Tomorrow we’ll be dropping out 14th episode. The topic this week is Leaders and Leadership. Martha, Calee, and I will be talking about
Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
Superman: Red Sun by Mark Millar
Firefly season 1 (and only!), episode 9: “Ariel”
Tune in to hear us discussing what traits make a good leader, what makes people follow leaders, and if there are problems with glorifying leaders and the idea of leadership.
We get into it with regards to Superman: Red Sun, but we all loved “Ariel” and Mrs. Frisbee.
In addition, it’s Calee’s last episode!
Listen to the episode on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, GooglePlay, and anywhere else podcasts can be found. Or, better yet, set you iTunes to automatically download the episode each fortnight when we drop it! And certainly rate and review us on iTunes.
I don’t know about you, but I find the concept of a fandom fascinating. I mentioned it in this episode that I consider myself a part of a fandom. It’s amazing how fans can build and expand on existing worlds in such a way where the line between canon and fandom becomes blurred. But what happens when these blurred lines become a bit too fuzzy?
I’ve witnessed fans lashing out at the creators of their favorite mediums when what they want isn’t the direction the creators planned to take it. I personally believe this is due to a large emotional investment from the fans. But why turn this on the people that brought you your favorites? It’s okay to find fault in your medium, and wish it was better, or more issues had been resolved, but it can turn a good fandom ugly when creators are harassed. It’s a delicate line to walk. Creators are human too, but they shouldn’t be expected to cater to everyone’s whims. It’s important to trust that they know what they’re doing.
Anthology of Interest II – Futurama
This is a three part episode, so we’re just going to focus on the middle section, Raiders of the Lost Arcade. Fry teams up with Colonel Pac-Man in the hopes of using his extensive video game knowledge to defeat the Nintendians. What? Yes, lead by their fearless leader Kong.
2. When Aliens Attack – Futurama
Again! Another Futurama episode! It’s almost like it’s a pretty great show or something…
In this episode, New New York is invaded by Lrrr and it’s up to Fry and gang to save the day. And how do they do that, you ask? By filming and broadcasting the missing episode of Single Female Lawyer to appease Lrrr and his wife.
There are seismic changes happening within many different fandoms. Abe Riesman at Vulture wrote a fantastic article about how his tweenage sister represents the new face of comic fans; the top selling comics and graphic novels now are geared towards kids and teens and are not linked to Marvel or DC. Meanwhile, many people of all ethnicities, ages, genders, orientations have become comic fans through the Marvel or DC (mostly Marvel) cinematic universes. This fanbase is creating something––and expecting different things––than the fanbase that grew out of the comic book store. Buck-Cap FanFic never would have come out of Marvel’s print runs of Captain America, but is almost necessitated by the chemistry between Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan. At the same time, a Marvel exec back in April suggested that sales of comic books were slumping because there was “too much diversity” in their lineup.
As fandoms continue to grow and change, industries will (and will need to) grow and change to meet their needs. Yet at the same time, older fans might resent the new fans, or the changes that are occurring in their media. The current rhetoric of the GOP and the alt-right only intensify a feeling of assault on all sides for white men, and their last bastions of supremacy––comic books, video games––are being in their eyes co-opted. This is especially true with the total victory of nerd culture in the last decade. In a short amount of time, something that was mocked has become something nearly universally celebrated. Just look at how the Star Wars fans are portrayed in Fanboys and compare that to the cheering throngs waiting for A Force Awakens, Rouge One: A Star Wars Story, or the upcoming The Last Jedi. Previously, being a nerd was hard and gave those who went through the experience a shared sense of solidarity. Now that everyone can celebrate their inner geek without going through serious trials and tribble-ations, the old guard has a feeling of resentment and possessiveness. This is the new phase of the toxic “questioning and testing the geek-girl’s credentials” that shows up in movies like Fanboys and happens constantly in real life.
Laying my cards on the table: the changes we’re seeing are clearly for the best. Culture is not zero-sum. Women creators are not “taking jobs away” from men. Telling stories about women or queer people or people of color (or queer or female people of color) is not somehow hurting white men. There will be plenty of media for white men to consume where they (we; I’m a white man) get to be the heroes and the point of view characters. I’m writing this shortly after the BBC announced that the 13th incarnation of Doctor Who will be a women. I am sad that Peter Capaldi is leaving and excited to see what Jodie Whittaker brings to the role. But unfortunately, others have been and will continue to rage against what they see as the dying of “their” culture.
Discussing fandoms requires looking at both the positive community that fandoms create and the toxic environments they can foster. If you’re planning on discussing fandoms in an academic setting with students or teens, make sure to look at the problems that can occur within fandoms. Even if you’re not planning on discussing it formally, being aware of the dangers of toxic fandoms is important when interacting with any teen who is involved in fandoms, especially women, teens of color, and LGBT teens. They may have found a safe community to revel in, or they may have stumbled into a harmful community that harasses them. Sometimes those communities are one and the same. Hopefully we can help teens navigate the pros and cons of whatever brings them joy and help guide the next generation of fans to be open, inviting, and willing to accept whatever change inevitably continues to come down the pipeline.
This is going to be a bit of a wide-ranging blog post. I’ve been deeply interested in Campell’s idea of the monomyth since college, where I read both The Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth, a series of interviews he did with Bill Moyers. What captured me almost immediately was an idea that I mentioned briefly in the episode: the idea that cultures around the world developed myths independently from each other that still map roughly to this one general story structure. I’m interested in comparative mythology, and Campbell uses a wide variety of cultures and myths to illustrate his ideas.
But, I think it’s fair to at least mention a few of the criticisms of the monomyth. First, it’s deeply steeped in Jungian ideas. If that’s not your cup of tea, you might have a hard time with the more deeper esoterica of what constitutes the Apotheosis or Attonement with the Father. Since the Initiation phase of the journey so often takes place in strange and magical lands––the Underworld is a common location––there is often a heavy layer of symbolism that could be ascribed to the actions that take place during the phase. You can take them at face value, or delve into Jungian analysis of them; Campell does the latter in The Hero With a Thousand Faces.
The second is that the Hero’s Journey is often more accurately the Male Hero’s Journey. Campbell is able to use a number of female heroes in his analysis––the Ishtar myths from Mesopotamia form the backbone of a lot of the book––but Campbell himself was aware of this issue. Late in his life, he wrote:
All of the great mythologies and much of the mythic story-telling of the world are from the male point of view. When I was writing The Hero with a Thousand Faces and wanted to bring female heroes in, I had to go to the fairy tales. These were told by women to children, you know, and you get a different perspective. It was the men who got involved in spinning most of the great myths. The women were too busy; they had too damn much to do to sit around thinking about stories.
When introducing students and young adults to the idea of the Hero’s Journey, keep these criticisms in mind. Select examples that portray women as the heroes––which we mostly failed to do in the episode, although Lúthien somewhat fits the bill––is critical to providing a wide representation AND showing that the Hero’s Journey can be more than just the Male Hero’s Joruney. And encourage students and young people to think critically about the structure. Does it still work in media like comics, or do we need a new myth structure to engage with the quintessential American Myth?
Finally, encourage students to use the Hero’s Journey as a schema to think of stories, rather than a template that needs to be followed. As Neil Gaiman wrote:
I think I got about half way through The Hero with a Thousand Faces and found myself thinking if this is true—I don’t want to know. I really would rather not know this stuff. I’d rather do it because it’s true and because I accidentally wind up creating something that falls into this pattern than be told what the pattern is.
Exposing young people to the ideas of Campell is good stuff; letting their minds construct the stories they want to construct is even better.
Here’s the part where I talk a little too much about Star Wars.
In the episode, we briefly talked about how Star War: A New Hope is a pretty canonical adaptation of the Hero’s Journey. I want to point your way to a book/museum exhibit Star Wars: The Magic of Myth (Amazon for the book). I saw the original exhibit when it first premiered at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in the late 90s, when I was deeply in the thrall of all things Star Wars (some things don’t change). I bought (aka: convinced my parents to buy for me) the companion book, which I didn’t really get at that age. But it was my first exposure to the monomyth and Joseph Campbell, and it’s left an indelible mark on me. I still think of the journey to the Death Star through the lens of In the Belly of the Whale phase of the monomyth cycle. This work, combined with Star Wars itself, would make an excellent one-two punch for introducing students to Campbell’s monomyth.
And to address something that came up in the episode: Luke IS a reluctant hero. He SAYS he wants to leave Tatooine, but when the Call to Adventure is presented, he balks and Refuses the Call. He tells Obi-wan that he can take him as far as Mos Eisley, where the old hermit can find passage to Alderaan. It is only after his aunt and uncle are killed by Stormtroopers that he begins his journey by Crossing the First Threshold and entering that wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Mos Eisley. This is his––and the audiences––first entrance into the strange world that is the wider Star Wars galaxy.
That’s all I’ll mention about Star Wars in this post. Suffice to say that it is often heralded as THE example of the monomyth for the modern era. If you’re interested in follow-up reading, Salon had an article in 2015 that further expands on these ideas. And honestly, a quick google search for “Star Wars monomyth” or “Star Wars Hero’s Journey” or “Star Wars Joseph Campbell” will net you far more than you need.
On this week’s show, we go on an adventure with the Hero’s Journey!!
1.Shrek (2001 movie directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson)
2.Book of Life (2014 movie directed by Jorge Gutierrez)
3. Chapter 19 of the Silmarillion, Beren and Luthien (written by J.R.R. Tolkien, and edited by Christopher Tolkien)
1.Admittedly, the hero’s tale is a very formulaic one. How does this aid the narrative, and how does it hinder it? If a tale diverges from this, is it considered better or worse?
2.Are we cheapening the act of the Return of the hero? Does it mean as much when we expect it?
3.Why has the hero’s journey become this lasting, resonant storytelling structure?
We have some fun homework assignments this week, which hopefully will help shake off some of the grief you may have been feeling recently. You still have two more days to complete your homework, and I know you can do it!
On this week’s show––dropping on Wednesday as usual––we’re talking about grief and loss.
Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
Scrubs season 5 episodes 20, 21, and 22
Listen to Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Then, read the Wikipedia article about the album and the Pitchfork review. Finally, listen to the album a second time.
How can media/pop culture help people deal with loss, both as consumers and creators?
How do others respond to those grieving? What responsibility do we have to people?
How do media portrayals of grief and loss align with “typical” experiences?
Does knowing the story behind a highly personal work of media change the way we view it? How?
Notice something strange about that last question? It’s not really about grief and loss, is it? However, it’s the genesis question of the episode. I came to this topic because I was interested in running an experiment in how we consume media. I assigned a process rather than simply a work of culture for the homework. Listen to the album Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, then read some reviews about it and get both the critical angle and the background to album’s production, and finally listen to the album a second time. I was interested in the way that knowing the background of the album might influence people’s perception of it. However, that wasn’t enough to hang an episode on. So, I took the heart-wrenching events that occurred early during the production of Skeleton Tree as my tip off point and framed the episode around grief and loss.
Background aside, we had some fantastic homework assigned for this episode. Seriously, it might be the best collection we’ve had yet! Spontaneous gave a plethora of examples of how different people react to loss, and the episodes of Scrubs gave us insight into how a person’s community can and should––and sometimes shouldn’t––help with the grief process.
You’ve got two days to finish up your homework before the episode drops. Get crackin’!
Welcome to the home of Did You Do Your Homework? The pop culture podcast where you can learn everything about anything. We’ll be updating soon to let you know what your homework is for our debut episode, but in the meantime, remember that even the most shallow of pop culture is worth talking about – and learning from. See you soon!