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The Heroine's Journey

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Svrtnsse, Feb 8, 2020.

  1. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I've been hearing about The Hero's Journey for almost as long as I've called myself a writer (so, a while), but not until today, did I hear about The Heroine's Journey. It's detailed here: Maureen Murdock’s Heroine’s Journey Arc

    The idea seems interesting to me, but I'm not well enough versed in story-theory to really say more than that. I know there are people here who are though, and who might enjoy learning about or commenting on this. :)

    The above link was mentioned in a discussion about this article, on the topic of "strong female characters" Opinion | I Don’t Want to Be the Strong Female Lead
     
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  2. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Inkling

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    I don't buy into the idea that women are intrinsically different from men and have to have a different journey. But then, I don't particularly buy into the archetype of the 'journey' at all.
     
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  3. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Troubadour

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    I always found that Hero's Journey thing to be a rather boring and selfcentered template. But cool that someone came up with something new! Personally, I think both Journeys could be written with either gender in the lead.
     
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  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    It's worth mentioning that Joseph Campbell was not being prescriptive. He looked at folklore all around the world and he found common themes. Not unlike what Jung did, though with different raw material and with different conclusions. Those common themes he abstracted into what he called the Hero's Journey. We would call them tropes, today. I don't think he ever said people should use this as a template, nor that writing stories with a different structure was somehow lesser. It's just his observations, but other people have treated his work as if it were some sort of set of rules.

    This is a classic example of an idea not being responsible for the people who believe in it.

    So, if someone else wants to start with a template and derive stories from it, and if they want that template to be feminine rather than masculine (however they might define those terms), then that's fine. If they then start telling other writers they ought also to follow it and if they don't they are somehow lesser, then that's not so fine. But I didn't read that from the article.

    As for myself, I have a hard enough time following an outline I've created my own self. I don't even try to follow someone else's. If, after I have published a story, someone claims they see a Hero's Journey there, that's fine. I find literary criticism exhausting and try to avoid stepping in it.
     
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  5. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    I'm not a woman, but I have long been bothered by the "strong independent woman" thing. Not that I dislike women who are strong and independent. Many of my favorite characters are woman who are strong and independent. But by making the SIW a template, I always feel like being strong and independent is made a prerequisite for any female character to have value as a person.

    Which actually does not just apply to female characters. Male characters are also considered to be flawed if they are not strong or independent and either have to change that or become casualties to the narrative. While I always identified as "male", I never identified with "masculinity". It just has zero appeal to me and I don't remember ever having any desire to dominate or impress. Fiction does not really seem to grasp this idea.
    I worked on my main character concept for a very long time to create a person who does not need to excellent, successful, or influential to interesting, admirable, and sympathetic. There is a big space for unassuming people without ambitions for power to have a happy and rewarding life full of interesting and exciting things, but western fiction does not appear to understand that this is possible. Even Harry Potter has to be chosen one.
     
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  6. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I do believe in the intrinsic difference between men and women but I also don't buy into the journey archetype.

    The thing that I find both interesting and troubling about this Heroine's Journey template is that it's mostly some kind of masculine-feminine synthesis overlayed on top of the Hero's Journey. And also they associate "feminine" with "marginalized/outsider" roles. Something about all that strikes me as fishy.

    I think this is the key. This Maureen lady seemed to have gone about this in a prescriptive way. Like, she decided on her ideal for a heroine and then created a template to get there.

    Based on my understanding of the difference between men and women both sociologically and psychologically, I imagine a "Heroine's Journey" would look quite different from the Hero's Journey. It would probably put more emphasis on dynamic relationships and character growth than accomplishing tasks. It probably wouldn't have the "journeying out of and then returning to the known world" thing to the same extent. I think it would probably be more of a "leaving the known world and making a home in the unknown" thing. Which means it wouldn't have the same ring diagram shape that Campbell used.
    Of course, that's all very reductive and just based on what little "for women" fiction that I've absorbed over the years. It also probably wouldn't apply exclusively to female characters in the same way that the Hero's Journey doesn't necessarily need to be staring a man.
    But the whole idea of a journey structure is crazy reductive and can only encompass a limited amount of stories.

    I think it's interesting that you associate masculinity with dominance or being impressive to people. I like masculinity but I've always associated it with valor, courage and temperance. Different from the virtues that femininity expresses but both are just as good depending on who's expressing them and when. And they both get a heaping helping of diligence, dignity, wisdom and so forth. Which I guess means that even though both men and women can express "heroism", heroism between the two genders would look a little different. Both as good as the other but different.
     
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  7. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Troubadour

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    I think strong and independent is pretty nice. I just watched a TV version of THE BOYS, where the main character was weak and dependent. All his decisions happened because other people pushed him around. There is something extremely frustrating about following a character who lacks agency. It was part of his character arc, of course, but still.

    Same with CHILLING ADVENTURE OF SABINA, where the lead fumbles around while others push her in the desired direction. I think it changes in later episodes, but I gave up before then. Lots of horror movies, most notably ROSEMARY'S BABY, have protagonists who, practically, have zero agency throughout.

    I don't think Strong and Independent needs to be Swarzneggers CONAN THE BARBARIAN or a female equivalent. How about KOLCHAK: THE NIGHTSTALKER, the lone, determined journalist? Or FEMALE PRISONER 701: SCORPION who gets by with ruthless determination and patience? Or PSMITH, the charming trickster?

    Of course, this isn't what's usually meant by strong and independent. But I think the hero who takes on the entire world all on his lonesome is a pretty engaging power fantasy.
     
  8. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    Is strong and independent required to have agency? I would say not, which is basically my point.

    Interesting. I don't see a meaningful difference between those. Isn't valor and courage all about doing what you think is right and stopping what you think is wrong? And don't they all carry the expectation of being praised and admired for showing these traits?
    Not quite sure about temperance. It's certainly a praiseworthy quality, but I don't see it as being part of the masculine ideal. More as something that is admired because it rejects the masculine ideal.
     
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Here again we see an example of a word being unable to bear the weight we sometimes put upon it. Surely the words masculine and feminine resonate differently with different people. Indeed, they will resonate differently depending upon how they are used in a sentence, in what setting they are used, and even where an individual is in their life. So when we say the word "means" this or that, the statement will always raise objections from someone else.

    We don't say to another "use your word." We say "use your words." Plural. This is why we write stories and not statements. A writer's work is done in the space between words.
     
  10. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    Well, no wonder masculinity doesn't appeal to you with an attitude like that. Temperance is the most manly virtue of all. And courage is a given. Valor probably wasn't the best word for what I was thinking. Maybe something more akin to an inherent desire for greatness and innovation - the thing that leads people to explore, invent, take on challenge, etc. but whatever, there are other examples of traditionally masculine behavior that I would call morally admirable (in the right time and place).
    Also, on the point of masculine virtues being done with the expectation of praise: "“integrity is doing the right thing; even when no one is watching". And humility is a virtue that's both masculine and feminine.

    The point is that heroes are meant to display some kind of heroic virtues and every virtue is admirable, praiseworthy and can be displayed by both genders. However, there seems to be some virtues that are more strongly associate with the masculine and those are really the virtues that resonate more with a hero. Likewise, I would think there are some virtues with a stronger association with the feminine so I would think that the "archetypal heroine" would really have those virtues front and center.

    I'm going through this thread under the assumption that there needs to be a distinction between the ultimate male heroic figure and the ultimate female heroic figure. So, I'm throwing stuff out to help us figure-out what those figures look like and how their archetypal journeys would operate.
    Again: if there needs to be a distinction.
     
  11. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Troubadour

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    Where did you get that from? Most manly heroes seem to be kinda hotheaded and unable to control themselves. Like, yesterday I saw Locke & Key on Netflix. The manly hero got into a fight because someone teased him with having to just sit on the bench during an ice-hockey match...
     
  12. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I’m inclined to ask how you define “manly hero”. If you see “hotheaded” as a manly trait than of course manly heroes would be hotheaded.

    There has been numerous times when I’m chatting with a guy about what it is to be a man and you’d be surprised how often they bring-up “If...” by Rudyard Kipling as the “how to” of manliness and temperance is half of what that poem is about.
    Aristotle argued that the key to being a real man is in finding the “golden mean” between extreme behavior - choosing courage over either cowardice or foolhardiness, for example.
    Most great mythological heroes from Odysseus to Solomon to King Arthur demonstrate an ability to not give into extreme behavior (and if they did, it tends to lead to their downfall). Even in the Far East, Sun Wukong has a character arc all about learning self-control and discipline.
    Even the most meathead 80s action heroes demonstrate the ability to keep a cool head even when the going gets tough. I mean, they eventually resort to wonton violence but usually only when the situation calls for it.

    Hotheadedness tends to be more of an anti-heroic trait than a heroic virtue. And modern fiction tends to have more anti-heroes than classical paragon-style heroes.
    Furthermore, I don’t think it’s an overtly manly behavior. After all, I know plenty of hotheaded women and I don’t think them less feminine for being hotheaded.

    But anyways, I think this thread is going way off course. We’re not here to attack or defend the concept of masculinity. We’re here to discuss heroines and their journeys.
     
  13. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Troubadour

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    I define it mostly out from from the most dominant stereotypes I see in mainstream entertainment. I think that gives a good clue to what is considered manly right now. But I guess you're talking more about ideals?

    I don't agree on this bit. I mean, even if they're able to control their raging male temper (or have a pal keep them back) the point of those scenes are still to show off their raging male temper. Those close-ups of there face all about to explode, you don't seriously think this is about showing their temperance?
     
  14. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I’ll concede the 80s action hero examples. Still; I listed other, more meaningful examples.
    I also insisted that I don’t see hotheadedness or rage as exclusively masculine behaviors. Nor do I see them as masculine ideals.
    Physical violence, I’ll concede, is more of a man thing though. But violence can be good or bad depending on how it’s directed.

    And yes, since we’re talking about heroism and gender, I’m sticking to heroic virtues of varying degrees of being gendered.

    I find it a little disturbing that a discussion about heroines has so quickly devolved into some kind of referendum on the idea of masculinity.
    As if femininity can only look good when manliness looks bad.
    Or women can only be defined or acknowledged when men are being critiqued or denigrated.

    This topic going off track is partially my fault so, y’know, my bad.
     
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  15. The Dark One

    The Dark One Maester

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    I haven't read the article, but such articles always cause me to suspect that they are yet another tokenistic reaction to a perceived male bastion - in this case, the hero's journey.

    Heroes don't have to be men.

    It strikes me that so much time and angst is wasted on fighting paradigms. To my mind, fighting a paradigm inevitably means you are defined by the paradigm, which is kinda ironic and counter-productive.

    As far as my own work goes, there are probably aspects of the hero's journey in most of them (with the exception of my most successful book - very much an anti-hero in that one). I never set out to write a hero's journey but the basic indicia are likely to be present in many stories - give your MC a problem and have them embark on a quest to solve it, you've got yourself a hero's journey there fellah!
     
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  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Campbell's "Hero's Journey" has some very specific elements to it. He also, according to the article, had some specific things to say about that journey being necessarily a male journey. It's worth reiterating that he wasn't saying this is how stories ought to go, he was saying this was how a wide variety of fairy tales and other very old stories went.

    But I echo WooHooMan: it's striking how this thread has become a discussion by males about males, when the original article is by a female about females.

    I would think we have enough literature by and for women that there could be an equivalent to Campbell's work that could result in a clear and perusasive statement of the Heroine's Journey. But that gets me much too far into the Swamp of Literary Criticism, where I am not at all qualified to speak. So I'll hush now.
     
  17. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Troubadour

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    A story that fits the Hero's Journey perfectly, and also happens to be one of my favorite fairy tales, is Snedronningen by H. C. Andersen. Funny thing is, the hero is a girl!
     
  18. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I wonder if Campbell ignored that one because it wasn't an old fairy tale but a modern one, written by Anderson himself. *shrug* University professors are never consistent--a position I have consistently held.

    Edited to add: it is a lovely story.
     
  19. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    Campbell didn't plan to make a guide on how to make stories, but to record the common elements he found in preserved ancient stories. And we happen to have mostly stories about men, told by men, to other men.
    A genuine heroine's journey would have to be based on existing ancient stories about female characters and what they have in common. Which I am pretty sure the model that today is called Heroine's Journey is not.

    Edit: Oh, looking a bit around briefly, it's creator didn't meant it to be a story structure either. It was just a catchy title for a work about dealing with gender based marginalization.
     
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  20. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    Reading the article, I think it is a poor road map to a heroine's journey, that will likely lead to an un-accepted heroine. I would suggest that in the manner in which the heroes' journey was researched and postulated by Mr. Campbell, if he had done the same for the female journey, he would find the journey is very different for a female than a male. Campbell is even quoted as saying "Women don't need to make the journey," which is misconstrued in the article has his disinterest or that some past qualities for women had been lost.

    If the goal is to say women can be the center character of such a journey as Campbell wrote about, but it begins with separating from the feminine, why have her at all? Would it not be better to say to begin such a journey, the woman need not give up femininity and embrace masculinity, and then somehow resolved them into were she has absorbed both, but that she was uniquely female throughout.

    Can we not just take as a given that if a monster appears and the woman is the only one there to deal with it, she might just pick up the club and deal with it? Maybe she would not be the best suited, but its not so hard to imagine, and sometimes you don't get a choice.

    I will admit that I suspect Mrs. Murdock is more thought-out than the article is summing up, so I will not wholly discount it. But I am not sold as yet.
     
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