Comedy as myth

October 19th, 2009

Part of the recent hagiography that has grown up around George Lucas is the idea that he deliberately crafted Star Wars to reflect Joseph Campbells’ Hero with a Thousand Fces. My suggestion, in counter to this, is that Campbell’s work describes something that is so generic to story telling that you could find a comedy that fits the bill.

And so, we have Joseph Campbell’s monomyth as applied to Legally Blonde.

Departure

  • The Call to Adventure: Elle Woods is dumped by her boyfriend, and decides to go to Harvard Law School.

  • Supernatural Aid: She gets 179 on her LSATs, enough said.

  • Crossing of the First Threshold: Her arrival at Harvard, and finding that they don’t include the social calendar in the student orientation pack.

  • Refusal of the Call: After a bad first day, Elle nearly drops out of law school, before manicurist Paulette persuades her not to.

  • The Belly of the Whale: According to Campbell, “The devotee at the moment of entry into a temple undergoes a metamorphosis.” In this case, the scene where Elle buys her textbooks and laptop.

Initiation

  • The Road of Trials: The sequence of tasks to begin the transformation. In this movie, being able to answer questions in class.

  • The Meeting With the Goddess: Can’t make this one work. Although have a look at some of the gymnastics required to make Star Wars hit…

  • Apotheosis: Winning a place as an Intern for Callaghan’s firm.

  • Woman as Temptress: Here, the role of temptress is played by Callaghan in a fairly literal way, as he tries to seduce her.

  • Atonement with Father: Confrontation with Callaghan, and becoming lead counsel for Brooke.

  • The Ultimate Boon: Winning the case and defeating the forces of evil (i.e., Callaghan, Chutney and Warner).

Return

  • Refusal of the Return: This one doesn’t fit either. Although what lawyer would want to quit?

  • The Magic Flight: Again, taking over as lead counsel in the court case.

  • Rescue from Without: As Elle is without hope, Professor Stromwell helps her back onto the path.

  • The Crossing of the Return Threshold: Graduation from Law School.

There we are: Legally Blonde was inspired by the work of Joseph Campbell. Or maybe Joseph Campbell’s admirable work can apply to almost anything, and so this is just another case of George Lucas making it up as he goes along. Nothing wrong with that – but he should own up to it.

(Oh, and contrary to popular belief, there was no sequel to this movie. Why on earth would there be one – it would make no sense to have her go through the same sequence of events again).