Caveats right up front:
White men/boys (WBs) can (and do!) complete Hero’s Journeys.
There are a lot of WBs I love. This is not personal.
If your idea of a Hero’s Journey was formed by movies, you would think only WBs could do Hero’s Journey. Full disclosure: in an early draft of my book, Exploring the Magic of Your Hero’s Journey, one full paragraph of examples were all male and all white. My editor pointed it out to me. Yikes! Acculturation is so sneaky!
Even movies that purport to be about women or a non-white Hero, seem to require a WB. For example, the 1987 movie Cry Freedom is described to be about South African anti-apartheid activist, Steven Biko (Denzel Washington), but focuses an awful lot on the white journalist who told the story, Donald Woods (Kevin Kline). In Glory, an entire Civil War regiment of black soldiers are upstaged by their white commander, Colonel Shaw (Matthew Broderick) and his story. And, don’t get me started on The Help or Twelve Years a Slave.
Can’t we see a woman alone as a Hero? Can’t we accept an African alone as a Hero?
We have to! As long as we keep putting the WB in as the center of the story, we will see him (and only him) as the one on the Hero’s Journey. That leaves the other three-quarters of the planet watching and feeling that they can’t do the Hero’s Journey.
My assignment for myself and for you, too, is to look at any movie or show or book, and ask yourself, “Who is really the hero in this story?” “Who is on the Hero’s Journey?”
I recently watched a Netflix movie, Nappily Ever After, in which the young woman completes the Hero’s Journey, initiated through her hair experiences. I really enjoyed the story and… Ha! There was not a WB in sight. It can be done, Hollywood.
And you can do the Hero’s Journey, too, even if you’re not a WB.
P.S. After I posted this I realized that there is a harmful effect of always needing the WB to be the hero. It limits the WB’s options. Maybe he’d be a better ally. Maybe the role he was born to be for you is a mentor. If we always look to the WB to fill only one role, we are limiting him, too.
Photo by Alex Radelich on Unsplash