In my so far disappointing effort to make sense of Tumblr, I have at least found several intriguing posts, including this one from josephcampbellwasright.tumblr.com called “The American Monomyth.”
The Monomyth is a world-wide mythic pattern that Joseph Campbell described in The Hero With a Thousand Faces, 1949: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
The Tumblr post references a lesser known book by Robert Jewett, The American Monomyth, 1977, that describes an interesting variant:
“In the American monomyth, the hero is an outsider who comes into a once-perfect community in peril (the “violated Eden”) to confront the evils that have caused trouble. The hero eschews such things as joining the community, standing apart from them in order to better keep them safe, in a manner that could best be described as vigilantism. Once the evil has been vanquished, the hero either allows himself to absorb into the community (through such means as moving in, marrying, etc.), or he moves on to the next violated Eden.”
The post lists several movies as examples, but doesn’t mention several key genres that raised the “Heroic Outsider” to the mythic status of true American Hero. What of superheroes like Batman and Superman or crime fighters like The Untouchables? What of the genre I grew up on, the western?
While Googling for westerns with the classic, “clean up the town” theme, I came upon an interesting syllabus for a course at Dominican University, The Western: America’s Mythology – books it would be fun to add to my geometrically expanding list of things I would like to read!
Meanwhile, I suspect that everyone has personal favorite books and movies in this “swoops in and saves the day” genre. What are some of yours?