1. John Calligan

    John Calligan Senior Member

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    Female Protagonists on the Hero's Journey

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by John Calligan, Apr 16, 2018 at 4:22 PM.

    I've heard that some women are unsatisfied with female heroes in popular culture. The best example of a female hero lately:

    [​IMG]

    She's incredibly popular and her standalone movie was great. The problem with her as a female hero (edit: according to commentary given by some pop culture philosophers) is that almost everything she does is typical of male heroes and might not be something women identify with, on average.

    Now, people live on a bell curve, and there are real life women more bad ass than any man I know:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    But their experiences are outliers compared to what most women in our society live through, and so it seems like while more women (and men) can root for Wonder Woman, the meat of her plots aren't applicable except in the broadest psychological sense.

    ^As a fan, I hugely admire both Rose and Torres.

    Edit: I'm not implying that men are actually superheroes. Only that men are more likely than women to engage in hierarchical combat, violence, or violent professions. For that reason, depictions of the hero's journey that focus on violence and physical force (including stories such as Wonder Woman) are going to be more relevant to men using them as inspiration for how they might like to be.

    So, what I'd like to hear about are your feelings on what a satisfying hero's journey looks like for average female readers, especially for female fans of genre fiction (science fiction, fantasy, thriller, crime, romance).

    There has been some scholarly work done on the feminine hero's journey:

    https://heroinejourneys.com/heroines-journey/

    [​IMG]
    ^ This one goes back to one of Joseph Campbell's students, who developed it through therapy with her clients, believing that the heroes journey as presented didn't cut it.

    I'll need to read some examples to really get the above chart.

    Jordan Peterson, I'll warn you, has an aggravating way of talking about things. I'm pretty thick skinned and as privileged as they come, and I still find him annoying - though he is the only person in the public eye talking about a lot of important issues.

    Here, he discusses how Beauty and the Beast is the basic Feminine Heroes Journey:



    Maybe he's onto something that's got broad appeal, but I'd need more to go on to buy his opinion on this as universal as the normal heroes journey.

    Personally, I have a feeling that the standard HJ is applicable to many kinds of fiction, especially if you interpret things broadly. For reference:

    [​IMG]

    Take one of my favorite romance novels, a f/f love story written by a woman, probably for women. The plot points follow the HJ pretty well:

    Call to Adventure: Highschool friend returns home successful and rich, asks girl to come work with her
    Supernatural Aid: Support of friends
    Threshold Guardian: Coming out to family
    Mentor: New friends show her the ropes of the job
    Challenges and Temptations: Entering a relationship
    Abyss: Classic mid book breakup due to terrible social pressures and disaster
    Transformation: Reconciling with internal attitudes and feelings about society
    Atonement: Getting back together
    Return: HEA

    If it's fair to use the HJ in that way to describe plots, you can find it in all kinds of stories, often in very social, interpersonal stories about the lives of regular people.

    One of the most successful HJs of the 20th century has to be "The Wizard of Oz." There is nothing about Dorothy that strikes me as typically masculine, and she goes through the adventure without resorting to kicking everyone's butt, using leadership and understanding to get the job done:

    https://www.shmoop.com/wizard-of-oz/heros-journey.html

    What do you say?
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018 at 5:07 AM
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  2. Thundair

    Thundair Senior Member

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  3. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I didn't listen to the video clip, but the chart of the heroine's journey seems like total crap, to me. Why the hell does a woman's "journey" need to be all tied in with gender stuff?

    I'm not too tied to the hero's journey idea to begin with, but I can't see why it can't be unisex...
     
  4. John Calligan

    John Calligan Senior Member

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    I always thought it was unisex until I heard Peterson talk about it, looked online, and found that chart.
     
  5. izzybot

    izzybot A Menace Contributor

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    The hero's journey isn't gendered, itself, so I see no reason to create a 'feminine' one. Kind of sounds like those Bic ~For Women~ pens -- it's a fuckin' pen, man. You don't need to change it.

    I'm also not sure why it's relevant that WW falls outside of the typical female experience, when the same could be said for Batman, Superman, Iron Man, etc for men. They're superheroes. Of course we're not all out here punching buildings in half. It's the emotions of these characters that we relate to, and Wondy's emotional journey is one that your average person can understand. You have to look outside of actiony genre flicks for scenarios that are relatable. But ... I'm not as interested in watching those, so you're on your own, there.
     
  6. Cephus

    Cephus Member

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    Because unfortunately, the people who tend to complain also tend to be massive identitarians. They're not looking for a good story, they're looking for a good FEMALE story. Or BLACK story. Or GAY story. They only care about the identity politics behind it, not about the story itself. Race, gender, sexual orientation, all of those things matter to them far more than just telling a good story with interesting characters.
     
  7. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm totally at a loss about the feminine hero's journey. A man can do all sorts of things, but a woman's journey has to be ABOUT being a woman? Why?

    I suppose if we assume that the default human is a man, then the weirdest thing about a woman-human IS that she's a woman. That's her big deviation from the default, so of course that has to be the focus of all the stories about her, right?

    Edited to add: I also agree that Wonder Woman is no more different from the average woman than Superman is different from the average man.
     
  8. John Calligan

    John Calligan Senior Member

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    I'm glad to be hearing the opinions given on this thread. Like I said in the opening post, I always thought that the hero's journey was unisex and that it applied to a wide variety of stories, and this is coming from someone that has actually read a lot of Joseph Campbell. It is only recently that I've started hearing about how it's different between men and women.

    I did want to elaborate on my assertion in the opening post about Wonder Woman's story being masculine, like other super hero narratives. The reason some people say that men need these stories much more often than women, and why men identify with them more, is because men are much more likely to be violent and have violent jobs, and these characters serve as role models and inspiration for men who fight wars, have jobs involving violence such as prison guard, police officer, bouncer, fighter, or men who engage in male hierarchical combat, either on the play ground or on the street.

    That might be a big difference between men and women, and one reason why something like twice as many of our ancestors are women as men, because so many men die from all kinds of violence and idiocy at a higher rate than women (edit: well before they have a chance to breed).

    While almost all masculine and feminine traits are on a bell curve, meaning there are women who like to fight, engage in idiocy and violence, or take on duties that involve violence, it is still much, much more common for that to be the lifestyle of men. If that's the case, and it's due to real differences in men and women, then it explains why more men identify with these basically polytheistic stories about Thor, both now and in the ancient world, and why many men feel like they need him or feel inspired by him.

    That's not to say that some women aren't inspired by those characters for the same reasons as men, or that they can't be inspired by them even if they don't see the character as a role model, or that the superhero story can't be thought of as an allegory relating to our inner lives. But for the most part, men like Superman, Punisher, Batman, Wonder Woman and so on because they like seeing a hero kick ass and lead the way, and they hope that they will be able to assert themselves in a dominance hierarchy in the same way.

    Now, I don't know if all that's true, at all. I'm not a scholar on the subject and don't actually have much of a dog in the fight. I'm just trying to get my head wrapped around the nature of the heroes journey and make sure I'm not missing anything important.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018 at 1:09 AM
  9. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well, you seem to be assuming that the hero’s journey must always be about violence, and literal violence rather than just conflict. Is that really part of the definition?
     
  10. John Calligan

    John Calligan Senior Member

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    These quotes are from earlier in the thread:

     
  11. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I read those posts. But you seem to be regarding a hero’s journey without violence to be an oddity.

    It would be more useful if you responded to my post.
     
  12. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    ?
     
  13. John Calligan

    John Calligan Senior Member

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    Sure. It sounds like you are asking me if I think the heroes journey should apply to all kinds of stories, or only violent ones. Is that right?

    Not only did I think that the heroes journey is unisex, but I also thought it applied to all kinds of stories. It was only recently that I realized that many people disagree with that notion.

    So yes, I believe the heroes journey applies across the table, as I described when I drew parallels to the romance novel.
     
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  14. John Calligan

    John Calligan Senior Member

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    https://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/05/the-missing-men-in-your-family-tree/

     
  15. John-Wayne

    John-Wayne Senior Member

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    Some times I feel like my lack of "Official" or "University" level literature education is an asset to my stories. Though I find the thread interesting, This is stuff I have never even thought about nor cared to. In fact this is the first time I've heard of the "Heroes' Journey,", When I write, it's usually about my characters journey, sure they may have parts of the "Heroes' Journey" or whatever but it's about them and their story. and I have both Male and Female characters who go on their journeys.


    I fully agree with BayView here, though as I said it's about the Character's Journey.


    For some reason I find this highly offensive, and I don't get offended to easily. "Men are More Likely to be Violent" because women can't be violent.... nor can men be peaceful.
     
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  16. John Calligan

    John Calligan Senior Member

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    I'm not sure I said that women "can't be violent." If anything, I said the opposite by explaining my view that people have traits on a bell curve. I also showed some pictures of women on the extreme end of the bell curve: champion MMA fighters and attack helicopter pilots, both of who have much more violent lives than anything I can relate too.

    When I say men are more likely to engage in violent behavior, I mean that as a statement of fact:

    That's not a sexist stance. If anything, it reflects poorly on men.
     
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  17. John-Wayne

    John-Wayne Senior Member

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    I understand, and understand what you are saying, but we are talking about the "Heroes Journey" here and Writing in General.
     
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  18. izzybot

    izzybot A Menace Contributor

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    I think the key thing here that's irking me is that, to the best of my knowledge, the hero's journey is descriptive. It's an observation of past myths and legends and stories -- that they tend to follow the same or similar monomythic pattern. It really just outlines a basic character arc. You leave home because Plot, you face assorted dangers, you grow as a person, you return home (with some other let's say genre-like trappings thrown in).

    This heroine's journey malarkey appears to be prescriptive. It claims that the hero's journey doesn't work for women, and instead women's stories should follow this other pattern, for some ill-defined reason. I obviously don't claim to be an expert on whatever the female experience is, but I also don't trust someone who arbitrarily decides that they know what's "more appropriate for women’s life journeys" and designs a new Just For Women journey out of thin air.

    Doesn't mean the hero's journey is perfect, and again, it's descriptive -- not something you have to mold your stories around. I could care less about it. I only take umbrage with this because I think it's patented useless nonsense, and some folks apparently find writing female characters difficult and confusing enough as is. The waters need not be muddied further.

    That said, I do now kind of want to write a story where a male character follows this heroine's journey crap just to be obstinate.
     
  19. John Calligan

    John Calligan Senior Member

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    lol you're a genius, that's awesome
     
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  20. Thundair

    Thundair Senior Member

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    Violence whether men or women is a psychological disorder.
     
  21. John-Wayne

    John-Wayne Senior Member

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    Sounds awesome and i'd love to help.. also, just to share this:



    One of the best, Micheal Keaton movies ever.
     
  22. John-Wayne

    John-Wayne Senior Member

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    I think we are revering in regards to War... or fighting evil
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018 at 2:25 AM
  23. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Contributor Contributor

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    That is a fanatical statement, and untrue.
    The mother who protects her child by violent means does not suffer from a psychological disorder. Indeed, she acts out of pure instinct, and I dare say, out of love.
    Pacifism, adhered to in all circumstances and to all ends is something I'd consider a psychological disorder. Or perhaps just cold-hearted cowardice.
     
  24. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Senior Member

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    Just going out on a limb here, but I'm going to imagine that my ancestors had the same amount of genetic fathers as they did genetic mothers.

    More on topic, though, I don't disagree that the hero's journey should be unisex, but the problem with that is audience perception. Just think, a male hero does something all assertive and takes control of a situation, it's a positive thing. A female character could do exactly the same thing and just be seen of as a bitch. So as much as I don't really like the fact, I think that as writers, to effectively communicate our characters to an audience that has been trained from birth to make distinctions and assumptions and treat genders differently, should also treat them differently. Not as a way of pandering or reinforcing stereotypes, but as a way of helping our audience understand just how badass these characters can be.
     
  25. John Calligan

    John Calligan Senior Member

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    That's interesting stuff. Can you give any specific examples of what you mean?
     

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