We’re back to Star Wars, so Wymore is still in the clear. Which is good because I had so many cutting insults. Just so, so many. Honest.
I’ve been talking about tackling the Hero’s Journey in my final analysis of The Force Awakens for some time now. I may even have mentioned it in the blog. Well this week we tackle that. Or the first third of that. Or whatever I finish before dinner.
In 1949, Joseph Campbell defined a template for a hero who goes on an adventure, meets a crisis, has a victory, and returns home. Called the Monomyth or the Hero’s Journey, this template was famously applied to the original Star Wars. Not every heroes journey hits every step, but the Force Awakens looks adhere’s well, so let’s dig in!
The Call to Adventure
The Hero’s Journey starts with the status quo, then something enters the hero’s life, some new bit of information that acts as a call to adventure.
In The Force Awakens, the call comes in the form of BB-8. We begin with Rey as a scavenger. We see her scrimping to live on Jakku. We see her on the verge of starvation, but we see something more. We see the rebel pilot doll in her things. We watch her eating dinner with the pilot’s helmet on, and it’s clear that she’s dreaming of other places of better things. This is a person meant for adventure. That is clear to us. It just might not be clear to herself.
And then she hears BB-8’s call for help. A literal call. She rushes to the cute little guy’s aid and she rescues him. It’s obvious he asks her for help.
Refusal of the Call
And she says no. Of course she says no. It’s obvious to everyone that this little guy is part of something bigger. Helping him will pull her out of her comfortable little life.
Campbell tells us that the hero often refuses the call, through feelings of inadequacy or insecurity, perhaps. The refusal is important, because if the hero accepts the call immediately, they will seem eager. Full of themselves. We can’t relate to a hero just happily says, “Save the world? I’m your gal!” That person is too full of themselves. We like our heroes reluctant and full of self-doubt.
Rey spends a lot of time refusing calls, because there are two different stories here, the overarching story of the trilogy and the immediate story of this movie. We’re dealing with just this movie and so the call in question is the call to help the resistance. We’ll look at the call to the force in other films. It may be relevant in our analysis of Episode VIII, but we might also have to wait until the entire trilogy is done.
So she tells BB-8 that he can only stay with her one night. We know that won’t stand, but it’s touching when Unkar tries to buy the droid off her. Here’s her moment. She can have everything she wants, and she’s already told the droid she won’t help him. She has all the food in her arms when she realizes that she can’t do it. While saving the droid might be beyond her and her humble life, letting the droid fall into nefarious hands is even further beyond her.
Once our hero has accepted her call, she needs a supernatural helper. In Rey’s story, this helper falls from the stars, not a fallen angel, but a fallen devil, a creature who represents evil and oppression, searching for his own redemption. We are talking, of course, of Finn.
Of course in our modern age, the supernatural aid can’t be an old wizard carrying a lightsaber. She barely accepts the aid “stop taking my hand!” But it’s there. Finn is a somewhat bumbling helper, but that’s okay, because Rey is there to help him right back.
Crossing the Threshold
Crossing the threshold occurs when our hero first crosses the field of adventure. This is beautifully depicted after the stormtoopers attack, when Rey and Finn sprint across the desert and decide to take the Millenium Falcon. They climb inside and have their first major adventure, their running fight with the Tie Fighters. At the end of this, we see our hero for who she is. Powerful. Competent. Childlike. Eager. Endearing. If we haven’t fallen in love with Rey yet, we’re in love with her by the time we see her practically jumping up and down with delight and excitement and a little disbelief over what she and Finn just accomplished together.
Belly of the Whale
The belly of the whale shows that the character has entered into the adventure willingly. This is when we discover she is capable of metamorphosis.
For Rey, this probably begins during the Tie Fighter battle, but it continues, thematically, to the Falcon being taken into the belly of Han’s new cargo ship. Now she is literally in the belly, and her crucible has truly begun.
Tune in next week and we’ll explore Rey’s Initiation. Same bat time. Same bat channel.
The next installment awaits...Slouching Towards Amazon: LTUE Post Mortem