I was just listening to Imaginary Worlds (great podcast about sci-fi/fantasy, def worth a listen if you like those topics) and they had an episode about The Hero’s Journey and its history as a storytelling pattern across comics, movies, and books. One of the themes in the podcast was how it seems to have reached a saturation point in Hollywood, where tons of major movies have followed it to the point where it’s become too predictable to be as interesting anymore—it’s formulaic rather than being the infallible storytelling device that so many screenwriting books have made it out to be.
Was wondering if anyone here has opinions about the hero’s journey, where it’s been used particularly well or badly, any favorite uses of it, or favorite subversions of it?
To me, it still seems like quite the trope in a lot of fantasy/sci fi especially, but most subversions of it are really fun. One of my favorite authors Diana Wynn’s Jones plays with it constantly, most of her characters don’t even realize they’re “the chosen one” until the last few pages of the book. For ex Howls Moving Castle is about a young girl who gets turned into a crotchety old lady, and spends most of the book just being really grumpy in fairly mundane ways, until the end when she almost inadvertently defeats the evil magic villain and restores her youth.
I also think part of the reason Liu cixins 3 body problem trilogy feels so fresh and interesting to us is that it basically totally ignores the hero’s journey story structure, and its protagonists tend to fail (in very epic ways.) Almost like rather than being chosen to save the world they are chosen to be especially steamrolled by it.
At the same time, it also can undeniably underlie a really satisfying story. Lord of the Rings being a classic example. And Joseph Campbell called it the Monomyth for a reason…tons of old epics follow it.
What do y’all think?