wallet in despair. However, his mother saved it and upon Walter’s return home, gave it back to him (the Rescue from Without). In an example of the Freedom to Live, Walter rushes the negative to the photo department at Life and finally faces his dragon by telling off  the nasty “corporate transistion manager” Ted. He walks away ready to face the world with Cheryl by his side.

Ben Stiller in Walter Mitty

2. As far as current cinema meeting the four functions of mythology? I’ve seen a handful of movies that could claim this (like How to Kill a Mockingbird), but I think  these days movies are pure entertainment. From The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Independence Day to Die Hard, and even the sappy romance comedies, cinema in the present day really isn’t about deep soul searching but the bottom line; how many explosions and pretty superstars can Hollywood put in a movie to appeal to the most people and therefore make the most money? My feeling is that books have overtaken the four functions of mythology as their own again, and will probably continue until cinema catches up.

Hero’s Journey

A film that reminds me of the heroes journey is The Wizard of Oz. The journey begins with Dorothy’s call to adventure when she is forced to leave her home in order to save her dog Toto. She then enters her departure when she meets a fortune teller who tells her that her aunt is ill. Which causes her to rush home and get caught up in the tornado that carries her to Oz. Leading to another forced departure down the yellow brick road after Dorothy discovers that she landed upon the Wicked Witch of the East in her arrival.

Upon her arrival Dorothy gains aid from two sources and also two objectives from those sources of aid. The first bit of help that she gets is a pair of ruby slippers from the victim of her transportation into this new world. The slippers give her the objective to be killed by the Wicked Witch of the West. Which causes another witch, Glinda, to appear and send Dorothy off to find the man who may be able to bring her home.

The film continues along this vein. With mentors and helpers appearing in the Scarecrow, the Lion, the Tin woodsman, and Dorothy herself. Each of the characters beginning their own heroes journey and alternating between the roles of mentor and helper for each other. These ties also lead directly to most of the challenges that each of the characters face. Like when the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Woodsman face their fears and attempt to rescue Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West.

Many points in the film play directly to the stages of the journey as described by Joseph Campbell. Its seen through the call to adventure that each character experiences as they gather up the courage to leave their home in order to gain something from the Wizard of Oz. The road of Trails that the characters go through together on the way to meet their goals. Then in the end of the movie as Dorothy goes through the crossing of the return threshold when she wakes up in her bed changed by her journey. While the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Woodsman take the final step of their journey by undergoing the freedom to live. With the Wizard of Oz pointing out that they had what they were searching for all along.

As to whether or not the Wizard of Oz is a film that uses the general formula of the heroes journey well I think can be answered in two ways. Through my own personal opinion which is a firm yes. Then by how well the movie has stood the test of time considering that many people are still watching and analyzing this movie to this day.

When it comes to if todays current cinema is meeting all four functions of mythology I think it depends on the individual person. I say this because everyone interprets a movie differently based upon their own life experiences and whether or not they can relate to the story being told by the film. Its very easy to see this type of thing when if you were to compare the reactions of a very faithful christian to an atheist who both watched the movie Heaven is For Real. Either of those two individuals would be able to see that movie and experience all four functions of mythology or none of them. The difference between the two is how they would interpret the elements of mythology played throughout the movie depending their own outlook on life.

The only difference that I can see between many of the films being created today and many of the movies of the past is time. When I say time I don’t mean how movies can show their age but that the majority of the population and the film critics have had the time to sort out the brilliance of films like Groundhog Day from whatever else was released that year. Movies that are able to stay in people minds to that amount of time tend to be able to satisfy the same storytelling traits that many old tales have. Like the journey of the hero and the four functions of mythology. So when all of the new movies being created in this day and age are viewed to see if they have these traits in a well told form. It might take a little time to see if they are to be judged worthy of joining the ranks of many other great pieces of cinema.

Discussion Question – Hero’s Journey


It surprises me greatly that nobody has posted about The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings as their examples of the Hero’s Journey. To me, no book or movie holds up as a better example, except maybe Harry Potter.

Let’s start with our Tolkien Heroes. In The Hobbit, this of course is Bilbo Baggins (And believe me, I am judging you harshly if you don’t already know this … (: ) and it LOTR, it is his nephew Frodo. They are hobbits, from the Shire, and seen by the rest of the creatures and man in Middle Earth as nonthreatening, if they even know what a hobbit is. In both of their journeys, however, they prove to be of great use or valiant character.

In The Hobbit, Bilbo is offered his call to adventure when the legendary wizard Gandalf shows up and asks him if he’d like to go on a quest. Bilbo quickly declines his offer and in a show of the endless kindness of hobbits, politely invites him over for tea. The call to adventure comes again the next day with a knock at his door – “Dwalin, at your service,” – followed by twelve more dwarves and Gandalf again, this time there to explain their quest as Bilbo scrambles to throw an unexpected dinner party.  The next morning Bilbo wakes up to realize his party is gone, and runs out the door shouting to a passerby, “I’m going on an adventure.” Here we’ve gone through the call, the refusal, and even dabbled in supernatural aid.

In LOTR I find the finest example of crossing the threshold. Frodo, accompanied by Sam Gamgee, is attempting to meet Gandalf in Bree just outside of the Shire. In the movie, Sam stops in the middle of the wheat field, and tells Frodo that this is it; the farthest point he’s ever been. This moment marks the point that Sam and Frodo leave the comforts of home and are truly into the unknown.

I could write for hours making in depth comparisons of the novels/movies to The Hero’s Journey for Tolkien’s work but I’ll make things short and stick to just one novel, The Hobbit. Bilbo is forced to “prove” himself to his company, which is manages to partially do (all except for Thorin) after finding the ring in the cave with Gollum – his “belly of the whale” – and sneaking up on the party. His road of trials includes fighting goblins, having a riddle battle with Gollum to survive, the trolls, the spiders, and having the entire dwarven party be captured by the elves in Mirkwood – which Bilbo manages to save them from. There’s no temptress in the form of a woman in The Hobbit – but there is the ring, which proves in the later LOTR books to be exactly a temptress.



2. Most cinematic features today I believe wouldn’t serve the purpose defined by the four functions if simply because every movie today is a retelling of older stories – hence the new Hobbit movies coming out, the Marvel movies, and remaking a not yet outdated spiderman movie. These are stories we’re all comfortable with, and they’re remade to be simple and shallow. It’s hard to find a movie these days that is a true coming of age story that encourages the reader. There are exceptions to every rule, however, and some movies (even adaptions like The Book Thief,) fulfill the deeper need that human beings have traditionally filled with stories.