zondag 24 november 2013

The Heroine's Journey

Some of you will know the "Hero's journey" described by Campbell, which explains there is a structure, a same path, in all stories. From Star Wars, episode IV, until the eldest fairytale, the hero follows the same path. He is called to adventure, refuses it, meets his Obi-Wan Kenobi, then gets his adoption parents killed, and will leave Tatooine to defeat the Empire. Or like that.

But ... goes the same for female heroes? Are women and men the same, so they follow the same kind of journey? According to Maureen Murdock, there is a big difference. Many women, in this paternal world, think they should follow the path of the hero, and thereby split from their feminine nature, and are maybe successful in terms of their father's view, but never satisfied. Her book, "The Heroines Journey" gives a bit a psychological insight in how a woman can become her own queen. 

As part of research to make stories and screenplays more "right", I read this book, and made my notes, certainly because I would love to write about women, because... I am one myself, and I think women deserve more attention in literature and cinema. In fact... in general... but art is more my field, so I think I can start in my own field. 

There are 3 big parts:

I. Departure/ Separation
The woman is a bit imprisoned in her domestic environment. She feels the need to leave, but expectations from her society, or a bad mother, or a too good father, keeps her there. When she is called to adventure, it feels like death. The woman will be aware there is something loose in her life, there is something missing, she will dream about this black figure... but she will refuse the call. It is scary to leave your comfort zone and to reach for the woman you want to be... until she meets her mentor, who will help her to cross the first tresshold, so she will have already more experience of freedom dan before departure. 

II. Initiation/Descent (in the underworld)
She will experience a road of trials. Her heart will be hurt. Maybe she will experience a rape trauma. I have to think about Tess d'Ubervilles, who left her home, to work for  the real 'Ubervilles, and get seduced by the young son. This whole experience will mean her symbolic death. She will understand there is no white knight on a horse to save her, no father to rescue her... but that she has to deal with her own darkness. She will go in the underworld, to face herself. She will discover that each woman is her own mother, able to create and destruct. This whole initiation in her own darkness will give her the knowledge, will let her discover her own qualities, which will be needed to deal with the real world.
Like the girl in Brave: her real quest was to reconnect with her mother, because as many women, they become their father's daughter, and forget their femininity, even their mother, or the mother within them, because they think being "female" is weak. 

III. Return
Empowered, and yes, let me write this word again, empowered, the woman goes back, and destroys the problem within or beyond her. Maybe she will refuse to go back to her roots, because she likes to be the strong woman in the place where she found her strength, and is afraid that when she goes back she will return in old habits, but when she will finds the courage, she will release her creativity and find a way to make an impact. She will not rule, like a hero, but will help to build a close-knit community, a family... where people help each other, a world in a next phase... 

A real woman creates, and supports, and nurtures. Sometimes, people think housewives are foolish, suppressed, don't enjoy any freedom, but I have respect for the women who invest all their lives in nurturing their loves and family. Sometimes I wonder if it is good both people work hard in the family... because when will there be time to nurture, or to be nurtured? Nurturing does not mean slavery; it means touch, caressing, smiling, cooking... and sharing... and that seems a really beautiful end for any person, instead of a crown on a field full of blood and mud. 

Of course, I cannot summarize the book in one short blog. There are many different paths, different quests, different fairytales and myths, but I think Maureen makes a point by writing about a different journey than the one Campbell proposed many decades ago. 

What do you think? What is the heroine's path for a girl into a woman? 

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