Suck It, Joseph Campbell! An Exploration of The Hero’s Journey in Wonder Woman
Joseph Campbell’s Man with a Thousand Faces synthesized centuries of myth, oral legends, stories, and narratives into one epic arc: the Hero’s Journey. We see it take place in Star Wars, The Lord Of the Rings, and Harry Potter. Joseph Campbell also said the Hero’s Journey is a Monomyth, and applicable only to men. To that I say “we’ll see about that, Campbell!”
Here’s Wonder Woman broken down into her own Hero’s Journey:
1. Ordinary World: Obviously there’s nothing ordinary about Themyscira, but for Diana, it is her status quo. The Ordinary World is meant to introduce the character and their problem, like an orphan who wants to leave. Harry is an orphan who is also a wizard. Diana is the prophesied end to Ares, but her mother won’t let her fight.
2. Call to Adventure: Something changes in the Ordinary World so the hero must act. Diana witnesses Steve Trevor and the Nazis enter Themyscira. The Amazons must act and a battle ensues.
3. Refusal of the Call: After the dust settles, Diana wants to go to the world of men. Her mother says no. So she doesn’t go.
4. Meeting with the Mentor: Okay; Steve Trevor isn’t the “mentor,” though he does help her find the inner strength and courage to disobey her mother and leave Themyscira. Also Antiope (her actual fighting mentor) is now dead, which is a whole different story (see Gandalf, Dumbledore, Obi Wan).
5. Crossing the Threshold: She leaves Themyscira and goes to London.
6. Test, Allies, Enemies: She navigates London with a makeover, a fight in Parliament, and aligns with her band of companions.
7. The Approach: The Companions prepare for the battle. Huzzah!
8. The Ordeal: Diana crosses No Man’s Land, aka the best part of the movie! Also, the part where she “becomes” Wonder Woman.
9. The Reward: They save the village. She dances with Steve. She enthusiastically consents to a much bigger reward.
10. The Road Back: The hero completes the journey (but not really). Diana kills a Nazi, but not Ares.
11. The Resurrection: The hero is tested and perseveres. Diana learns the truth about her origins, the prophesy of the Godkiller, and sees Steve Trevor die. Nevertheless, she persisted.
12. The Elixir: The Hero returns home, or continues the Journey, having completed their arc. Basically, Diana joins the Justice League.
Suck it, Joseph Campbell!