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Welcome to our course!
Week One: Heroes versus Heroines
What is a heroine’s journey and why does it matter?
So, what’s a “heroine's journey” and how is it different?
Critics of the classic Hero’s Journey "monomyth" formula, (a la Joseph Campbell, all of Hollywood, and even most of the strong female heroines in the current trend) argue that these stories do less to liberate women and more to uphold and perpetuate patriarchy, capitalism, and oppression than they want you to think.
Even with this new surge of empowered women in film and television, most of the stories are still following the same formula, and the protagonists are still using violence to solve their problems. A "hero with boobs" is hardly the radical shift we need.
What happens in a feminist story, one meant to liberate both reader and writer?
What are the characteristics of a truly radical protagonist, and how does she solve her problems without violence?
These are the questions we'll grapple with in his course, starting at the beginning:
Every hero’s journey starts with a desire.
Our Hero identifies something that he wants to have, to achieve, to obtain. He wants to conquer, overcome, and succeed. He wants to Save the World.
But a heroine’s journey starts with an inquiry--something she wants to know. She’s curious. She has a question. A QUESTion. She wants to learn, to connect, and to transform. She wants to change the world.
And so it begins.
The distinctions between a hero’s journey and a heroine’s journey have little to do with masculine/feminine, dark/light, or any other black and white descriptors. For simplicity’s sake, I write about Our Heroine as a woman, because I am a woman and that makes sense for me. But truly, whether or not a story perpetuates patriarchy and oppression has little to do with the gender of your protagonist, and everything to do with the story’s structure, armature, and archetypes.
Meditation: For the next video, instead of watching me talk, find a comfortable place to lay back and listen. This will appeal to different parts of your mind and help you absorb and begin to expand upon the information.
Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and just let me fill your mind with ideas for the next 8 minutes:
As I mentioned in the video,
the two biggest problems with the hero’s journey are:
It provides an empathetic catharsis: a violent and conclusive transformation that tends to replace any real action on the part of the reader or viewer.
It desensitizes us to a whole lexicon of horrific experiences, from rape, slavery, and murder to all-out genocide and the end of the world. And as we get comfortable witnessing pretend atrocities, we disassociate with the very real atrocities that are going on all around us.
What do you think about these assertions? Do you see examples in popular stories all around you? Do you have ideas about how we can do things differently?
Writing Practice: The quest for something different
Today's just a quick introduction to the concept of a heroine's journey. Next time, we'll start getting into the nitty-gritty of what it means to craft a truly subversive story. Meanwhile, try this exercise: Make a list of stories featuring what you would consider a "heroine." Try to come up with at least ten, then go down the list and ask yourself some questions:
Did the women in this story talk to each other? About something other than a man?
Did the heroine use violence to solve her problems?
Did the story theme hang on a stereotypical, "chick flick" desire such as marriage, pregnancy, or infidelity?
Does the heroine seek glory, vengeance, and victory, or do they seek evolution and transformation?