Thursday, August 7, 2008

Face of the Hero

So we return to examining the dramatic arc of a particular archetype in our myth. This time we'll look at the "hero". (Mulder) In order to examine the overall dramatic progression of this symbol, we'll utilize Joseph Campbell's mode of the stages of the hero's journey.

Campbell breaks down the evolution of the hero into 12 stages, as follows:

1. The Ordinary World-to put this in theatrical terms, this is the base reality in which our myth is set, the formative world of the hero. From this point, we encounter the central problem or dramatic question that disrupts the normalcy of this "ordinary world".

2. The Call to Adventure-this is the event that makes the disruption of the ordinary world a problem for the hero personally, the event that presents him with the quest and is a catalyst for his journey.

3.Refusal of the Call-an event or time in which the hero denies the call to the quest in favor of the ordinary world.

4. Meeting of the Mentor-here the hero meets the person or object that will aid him in the undertaking of his objective. At this point the "call to adventure" is accepted.

5. Crossing the Threshold-this is where the hero meets his point of no return, when there can be, for reasons of obligation or practicality, no turning back from his pursuit.

6. Tests, Allies and Enemies-here we find the hero learning and experiencing the "special world" of his quest. He will, herein, find himself refining the skills that he will need to reach his goal, learning to discern enemies and allies and undergoing various degrees of initiation that will prepare him for the increasingly difficult portions of his journey.

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave-this is a period in which the hero gets a brief respite before entering into the heart of his quest and facing his greatest fears and challenges. He is able to take stock of his supplies and assets for the coming struggle and also to acknowledge losses and casualties that have been incurred along the way. This is also a time when he can relish and indulge, be it in a joke, a cigarette, or a romance, before advancing toward his ultimate fated encounter. Here the clock ticks, the stakes are heightened.

8. The Ordeal-here the hero faces the central life and death crisis of his quest, in which he looks death in the face, in some instances in a literal or metaphorical death and rebirth.

9.Reward-now the hero, upon completing the ordeal, is given a a reward or magic elixir in exchange for his sacrifices. However, is some instances, the elixir is stolen by the hero, in which case it will be reclaimed by the shadows.

10. The Road Back-the hero returns to the "Ordinary World" for a time, only to have an event that reestablished the central dramatic question with heightened stakes, recalling the hero to fulfill the quest.

11. The Resurrection-this is the hero's final and most dangerous meeting with death and the forces of darkness. The ultimate life and death ordeal, Armageddon, the apocalyptic revelatory battle.

12. The Return with the Elixir-the hero, having achieved his purpose, has now earned the reward of the Elixir, the object of his quest. (In Jungian terms, he has integrated his true "self").

So now we'll look at our story in these terms:

1. The Ordinary World-in our story the "Ordinary World" can be seen as America the democracy and the American Family. Our hero is born into the mid 20th century model of the American Dream; a nuclear family, a functioning democracy. The disruption of the status quo occurs with the introduction of extraterrestrial intelligence to this world. This can be said to be the so called Roswell Incident, or some similar event that causes the formation of our story's "syndicate" and "shadow" government.

2. The Call to Adventure-our hero (Mulder) finds that the central problem or "dramatic question" comes into his own life with his father's involvement with the Syndicate and the abduction of his sister. The symbols of the his ''ordinary world", the American dream and nuclear family are shattered for him by these events. He is now called to pursue the "truth" behind these events. To look for the mandala symbol (the UFO) of his "self" and rescue the divine child (Samantha) and his concept of family.

3. Refusal of the Call-in this case the refusal comes because of the hero's need to develop through his adolescent years. Despite feeling the call at the time of his sister's abduction, Mulder chooses to pursue his education and career, in an attempt to remain in the 'ordinary world'. This continues until he meets his 'mentor'.

4. Meeting the Mentor-the mentor in our story is the X files themselves. They provide Mulder with a resource and context for his pursuits. When he takes up this project he is accepting the Call to Adventure. His step away from the Violent Crimes Section and into the X files is his step away from the 'ordinary world' into the 'special world'. In this formula, Scully can be seen as an aspect of the mentor in that the upon entering the 'special world' Mulder discovers this new and more functionally developed personification of his anima who will aid him much as the Files themselves will.

5. Crossing the Threshold-what is the point of no return for Mulder on his journey? It comes when he gain an obligation that goes beyond himself, his family and his concept of the truth. Which would be most clearly defined occurring with the abduction of Scully (episodes Duane Berry, Ascension and One Breath). This is when our hero knows that if he were to turn back now, he would be betraying his obligations to another (Scully) and is the point where the sacrifices made to the quest are no longer his alone. He does not know the extent of this at this time, but he and the audience both learn that Scully, in the name of the quest, has now lost; her health (when she is stricken by cancer) and her fertility; and as a consequence of her wider involvement with the quest, her own sister. Now the hero is invested not only due to his own losses and sacrifices, but those of another as well.

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies-this stage is active through a good portion of the series, and incorporates all of the many events and cases in which our hero is given greater and greater knowledge of the 'special world' of the paranormal and learns lessons of trust that allow him to be able to identify his allies and enemies. In this period, we also see him hone his skills as an investigator and find more solid and tangible proof of the truth (Scully's questioning and scientific viewpoint assisting him immeasurably). These things will all serve him as he ventures further and further toward his goals and the stakes and obstacles become higher and more imposing.

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave-this stage plays our primarily in the 7th season of the the show, when we see the hero come to terms with the losses he has incurred (his sister and family) and reexamine his priorities. We see him have an opportunity to form a romantic attachment with Scully (all things) and this adds to his reflections in that he must ask if the sacrifices of his quest are worth the rewards (evident in Requiem foremost).

8. The Ordeal-this happens when Mulder comes face to face with the 'spirit' symbol of the extraterrestrials, during his own abduction. He goes seemingly willingly into this confrontation, though with misgivings (also in the episode Requiem). The hero now experiences his death and rebirth during the events of season 8. Interestingly in this myth of modern times in which gender roles have been redefined the audience experiences much of the characters key confrontation and struggle through the experiences and battles of his anima (Scully) in her search to locate him and continue the search for the the truth.

9. The Reward-the reward, the magic elixir for Mulder is the symbolic rebirth of the divine child archetype. This happens through the seemingly miraculous conception and birth of his and Scully's own son William. The question of if the elixir has been stolen must now be examined. Based on the subsequent events, it would seem that even if the child was conceived naturally (which all evidence points to), the things which made this conception possible were things stolen. Most likely the chip in Scully's neck which has extraterrestrial origins and was stolen back by Mulder to cure her cancer, her previously harvested ova which Mulder also stole back from the syndicate and /or the mysterious artifact that they took possession of in the Sixth Extinction episodes would be where the theft of the elixir occurred. This is why the shadow reclaims the elixir in the 9th season when the threats to the child's well being force his mother to give him up for adoption.

10. The Road Back-this phase occurs during the intervening years from the conclusion of the series into and through the events of the film 'I Want to Believe'. The hero, in this period, returns to a degree of normalcy and reclaims a part of the 'ordinary world'. He makes a home and life for himself and his anima mate. But since the quest is not ended this period cannot last and we see the central dramatic question of finding the truth by facing the darkness is brought back into their lives in this second film. We see a degree of resistance to return to the quest (from Scully the anima of Mulder particularly), and we learn the ways in which complacency has weakened some of their skills and weapons in the struggle. By the end of the film we see the hero and his anima resolve to continue the quest and see it through ("the darkness finds us") using the love that they have found to light the way.

11. The Resurrection-this stage of the journey we have yet to see enacted. The hero's final stand seems to be set for the alien invasion in 2012. If we're lucky, we'll get a third film which will show us the fulfillment of the quest.

12. The Return with the Elixir-if we get to see the hero's Resurrection, it will no doubt involve the fate of the Elixir, which we have identified as the reborn divine child William. At the conclusion the hero and his anima should be reunited with their son and thereby he will have reclaimed the symbol of the family that was destroyed for him at his journey's beginning.