Friday, August 13, 2010

Star Wars, myth, and you

Via Isegoria (you do read him for your daily does of teh smart, don't you), we see the Other Side of The Empire Strikes Back. Gary Kurtz (Star Wars' producer, i.e. "Not George Lucas") talks about the experience. You should RTWT, but I can't think of Star Wars (the first two, not the execrable final four) without thinking "Joseph Campbell".

Campbell had a big impact on my life, starting when my Mother-in-Law sent us some cassette tapes she'd recorded of "Transformations of Myth Through Time", and 1970s lecture series he gave. I used to listen to it in the car. It's deep stuff; you have to think about the concepts, really think about them. I can't say that I agree with everything that he has to say about Christianity in particular - which was influenced by his very Catholic upbringing - but like Aquinas, he brings the tough nuts for you to crack.

If you can.

His greatest work is clearly The Hero With A Thousand Faces, a study of the similarities in the hero myths across cultures and what we can learn from that. I highly recommend it, but only if you take a couple weeks to read it and a couple months to think about it; otherwise, it will just annoy you. This book changed George Lucas' views on things, and made especially the first two of the films into the lasting classics that they are.



The hero, said Campbell, took a common path through a psychological growth progression, whether in ancient Babylon (Gilgamesh), Medieval Europe (King Arthur), or science fiction (Like Skywalker). Lucas wasn't the only one to pick up on this in Hollywood, either - The Matrix had Campbell explicitly in mind.



There's a Youtube channel about Campbell that will give you an introduction to his life and way of thinking. It will take you the better part of an hour, but is well worth your time if you want to get a handle on why Obi-wan rules and Jar Jar drools (and no, it doesn't have anything to do with Light Sabres), why space ship are teh awesome and pod racers are teh suX0rz, or why Luke Skywalker strode a path well known to Orpheus.

You likely won't be convinced, but you will get more than your usual set of stuff to think about.

7 comments:

Weer'd Beard said...

All I could think was "Oh GOD, Can you imagine Apocalypse Now directed by Lucas????"

DirtCrashr said...

"Hero" was required reading for Anthro, and his mentor Zimmer was a big influence and we were reading him too - and Campbell was the editor of a lot of his work, one of which I used extensively in preparing my Thesis was, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. If you want a fun look at Campbell by Campbell (and at Hinduism), you could read Baksheesh & Brahmin, a sometimes hilarious and droll account of his travels in India in 1955 - which for me was very resonant...

Borepatch said...

Dirtcrashr FTW!

John said...

In my young and foolish youth, I was deeply influenced by Campbell, especially his advocacy for a personal mythology. Now I think that it's better to take the world empirically rather than deliberately view it through lenses that, being mythological, are inherently false.

Tam said...

I KNEW it!

Reading that interview with Kurtz, I feel so damn vindicated!

Midwest Chick said...

As an FYI, the founder of Krispy Kreme based his corporate structure on the Hero's Journey. Don't know what it did for the corporation but they make some tasty donuts.

Borepatch said...

Midwest Chick also FTW!