The Heroine’s Journey: Part 1

April 16th, 2012 by

Last week I posted this, featuring an article by Caroline Heldman in which she made this point:

“The Hunger Games” is Hollywood’s wake-up call that female action hero movies can be successful if the protagonist is portrayed as a complex subject instead of a hyper-sexualized fighting fuck toy (FFT).

Fighting fuck toys are hyper-sexualized female protagonists who are able to “kick ass” (and kill) with the best of them. The FFT appears empowered, but her very existence serves the pleasure of the heterosexual male viewer. In short, the FFT takes female agency, weds it to normalized male violence, and appropriates it for the male gaze.

From an ethical standpoint, Hollywood executives should be concerned about the damage girls and women sustain growing up in a society with ubiquitous images of sex objects, but they’re not. From a business standpoint, Hollywood executives should be concerned about the money they could be making with better female action heroes, but so far, they seem pretty clueless.

Hollywood rolls out FFTs every few years that generally don’t perform well at the box office (think Lara Croft, Elektra, Cat Woman, Sucker Punch), leading executives to wrongly conclude that female action leads aren’t bankable. The problem isn’t their sex. The problem is their portrayal as sex objects, and objects aren’t convincing protagonists. Subjects “act” while objects are “acted upon,” so reducing a female action hero to an object, even sporadically, diminishes her ability to believably carry a storyline. The FFT might have an enviable swagger and do cool stunts, but she’s ultimately a bit of a joke [emphasis added].

In comments, we had an interesting discussion that suggested to me this is a subject worth exploring further. As a self-avowed acolyte of Joseph Campbell and longtime student of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” I am well-acquainted with The Hero’s Journey. I am also quite aware of how Campbell’s ideas about it have often been reduced to formula, a trend I attempted to respond to here, here, here, here, and here.

There is also this: It is a hero’s journey. As much as we may prefer to think of that as gender non-specific, there is plenty of literature and commentary on the subject that suggests the masculine identity of the hero is reflected in the details of the journey, but that there is another way to think of hero archetypes — from a female perspective.

A good recent example is an AlterNet article by Lynn Parramore titled: “Heroine With a Thousand Faces: The Rise of the Female Savior”. Some excerpts:

Hard times were made for heroes. In the face of oppression, it’s natural to want a savior – an intermediary to carry our hopes and dreams of overturning The System. From the wreckage of the Great Depression, a slew of caped crusaders rose, like Superman, corruption-busting Batman, Captain America, and The Shadow, who knew “what evil lurks in the hearts of men.”

Male heroes abound in our culture, virile figures who dazzle us with their wits and brawn. But lately, they just don’t seem to be getting the job done. The cowboy is looking ragged. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the action hero turned governor, turns out to be a run-of-the-mill womanizer and cheat. Far from battling global financiers, Barack Obama bends to the will of bankers. As a network of lawless capitalists and their political puppets squeezes and starves the world’s citizens from Cairo to California, Superman seems to have fled the scene.

Somebody else has leapt onstage. And she’s not wearing a codpiece.

In the most familiar dramas, epics and action stories, women play a small part — usually as idols, temptresses and servants. But the phenomenal success of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, with their ass-kicking female protagonists, raises the question: Has the era of the female hero arrived? If so, why now? And what is she trying to tell us?


The traditional presentation of the Young Girl in literature can be summed up in the formula She-Who-Waits. Between childhood and adulthood, the young woman must wait for a male liberator to save her from evil. The male is endowed with riches, power, connections, and moral authority, and it is in the best interests of the girl to become his apprentice or love interest.

But what if there aren’t any male heroes to wait for?

The new narratives presented in the Millennium trilogy and The Hunger Games present apocalyptic realms where grief and rage haunt a population crushed by wealthy and malevolent forces. Men in authority positions are mostly corrupt, and the good men have been shorn of their power. Larsson’s Mikael Blomkvist is a down-and-out, middle-aged journalist who has been framed by a powerful financier. In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen’s male reality-show partner Peeta, with his diminutive name, is a beaten-down teenage boy with scant confidence in his physical prowess and mental acumen.


The Young Girl must be transformed if she is to carry the hero’s burden. Larsson’s Lisbeth Salandar is far less a creature of the male gaze than her predecessors. Defiant, gaunt and sporting a spiky mohawk and prickly Goth accessories, she is an open challenge to the fantasy of soft curves and patriarchal expectations of feminine compliance. A computer hacker, she is resistance incarnate. The psychologically complex Lisbeth echoes the resourcefulness and survival instinct of fairy tale women, who often achieve their ends through masquerade and dissimulation.

Lisbeth’s purpose is not only to survive, but to challenge corporate wealth amassed at the expense of the common good. A victim of rapists, she becomes a superhero, a female Robin Hood who plunders plutocrats and outwits corrupt bureaucrats and policemen.


Like Lisbeth Salander, Suzanne Collins’ Katniss Everdeen faces a world in which the state has become corrupted and the people are perceived merely as sources of wealth extraction for elites. Collins, a television writer, is not an overtly political figure in the mold of Larsson, but she has expressed the impact of her father’s service in Vietnam on her view of the brutality and absurdity of war, and she cites his experience of the privations of the Great Depression as inspiration for the survival themes in her books. The Hunger Games appeals to anxieties about government corruption on both the left and the right, manifested in fears of surveillance and a hunger for revolt.

Armed with her Mockingjay emblem — a bird symbol of rebellion that suggests a satirical, subversive stance toward The System – Katniss is tasked with surviving a state-sponsored reality show killing match in which she must rely on both her physical skill and intellect in order to return to her impoverished coal-mining district. Only when Katniss pantomimes compliance before the television camera does she conform to conventional expectations of feminine eroticism. For her, the femininity of curls and frilly dresses is pure artifice — a mask of survival. Her romantic entanglements are equally ambiguous: her life depends on enacting a love affair with Peeta, but while she cares for the hapless boy, she is no lovestruck teenage girl. When she is released into the woods, Katniss is outfitted as Artemis, the hunter– as likely to slay men as to love them.

Both Lisbeth and Katniss extend the limits of what is possible in the stifling worlds they inhabit. Notably, both women display violence – they show, through their physical aggression, the ultimate proof of their subjectivity. They are committed to their own survival — quite the opposite of the martyrdom and physical sacrifice traditionally demanded of female saviors. But they also show openness to collaboration with both men and women that points to the limitations of the lone-cowboy-hero model and the traditional gender dynamic of male dominance/female servitude.

For these female characters, the waiting game of young womanhood is supplanted by active conquest, and the path is opened for independent, strong-willed and admirable heroines. The ethical, intelligent, fearless female becomes the preeminent challenge to sinister, intangible forces. Mold-breaking female protagonists subvert the rules of a rigged game in a way that is all the more thrilling and cathartic for their break with tradition.

There are many layers to this subject and many points of entry to discuss it. Simply looking at it from the perspective of screenwriting, we would be blind not to notice the remarkable success of Lisbeth and Katniss as heroine figures in the Millennium and “Hunger Game” series. At the very least we can probably all agree on this: In a culture of movies, TV series, and books dominated by male Protagonists, there can be something especially interesting approaching a story from the vantage point of a female Protagonist. We have seen male heroes in male hero roles for decades. Starting with a female hero — a S-Hero as they are sometimes called — can provide a unique, even fresh approach to these type of sagas.

But there are so many other questions:

* Is The Heroine’s Journey the same as The Hero’s Journey?

* If so, how and what?

* Is a female hero substantively any different from a male hero?

* If a female follows the path of a Hero’s Journey, does that not make them in essence a ‘male’ character?

* Likewise if there is, indeed, an equivalent Heroine’s Journey, if a male followed that path, would that not make them in essence a ‘female’ character?

* Why are most heroes in stories males?

* Are there things writers can learn about writing a male hero by studying female heroes?

* Are there things writers can learn about writing a female hero by studying male heroes?

What I propose to do is open the floor to a discussion of this subject on all fronts. I start with Parramore’s article to frame the discussion, and have several more to use as the centerpiece of posts over the course of this week.

What I’m hoping for is a wide-ranging and beneficial conversation about The Hero’s Journey and The Heroine’s Journey, grounded in a question aimed specifically at writers: Are there unique opportunities in today’s culture to write stories with a female Protagonist?

I ask this question not because I’m trying to be politically correct, rather as noted above, you’d have to be stupid not to see the enormous success of “The Hunger Games” and the Millennium series. Something is going on. Perhaps it’s as simple as Lisbeth and Katniss being two well-drawn Protagonists, regardless of gender. Or maybe there is something more at work, that in the Zeitgeist, there is an opening, even a desire to see stories with female heroes.

If there is, what can we learn this week to help us understand the unique dynamics at play? Are these stories that have to be shaped in a precise way to fly with Hollywood or are we free to cut loose with conventions if we choose to write stories with female heroes?

For the rest of Parramore’s article, go here.

HT to my good friend and Jung scholar Morgan Gould for forwarding me the article.

Tomorrow: A closer look at The Heroine’s Journey.

20 thoughts on “The Heroine’s Journey: Part 1

  1. In Dramatica, there is a factor of mental sex within the main character: are they male or female in their approaches to problem solving?

    Male Mental Sex typically resort to linear problem solving as their choice. This involves setting a goal and the necessary steps to achieving it, then embarking on those steps.

    Female Mental Sex are temporal to Male Mental Sex spacial, and prefer holistic methods. They’re more intuitive, needing only a sense of how they want things to be and then work towards that balance.

    More often than not in movies, a character’s Mental Sex matches their physical sex – but not always. Two examples I brought up last week include Ripley in Alien and Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs.

    Both of these characters have Male Mental Sex characteristics – they both follow problem solving methods that are associated to that of a male than a female. Conversely, Jack Ryan in The Hunt For Red October is a more intuitive, Female Mental Sex character.

    Using some examples from Dramatica:

    Female: Looks at motivations – Male: Looks at purpose
    Female: Tries to see connections – Male: Tries to gather evidence.
    Female: Sets up conditions – Male: Sets up requirements
    Female: Seeks fulfillment – Male: Seeks satisfaction
    Female: Concentrates Why/When – Male: How/What
    Female: Puts issues into context – Male: Argues the issues
    Female: Tries to hold it all together – Male: Tries to pull it all together

    The thing is, women in the audience are better at seeing things BOTH ways whereas men tend to be linear-dominate. Despite most big adventure/action films lacking logic, a character who thinks holistically to solve problems inherent to that particular genre of story is going to draw massive groans from an audience.

    So when looking at The Hunger Games, the character of Katniss is a linear thinker of Male Mental Sex – that’s why she appeals to BOTH sexes of an audience. Jennifer Lawrence previously played one in Winter’s Bone as well.

    That being said, I still go back to what I noted last week, that Katniss actually doesn’t do much to solve any of her problems. There are the mentors who guide her and she’s saved several times via deus ex machina, but nevertheless, there’s a clear, linear approach taken for solving most of the problems with the clear exception of the decision at the end.

    1. Kim Hudson says:

      I love this comparison of the male and female (I would say Hero and Virgin) counterparts. (I always feel I have to note Virgin means to know you are of intrinsic value as in a Virgin forest). Here are some of my additions.

      Heroes need allies, Virgins need friends;
      Heroes conquer the physical world, Virgins embrace the interior world;
      Heroes do what they have to, Virgins do what they want to;
      Heroes have villains that must be neutralized or eliminated; Virgins have antagonists that grow to make room for the Virgin out of love for her;
      Heroes go to a foreign land, Virgins grow in a space within their everyday space;
      Heroes learn to face their fear and push it back, Virgins learn to follow their joy.

      These two journeys, the Virgin’s and the Hero’s, are like breathing. One takes life in, one expells what is damaging or useless. They are opposite and together form a kind of wholeness. In the case of Heroes and Virgins they are two ways to know yourself as an individual. To learn that you can stand using your own resources. The Hero does it physically in the world and the Virgin does it emotionally. She learns that she is valuable just for being herself, and the gift that she has to bring just might make the world a brighter place in unexpected ways (see Billy Elliot, Legally Blond, Brokeback Mountain, An Education, Rocky, The King’s Speech, the first half of Avatar…).

  2. At the risk of sounding self-absorbed, I’m gonna mention the feminist action piece I’ve been writing. In a previous thread I asked about whether I was projecting my fantasies onto characters.

    What I meant in that case was not anything of a sexual nature, but rather that I was making my characters behave in the way I thought would be kick-ass and cool (i.e male behavior), rather than letting their behavior emerge naturally from the characterizations.

    The thing I “discovered” is that left to their own devices, my female characters would often make decisions and act together as a team and that my mentor characters would also be three or even four characters together, sometimes being both older and younger than the “protagonist” of the moment.

    I also discovered that the relationships between these characters naturally forms a “matriarchy” that brings a sense of family between them and that the conflict between the women and men in this piece follows from the women naturally joining together to form that support group and the men being traditional loner, self-supporting types.

    1. Oh! Well then, sorry, Pliny. My comments from previous thread were pathetic at best and less than helpful! 😉

      1. Far from it. I took a great deal from what you wrote.

  3. I really enjoyed this post.

    Here’s my thoughts – If each human has a unique soul then the female heroes journey should be the same as the males.

    That inside change we’re always talking about is really a change of the soul of that character in some way, good or bad – nearer to heaven or farther from it.

  4. Scott says:

    TBBB and pliny, I think you’ll both be interested in some of the ideas that emerge from posts in the next few days. Tomorrow, for instance, a side-by-side comparison of stages associated with The Hero’s Journey and variations per The Heroine’s Journey.

  5. Gabe says:

    I always liked what Campbell said about girls having adulthood thrust upon them (menstruation), and boys needing ritual and journeys in order to learn become adults.

    Scott has often used the term individuation. Having that Y chromosome or not must push the hero in a certain direction on their path to individuation. Biology has got to play in here somehow.

    TBBB – Are those problem-solving approaches actually based on scientific research? I would imagine the spectrum of approaches is much more nuanced than Dramatica explained above.

    1. Gabe, as far as I can tell – the fundamental difference between men and women is best explained with bubble gum: men stick used gum anywhere, often in the worst possible places (under desks). Women? They save the foil it came in and wrap it back up when they’re done with it. :)

      But in all seriousness, to answer your question: yes.

      You can find info here:—When-Women-and-Men-Solve-Problems-Differently&id=1235521–Differences-Between-Men-and-Women.html

      In short, there’s been all sorts of studies done.

      Men like to get right to it and solve a problem in the fewest amount of steps possible – that’s linear. Women like to talk about it, consider it from all different angles, etc. – that’s holistic.

      That’s taking it to the basic extent, but I think those generally describe them into easily identifiable and stereotypical types most people can relate to.

    2. I think that Michael’s comment about human’s unique souls having the same journey is off-base, and that as you say here, the issue is biology and how that affects one’s personality development. Women can grow another human inside of their bodies. Men can’t. That’s kind of a major difference that would have to have some effect on one’s path to individuation. And beyond that, women and men’s personalities develop in a world dominated by patriarchy, which objectifies and diminishes the roles of women. How could that fail to impact a male or female character’s journey differently?

  6. jwindh says:

    Yes, I really have to agree with TBBB’s analysis. As much as we like to think we are all “equal” (aside from a few external things) we absolutely are not. Hormones – testosterone and many others – all have an influence on personality, values, and approach to problem-solving. (I say this after having had some incredibly open and in-depth conversations with a friend who had a male-to-female sex change – the whole thing, operation, hormone therapy… she has lived life hormonally as male and as female, in fact has lived how very few of us ever have, with ZERO testosterone (we females still have some naturally produced testosterone, but she no longer has any organs that produce it – she only has it if she takes supplements, and she said she likes herself and her life best when she has NONE of it!) Her insights, as well as many studies I have read, have really shaped my views about the human brain and gender differences).

    BTW, I have been told by many people that I have very male-oriented approach to problem-solving (and I agree) – but I still do have many of the typical female attributes too (looking at big picture, putting importance into relationships, both between people and between things or ideas).

    So I am wondering, with this idea of The Heroine’s Journey – is not a Heroine pretty much just a female Hero? As opposed to a “female protagonist” who may not necessarily be classified as female Hero or Heroine. So I would totally agree with TBBB’s first comment, and say that Alien’s Ripley and SOTL’s Clarice are very much “male” hero stories where the protagonist is female. I would say mostly the same with Katniss, too – although the maternal feelings she has for her sister are very “feminine” (but still not really any different from any tough male hero who still has a soft spot for protecting “women and children”).

    But I think if we use the term “Heroine” for the female journey… well, it makes it hard to imagine a female protagonist as anything other than a female Hero (i.e. male peronality attributes with female genitalia). Whereas if we used another word, we could work out what that female journey actually IS, and what about it is similar to or different from the Hero’s path.

    I have a book that, I am sad to say, I have not read yet – it is called “The Virgin’s Promise” (by Kim Hudson). It is meant to be an examination of the feminine counterpart to The Hero’s Journey. I am hoping to get to it this summer. But from the blurb on the back, which you can read here:
    some of what it says is it:
    “explores the yin and yang of the Virgin and the Hero as they journey to embrace their power as individuals,”
    “Kim Hudson offers a method for understanding and writing successful screenplays about characters whose dramatic journey follows an internal path to discovery and acceptance of their true identity in spite of formidable obstacles. I am certain that many important and successful new films will be inspired by this book.”

    What seems interesting to me is this second quote – that it is not some “Hero’s Journey” but with a female as hero – but that the whole journey might be quite different, not a hero/heroine journey at all but more of an “internal path.”

    And that “internal path” of a protagonist might not be the fast-moving high-action film that Hollywood (and American audiences) currently seem to want. Which might be why most films made these days are with male protagonists embracing a Hero’s Journey, along with a few token variations where a female lead assumes that still very male Hero role…

    Just kinda thinking out loud here… keen to hear what others have to say. And to read Hudson’s book.


  7. I’m sure it will take me a few more days to process all this amazing insight–a MasterClass via comments. I especially enjoy the differences in how men and women comment!

    Re: Michael’s comment, “If each human has a unique soul then the female heroes journey should be the same as the males.”

    I agree, the journey is the same, but…

    For three entire drafts of my RomCom/Action the protagonist (sniper) was male and the “attractor” (burned out spy) was female. A friend read the logline and suggested a gender switch.

    That single change heightened the story, the emotion, the humor, the conflict between villain (female) and between secondary/tertiary characters. The journey (goal) stayed the same, but it was more engaging, hilarious, heartfelt, vicious and kick-butt.

    Maybe when using female leads the focus is, “It’s not the journey, it’s the getting there that’s good.”

  8. I’m not into action or violence, but I’m fervently hoping this also bodes well for the prospects of my overtly political/philosophical spec about a frustrated, bitchy, ambitious female protagonist’s relationship with her shamanic lesbian mentor and corrupt, materialistic, manipulative male antagonist.

    I do think there is an inherent difference between male and female archetypes, heroes, and story arcs. So far that has felt like a big obstacle for me in getting my stuff read and understood, because while the arc is absolutely there, it does not precisely conform to expectations. It’s more of an “internal path,” as Jackie describes above. But I keep trying to make it work because I think we need some mythical, archetypal stories from a female perspective, and because I just can’t get excited or inspired by a traditional (boring) (tired) (predictable) male protagonist.

  9. Kim Hudson says:

    The Hero’s journey and the Heroine’s are the same thing to me just as we all have a masculine and a feminine side we can all be heroes. The point is we all have a feminine side as well and we re trying to figure out what that looks like. Thanks to Joseph Campbell we have a really good idea of how to write heroes. Ordinary world, call to adventure, refusal of the call and the eventual crossing of the threshold to a foreign land where the adventure begins. This is the quest to push back the boundaries of mortality and know that you can survive in the bigger world. The bigger the challenger the greater your knowledge of your power.

    This is all very familiar, however, none of it gets to the feminine power. As others have noted what we generally see is the female as motivation for the Hero to be amazing. What we’re trying to get at is what does it look like when the feminine is being amazing.

    This is the journey of the Virgin archetype. The name has been so misrepresented it is like a master plot to keep it from having an identity. The meaning of Virgin survives when we think of a Virgin forest. It means to be of value just for being yourself. The quest of the Virgin, the feminine, is to awaken to the seed of the divine in you, and bring it to life, despite what everyone else wants from you. It usually happens through spiritual, sexual or creative awakening whether you are an female or male. Great Virgin stories with male leads include The King’s Speech, Brokeback Mountain and Billy Elliot. Great female ones include An Education, Shakespeare in Love, Erin Brockovich, and Legally Blond.

    This is the interesting part of the book Hunger Games which the movie left out. Katniss learns that she has the ability to connect to nature and be an amazing hunter (the result of her Virgin Journey). She feels alive when she hunts. Which makes the rewards of the games mean nothing to her. So what is the point of the story?

    The Virgin’s journey has 13 beats (see The Virgin’s Promise at is the awakening of your talent, your authentic nature. It starts in a dependent world, as we all do, where she pays a price for her dependence, usually making herself small to belong,until one day she finds an opportunity to taste what it feels like to be true to herself and she takes it. She admits to herself that she wants something more from life. Now she finds a Secret World where she can grow in her understanding of who she is and moves back and forth between her Secret and Dependent worlds. Creative, sexual or spiritual awakening happens here and it can only flourish in an atmosphere where the Virgin feels safe and loved (unlike the Hero who thrives on progressive challenge). When she has grown into her potential she emerges from the cocoon like a butterfly and presents herself. There is a backlash and she has to choose whether she has the right to inconvenience people, to take up some space in the world, or she will go back to conforming. She decides she has to be true to herself and in the end everyone benefits from knowing the gift she has to bring.

    There is a feminine story, but it is not a heroine story. That is the female version of the hero. The feminine story is to explore your interior world and bring it to life, the journey of the Virgin.

    1. Scott says:

      Kim, that is terrific, thanks. Would you mind dropping me an email? I’d like to ask you a couple of things, one of them being if you’d mind me featuring your thoughts re the Virgin’s journey later this week in this series? Thanks!

  10. Gabe says:

    Great discussion, everyone.

    Kim Hudson – Thank you for dropping by! Much of the Virgin’s journey seems to follow right in line with the the hero’s journey we’ve been taught (Vogler, Campbell, et al). I have not read your book, so I am going off your brief description above. I am sure it is much different once we get into the details.

    But here’s where I think the Virgin’s journey makes an interesting departure, which you highlighted:

    Creative, sexual or spiritual awakening happens here and it can only flourish in an atmosphere where the Virgin feels safe and loved (unlike the Hero who thrives on progressive challenge).

    Since we are talking movies we must have danger or some antagonistic force present. But this comment of yours suggests that the Heroine/Hero must have a strong support system at hand, ie a strong Mentor presence, someone that makes the Heroine comfortable to learn about herself, to gain strength to fight the battles that await.

    I think King’s Speech and Erin Brokovich fall into that category.

    That might be what Hunger Games left out – less self-discovery.

    Let me ask everyone a question about Time: Can a Heroine’s journey happen in one night?

    1. I’ve written a script with dual protagonist heroines whose story centers on self-discovery and takes place in just over 24 hours, and another in which the climax is a mushroom trip, so I’d definitely have to say that a heroine’s journey can happen in one night.

    2. Kim Hudson says:

      I am going to throw a real wrench into the foundational core of story telling and suggest that someone or something in impending doom is not required to tell all stories. The rising conflict is a requirement of a Hero story. He thrives on physical challenges. The Virgin story is an awakening. You need to create a protected space where this can happen. Neuroscience even supports this. Check out Charles Limb’s TED talk on creativity. Great jazz pianists and rap artists shut down the fear centers of their brains when they are being creative. Fear causes you to narrow your focus to a razor sharp point and target a final goal. A known destination. Creativity (and I would argue, sexuality and spirituality) need you to broaden your focus, move in unexpected directions, and combine unexpected things in order to create something that was not given form before.

      I respectfully suggest they are not the same and they need different environments.

      I love the above comparison of the male and female (I would say Hero and Virgin) counterparts. (I always feel I have to note Virgin means to know you are of intrinsic value as in a Virgin forest). Here are some of my additions.

      Heroes need allies, Virgins need friends;
      Heroes conquer the physical world, Virgins embrace the interior world;
      Heroes do what they have to, Virgins do what they want to;
      Heroes have villains that must be neutralized or eliminated; Virgins have antagonists that grow to make room for the Virgin out of love for her;
      Heroes go to a foreign land, Virgins grow in a space within their everyday space;
      Heroes learn to face their fear and push it back, Virgins learn to follow their joy.

      These two journeys, the Virgin’s and the Hero’s, are like breathing. One takes life in, one expells what is damaging or useless. They are opposite and together form a kind of wholeness. In the case of Heroes and Virgins they are two ways to know yourself as an individual. To learn that you can stand using your own resources. The Hero does it physically in the world and the Virgin does it emotionally. She learns that she is valuable just for being herself, and the gift that she has to bring just might make the world a brighter place in unexpected ways (see Billy Elliot, Legally Blond, Brokeback Mountain, An Education, Rocky, The King’s Speech, the first half of Avatar…).

  11. Kim Hudson says:

    Just in case it is useful to anyone, here are the 13 beats of the Virgin’s journey:

    1. Dependent World
    2. Price of Conformity
    3. Opportunity to Shine
    4. Dresses the Part
    5. Creates a Secret World
    6. No Longer Fits Her World
    7. Caught Shining
    8. Gives Up What Kept Her Stuck
    9. Kingdom goes into Chaos
    10 Wanders in the Wilderness
    11. Chooses Her Light
    12. The Rescue (Re-Order)
    13. The Kingdom is Brighter

  12. This is a very interesting post. So, too, the comments. I enjoyed Larsson’s Lisbeth Salandar character as part of a great trilogy of books, but also as an alternative to male-dominated action protagonists in novels and films.

    I discovered Campbell’s “Hero” when I was in college and have been passionate about it as a helpful view of myth as well as a reliable formula for fiction on the screen or in print. I’ve written two novels based on the scheme and believe strongly in it for male protagonists.

    However, I think the work of Maureen Murdock, Sue Monk Kidd, Helen M. Luke, Sylvia Brinton Perera and others is more suitable for authors and screenwriters than Campbell’s schema (with or without Vogler’s additional views for authors). For one thing, classic myth, Campbell’s view and society’s primary focus are primarily patriarchal. For another, we see very few viable female action heroes coming from novelists and film makers based on this approach.

    While we can all look forward to the day when men and women accept more of the roles and attitudes society and culture have assigned to the opposite sex, I don’t see many Lisbeth and Katniss protagonists emerging in films and novels until we recognize that placing women into the solar-oriented hero’s journey motif in our stories is not only a discount, but male-gaze-oriented material.


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