4 Jul 2011

I Want To Sell You A Story

If you have a favourite film, book or story, it will usually fall into one of two categories. A love story or an adventure story. If it's an adventure story it will nearly always follow the same pattern. That is, the hero of the story lives in the normal, everyday world. He or she will get a feeling that 'something' is not all as it seems. He will meet a wise person who gives them some clues. He will enter a world that he's not used to, often a magical / supernatural world and he will go on a journey/quest/adventure. He will meet people along the way and they will become friends and travelling companions. After enduring and succeeding in many tests and trials he eventually arrives at his destination. A battle ensues with the major authority figure and just as it seems the hero is about to be beaten, he uses his newly found knowledge, his magical powers/inner force and he defeats his foe. He then starts a journey home, returning with a gift that will help save a loved one, some friends or even the entire world.

If this theme sounds familiar, it's with good reason. It is a story that's been told countless times. It has been used by story-tellers, novelists, poets, film-makers, song-writers, TV scriptwriters, playwrights, or anyone else who has wanted to use metaphor to get their message across. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Star Wars, from Odysseus to Toy Story or from Moses to Mary Poppins, the message is the same and the message is this - YOU are a normal, everyday person and so YOU can also be the hero. That sounds good to us. It inspires us, it empowers us, it makes us feel like nothing can stop us and we have power. And so the film or book or play or song is a success. People buy it and people buy into it.

Joseph Campbell was a mythologist and lecturer who specialised in comparative mythology. He was the first to write down what had been known throughout history about making a story successful, and so he published the winning pattern that was present in myths, legends and stories. His most famous book on the subject was 'The Hero With a Thousand Faces' and it covers this pattern in myths which Campbell called the 'Monomyth'. It is also known as 'The Hero's Journey'.

This video features Christopher Volger who works as a consultant to many Holywood studios. He uses 'The Matrix' as an example of the Monomyth. It clearly sets out the pattern used so many times by so many story-tellers. He is also the author of 'The Writer's Journey - Mythic Structure for Writers' which many modern day story tellers owe a great deal to.

It is noticeable when watching the video how closely the story parallels that of many religious characters.

If the Monomyth structure is used so successfully for creating believable fictional characters and story lines, then the same technique can be applied to real people. Anyone at all can have this sequence of events attached to their lives and people will accept the story far more readily than they would otherwise.

The stories of Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and Buddha all follow the Hero's Journey. General consensus is that these spiritual leaders all existed in reality. They were all seen as people who should be listened to. Their message was a good one. If a common moral framework was needed then their teachings provided a good platform and so their life story has been changed. They have had new elements written into their lives in order to sell the story more successfully. The story of Moses has been so successful that the Western World still uses the Ten Commandments as the basis for it's system of law and order.

It doesn't stop with traditional spiritual leaders though. Anyone who wants to be listened to and taken seriously can have their life story adapted for a greater impact. It would make sense that the President of the United States would be built up as a great leader. Someone to follow. Here is a good article about Barack Obama's life and actions as the Monomyth.

It is often the case with these stories that there is some mystery surrounding the Hero's parents. The hero is often an orphan or from a broken home. He or she could be living with relatives, friends, animals, toys. The Hero could be the result of a miraculous conception or he could be entirely fashioned by anothers hands, like Pinocchio. Could this be the reason why there is an ongoing campaign to question Obama's origins? Why all the fuss about his birth certificate and questions about where he was born? The answer is simple. It is to reinforce the Myth of Obama.

So is Barack Obama a new 'world teacher'? Yes, but only because he is the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. He wants to be listened to. He wants people to buy into him. He is not the 'chosen one' though. He has not been selected to be the figurehead of the new global religion.

So who IS being primed to lead this new common belief system? Who is being prepared to be the new Hero? The answer may be closer to home than you think.

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