For about the last year, I’ve been rolling a narrative concept around in my head; something akin to Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, yet less (for lack of a less loaded word) masculine.
I remember one of my university lecturers referring to The Hero’s Journey as “the masculine coming-of-age tale,” and became fascinated with this concept ever since. The theory was, these days, in western society, we don’t have a real ceremony for when a boy becomes a man, so we look to stories that echo older “leave a boy, return as a man” rituals.
The boy is reluctant to become a man, but the village knows he is mature, and sees what is within him; so he is sent out.
Now, this doesn’t mean that this monomyth only appeals to boys and men, because within each of us there is both masculine and feminine energy or personality. Additionally, as part of a community whether there are both men and women, we are predisposed to recognise and celebrate each other’s triumph into maturity.
However, as someone who had a childhood fascination with fairy tales and who grew up to star in pantomime versions of Sinbad the Sailor, Cinderella, and Snow White, I started feeling that there was something fundamentally different in these stories: something that was the same as the Disney Princess movies and the 90s RomComs I rewatched to indulge my late-20s nostalgia. In RomComs, it is the most hidden, but in Disney animated films it seems utterly transparent. Think of the songs and you’ll see the difference:
- “Some Day My Prince Will Come“/”I’m Wishing” – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
- “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” – Cinderella
- “Part of Your World” – The Little Mermaid
- “Belle (Little Town)” – Beauty and the Beast
- “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” – The Lion King
- “Out There” – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- “True Love’s Kiss” – Enchanted
- “When Will My Life Begin?” – Rapunzel
- “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” – Frozen
…do you see the connection? These heroes aren’t reluctant to go on their journey- they want to go, but they are blocked.