Creating The Myth Linda Seger Essay

Linda Seger, "Creating the Myth" (386)

One. What is a myth?

It’s a universal story that connects with all of us; it tells us something about ourselves, either our past struggles or our future aspirations; it is based on all cultures, folk myths, religions, and legends.

Rites of passage or initiation rites are common myths. How did we transition from child to adult? How did we gain acceptance from the tribe, the clique, the community?

Seger writes that “The hero myth has specific story beats that occur in all hero stories.

Two. What is the hero myth?

We must begin with our hero mired in a world of banality; our hero is overcome with ennui on one hand and wanderlust on the other. “If only I could get out of his boring, monotonous hellhole.”

Then there’s a trigger event, a visitor, a crisis, some kind of catalyst that sets things in motion.

Sometimes the hero’s talents are called upon but he says, “Screw this, I’m going to stay in my apartment, drink beer, eat apple pie, and watch cartoons.” He is the archetype of the reluctant hero. In this case, the crisis escalates until the hero is forced to take on effective and urgent action.

When the hero embarks upon his quest, be it self-discovery, the conquering of evil, or whatever the case may be, he or she is often accompanied by a companion, a helper, which can take the form of a wise man, a witch, an elf, a homunculus, a mysterious visage, a ghost, a shadow figure, an officemate, a long-lost friend, a former enemy, etc. This person becomes a sort of mentor, helping deliver the hero from his tangle of confusion and unreason.

Then the hero must transport into a special world where he undergoes a radical transformation from ordinary to unordinary. He may become Other Worldly, Super Human, or remarkable in some other way.

However, the hero cannot undergo this transformation without being subjected to a series of greater and greater hurdles and obstacles that test his character.

Along the hero’s journey, he must hit rock bottom, languishing in despair, self-doubt, and perhaps outright nihilism, concluding that he is a loser and that the world is too evil a place to attempt to impose any meaning or goodness on it.

During this “black moment,” however, the hero finds a spark that “gets him off his butt.” He somehow finds his special power, perhaps with the help of his mentor, that resurrects him from his spiritual death and with his rebirth and can now “seize the treasure,” whatever that treasure may be. (Before we go on, let us recognize that this hero motif informs every folk legend, myth, and religious fable known to the human race because the hero motif is universal.)

Once the hero acquires the treasure, whatever that might be, he must now return home, but not without a chase from his opposition. In movies, this is often the third-act chase scene.

At the conclusion of the hero story, we must see that our hero is a changed person, wiser, smarter, and stronger than before. Along with this transformation, we find our hero is now re-integrated into society.

Three. What is the healing myth?

We begin with our hero crushed by a broken spirit. He is a broken person. He may want to die or at least he has lost the will to live and the will to assert whatever talents cause him to flourish in this world.

Then the hero suffers some kind of outer or existential wound that incapacitates him and forces him to confront his brokenness in a radically different way. I once spoke to a student from the Caribbean who said they have a folk story that says this: We are going along in our life on auto pilot, not really examining what we are doing, but eventually we get a surprise visit from the bald muscle giant who ambushes us and forces us into a wrestling match. We come away from the wrestling match with some kind of limp or injury, but in nursing our injury we rebuild our life in a way that makes it superior to the life we had before we had our encounter with the giant. Only when we try to heal from our wound, which has become so life defining that we can no longer ignore it, do we begin the process of transformation and healing.


Jessica Hagedorn, “Asian Women in Film: No Joy, No Luck” (396)


One. What ironies informed the stereotypes Hagedorn points out in her essay?


White women play “exotic” Asians who are portrayed as dangerous, cunning, seductive, and duplicitous. Tricksters, “airheads,” and prostitutes are the common characters. The worst part, in the words of Hagedorn: “Most Hollywood movies either trivialize or exoticize us a people of color and as women. Our intelligence is underestimated, our humanity overlooked, and our diverse cultures treated as interchangeable.”


She continues to observe that “good” means submissive; “bad” means a “demonized dragon lady.”


Hagedorn’s most damning condemnation of American films depicting Asian women is on page 403: “In Hollywood vehicles, we are objects of desire or derision; we exist to provide sex, color, and texture in  what is essentially a white man’s world.”


Two. Why does Hagedorn hate the highly praised 1993 film Joy Luck Club?


In the ostensible name of dignity and nobility, the movie is so sanctimonious and earnest that it is cloying and saccharine sweet, as if a realistic depiction of Asian women has to be soaked in earnest tragedy and melancholy, as if humor can’t be part of the complex character portrait. The daughters were passive, docile, malleable, and as a result were victims of their fate. The daughters were merely “receptors for their mothers’ amazing life stories.”


Also the daughters assimilated too easily into American society to the point that they appeared to have no sense of individuality or self as one would expect from such easy conformity.


All the tragedies eventually had a numbing effect on her.


And we arrive at this stereotype: “Must ethnicity only be equated with suffering?” 




But a hero's journey has its dangers: cliche, self-centered view of the world based on blurring line between reality and fantasy, narcissism, lack of diversity in the hero portraits and other problems as we see here:












Full Text of "Creating the Myth" (if the link doesn't work for you) CreatingtheMyth byLindaSeger All of us have similar experiences. We share in the life journey of growth, development, and transformation. We live the same stories, whether they involve the search for a perfect mate, coming home, the search for fulFllment, going after an ideal, achieving the dream, or hunting for a precious treasure. Whatever our culture, there are universal stories that formthe basis for all our particular stories. The trappings might be di±erent, the twists and turns that create suspense might change from culture to culture, the particular characters may take di±erent forms, but underneath it all, it's the same story, drawn from the same experiences. Many of the most successful Flms are based on these universal stories. They deal with the basic journey we take in life. We identify with the heroes because we were once heroic (descriptive) or because we wish we could do what the hero does (prescriptive). When James Bond saves the world, we identify with the character, and subconsciously recognize the story as havingsome connection with our own lives. It’s the same story as the fairy tales about getting the three golden hairs from the devil, or Fnding the treasure and winning the princess. And it’s not all that di±erent a story from the caveman killing the woolly beast or the Roman slave gaining his freedom through skill and courage. These are our stories – personally and collectively – and the most successful Flms contain these universal experiences. Some of these stories are “search” stories. They address our desire to Fnd some kind of rare and wonderful treasure. This might include the search for outer values such as job, relationship, or success; or for inner values such as respect, security, self-expression, love, or home. But it’s all a similar search. Some of these stories are “hero” stories. They come from our own experiences of overcoming adversity, as well as our desire to do great and special acts. We root for the hero and celebrate when he or she achieves the goal because we know that the hero's journey is in many ways similar to our own. We call these stories myths. Myths are the common stories at the root of our universal existence. They’re found in all cultures and in all literature, ranging from the Greek myths to fairy tales, legends, and stories drawn from all of the world's religions. A myth is a story that is “more than true.” Many stories are true because oneperson, somewhere, at some time, lived it. It is based on fact. But a myth is more than true because it is lived by all of us, at some level. It's a story that connects and speaks to us all. 1


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