When The Force Awakens was released, everyone was beyond-their-wits excited, though that excitement faded somewhat as time passed and the public realized how similar the film was to the original Star Wars film. The Last Jedi, on the other hand, was deeply controversial, with some praising it as a breath of fresh air and others critiquing it as deeply anti-Star Wars.
But everyone I talked to loved The Mandalorian, a show which thoughtfully engages with not only Star Wars but also the things that influenced Star Wars, especially the films of Akira Kurosawa.
It might be quite difficult to chart out the ways the hero’s journey manifests across several episodes of a television show, but for these episodes, here are some things to keep in mind:
Remember that the hero’s journey is scalable. We were able to apply it to the very short fan film Hoshino and we could likely conduct a reading of the journey that spans across all three original trilogy films. Many steps might even be included in a single scene. So, you might find yourself charting out a specific aspect of the journey in a particular slice of an episode, rather than across all three episodes.
As with the maps for the sequel trilogy, you may also look for archetypal Star Wars characters in this map rather than the archetypes that stick strictly with Vogler’s interests
You may also write about patterns and archetypes present in The Mandalorian outside of the episodes we have watched for class. However, if you choose to do so, you must write with enough detail and analysis that I can follow along without consulting the other episodes of the show, as I do not have time to rewatch the entire series just to keep up with your assignment.
General Assignment Overview
Each week (starting with The Empire Strikes Back), students will be expected to complete detailed story maps of a work under review. These maps will be due the week after we view a particular film—all deadlines will be posted to Canvas. There will be eleven of these assignments given throughout the semester. The score for the lowest of these will be dropped. They will be due prior to class on the dates assigned below.
There will not be a story map assigned for The Hidden Fortress.
These story maps will require the student to complete a detailed summary of how the stages of the hero’s journey are or are not fulfilled in the work under examination OR a detailed summary of the archetypal “masks” present in the major characters of the work. This summary should be written in paragraph format. Samples of longer analyses of this sort can be found in the “Looking Back on the Journey” section of The Writer’s Journey. These assignments should not be submitted as bulleted lists.
Students are expected to summarize the fulfillment of a stage or the presence of an archetype in great detail. This is not an argumentative paper, but you are presenting an argument of sorts. For example, in A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi is clearly wearing the mask of the Mentor by training Luke in the ways of the Force. This is most clearly demonstrated in the scene where Luke practices deflecting lasers from the floating remote while on the Millennium Falcon. However, there are moments when Obi-Wan displays the role of the Trickster archetype as well, such as when he tells the stormtroopers “this is not the droid you’re looking for” or when he uses the Force to distract the stormtroopers on the Death Star while he disables the tractor beam. It’s also possible to examine Obi-Wan as a Hero as he disables the tractor beam and later fights Darth Vader, eventually transcending life and death as the Hero often does.
In regard to stages of the journey, we could look specifically to Hoshino in the film of the same name. She crosses a threshold when she uses the Force to call her master’s lightsaber to her hand—you’ll notice the saber passes through fire in order to reach her. She then leaves the safety and security of the fire and her master’s guidance in order to experiment with the weapon in the darkness beyond, essentially moving into an Extraordinary World. This is true even though the film uses the Ordinary/Extraordinary World dynamic elsewhere by moving back and forth between past and present: the Ordinary World is the world of the blinded Master Hoshino, and the Extraordinary World is the world of the not-yet-blinded student Ko. (Even the color palettes are different!) After Ko acquires the lightsaber, she approaches a cave filled with monsters, who knock the weapon back into her eyes. She loses her sight, but it is implied that she learned an important lesson (indeed, this is the last time we see anything in the flashback world—all of the remaining content takes place in the present with Master Hoshino, suggesting there is was nothing left to show us in the flashbacks because she had nothing left to learn).
You would write a summary of the masks in a way similar to what I have done above, although you would want to reference the Vogler and Campbell texts if possible, and you would want to supply more details to support your claims.
It is not necessary to work with the entire plot of the film when mapping out the hero’s journey, because the hero’s journey is flexible and scalable. However, students should carefully observe the way all stages may or may not be present in the work, and should be thoughtful about the way the journey works continuously through the film. There may be many Calls to Adventure in the film, or the Refusal of the Call may come from a Mentor character refusing the call on the Hero’s behalf.
Students should keep in mind that the story of the hero’s journey is principally one of maturation. They are not always coming-of-age narratives, but they are tales where individuals frequently must acquire new knowledge to overcome foes but also to learn an important moral lesson. Often, they are tales of transformation: Luke becomes a Rebel hero and Ko becomes a Jedi Master. Your goal is not just to line up stages like pieces of a puzzle, but also to elaborate upon the psychological and narrative function of each stage (or archetype) and explain how the fulfillment or subversion of that stage alters the work.