Virgin songs: Hero songs
Break Away- Kelly Clarkson Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
My Way: Frank Sinatra Wavin’ Flag – Young Artists of Haiti
Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield Stronger – Kelly Clarkson
Who I was born to be – Susan Boyle When We Stand Together – Nickelback
Brave – Sara Bareilles We Take of our Own – Bruce Springsteen
Born This Way – Lady GagaRoar – Katy Perry
I am noticing a pattern. Guys in films are being presented as more than heroes (or less than heroes but always more interesting). I first noticed it in The Hurt Locker. This is a story of a guy who is spectacularly heroic but an abysmal failure at taking it to the next level of maturity i.e.. being the Warrior King who can cross the distance between himself and another. Sergeant William James couldn’t stand the fate worse than death of allowing his heart to exist in someone else. He couldn’t see the deeper meaning in buying the groceries and being there for his son.
Enter August: Osage County. We have a family of women and the men who love them (or try to love them). The mother is a Hag. Her unaddressed childhood wounds are causing her to poison those who love her. As she becomes more powerful, she becomes more dangerous. Her husband plays the martyr, and escapes in alcohol until it doesn’t work and then he finds a more permanent escape. What was really needed of him was to stand up for something better he once saw in his wife and help her find a way back to it by building a limit to her bad behaviour. She is out of control and it is not helping her or anyone who loves her. Ultimately she is responsible for addressing her issues but he could be the cold slap that brings her to her senses long enough to get on track. We all need a little help sometimes. It needs to come from someone who loves us and reminds us of what is good in us.
We see this behaviour in the Uncle Charlie (Chris Cooper). He clearly has a warmth for his wife but there comes a point where he will not stay silent about her abusive behaviour. He is the Warrior King and I loved him in that moment (although I did wish it hadn’t taken him decades to figure this out).
It was Julia Robert’s husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) who really pissed me off. He put so much effort into appearing to be the sane, level headed one to his daughter.. Bill makes the point that he was the one trying to be loving by placing his hand on his wife’s knee while driving with the daughter in the back. So desperate to feed his ego with an image of being a nice guy he puts his efforts into making a bond with his daughter. She is young and easy to impress. He never notices how his behaviour is driving a wedge between mother and daughter to the detriment of both. He is only thinking of preserving his self image. Of all the things worth preserving in these relationships, he picks the one thing that should die. I found it to be truly haunting when the daughter drives off with the dad completely unaware of how she is being used.
This is the same daughter-father relationship as the one seen in Saving Mr. Banks. The father puts his effort into forming a bond with his daughter because she is a representation of the feminine but in a naive way, completely accepting of his weaknesses. The daughter grows into a woman that is stuck in a cycle of trying to save her father and be true to their bond. But it was a misplaced bond. He didn’t model the type of love she should expect for herself by loving her mother in an adult way. Instead he made his daughter his ally in his weakness. A truly coward-like move.
It is rewarding and somehow hopeful to see movies exploring the roles of men in a more nuanced way. There is a quest for maturity beyond the hero that is wonderful to see.
I just saw Saving Mr. Banks and really enjoyed it. It has surprising depth, way more than a recounting of how Mary Poppins got made. This is the story of a man who couldn’t grow up – a Peter Pan, and the lasting effect it had on his daughter. Mr Banks was great at spinning a story but he couldn’t subdue the dreamer and the demons in him long enough to provide for his family. His wife obviously married for the ideal of love, against her family’s advice, and was trapped in a marriage with many children and a husband who told pretty stories but couldn’t stop drinking long enough to hold a job. Instead he made his daughter his confidante and he always shone in her eyes. Even as an adult she felt married to him.
This is a new theme in movies that we are seeing more and more of. The Hurt Locker has the same character who is heroic but unable to rise up and be the Warrior King that the woman in his life needs him to be. The Warrior King is willing to let parts of himself die in order to cross the distance between himself and another person. He is driven to preserve, protect and provide for the person he loves. Broken FLowers is another movie with this theme. I love that we are starting to recognize that you can’t go on being a hero forever. There are new frontiers to cross. Heroes can become Warrior Kings, and Warrior Kings can become Mentors. Each of these transformations makes an interesting story.
Mr. Banks did what often happens in real life. The cowardly thing. Rather than rise to the challenges life presents him with, he engages his daughter in a wife-like role for he longs to be adored and doesn’t want to face the disappointment of an adult woman. He makes her his confidant and the apple of his eye, ignoring the tension he creates between mother and daughter.
Saving Mr. Banks is about the universal human condition and how we have all been captured by its story. Walt Disney is the Warrior King because he keeps showing up and relentlessly driving towards his goal. He is not satisfied until he gets the job done. I believe his presence in the author’s life was a very liberating example for her.
What comes to mind when you think of self care? I’m sitting six inches from three slices of bacon and that feels like self care right now. Or wrapping myself in a wool blanket and watching a good christmas movie in the middle of this snowy day like I loved to do as a kid. That would be a guilty pleasure.
One of the landmarks of the Virgin’s journey is self care. The ability to take a moment and give value to the things that bring you joy. Let’s call it healthy self- indulgence. It is the well-spring from which you will be able to respond positively to the needs of your teenager when she comes home swirling in drama or your neglectful – I mean exhausted spouse who just wants to know when s/he will be fed.
I could make this argument that self care is the only way you will have the resources to respond positively to hubby and child. But really you should practice self care because you are intrinsically worthy of being treated well. A virgin forest is a forest that is of value just for being itself.
As story writers and movie makers we need to show that a strong connection to self is all about giving your time and energy to self-fulfillment. The Virgin’s journey is rooted in the awakening of your healthy sense of entitlement. Beat number 4, Dresses the Part is essentially a moment of self care. Think of Pretty Woman on Rodeo Drive. When I’m living through the protagonist in a story I want to experience the feeling of connecting to who I love and what brings me joy, especially in a Christmas movie.
Excuse me for a moment while I relocate the bacon. I have decided that my self care will be creating the conditions where I can look great in my sexy little Christmas dress. Happy Holidays everyone. Let me know if you se a great xmas movie!
Did you see it? Did you say OMG it follows the Virgin’s Journey incredibly!? My friend Laurel said I had to see it and I am so glad she pointed me towards The Way Way Back. Such a great film. I also love it when people recognize the virgin structure. You couldn’t have missed the secret world. I loved the metaphor of a place nobody wants to go to when there is all the glitz of the beach. So often people don’t want to go inside themselves when they can get distracted by easier things.
I’ll go through the beats in a minute, bit first I want to point out how great the side relationships were. Such great writing. The mom is in her own dependent world trying to find a definition of herself through a relationship. “My mom doesn’t smoke pot” Duncan says while his mom giggles from being high in the background. So poignant when the mom tries to explain that you do things to be safe – not recognizing that he is a 14 year old boy trying to find a place of belonging and swallowing the jerk moves of her boyfriend daily. I think he knows how to make himself small to fit in and is desperate for a role model of how to stop doing it.
I love how the movie doesn’t have Duncan begging to stay with Owen. He and his mom need each other and Owen shows her how to step in and be the parent Duncan needs. The mom grows up when she recognizes Duncan is the one man (even if he is a boy) who she needs to align herself with.
The second great side relationship is between Owen and his boss. She has spent 3 years coming back to manage the summer fun park as an investment in Owen. But she gets tired of having to be the adult next to his Peter Pan and calls “Enough!” Owen rises to the challenge and becomes more of the man she needs. It is beautiful. Lots of people growing in response to their feelings of genuine love.
OK here is my interpretation of the beats of the movie. Spoiler Alert.
1. Dependent World: Duncan, a 14 year old boy whose parents are divorced, has to accept his mother’s boyfriend.
2. Price of Conformity: the boyfriend is a patriarchal jerk who wants Duncan to be more like him and tells him he is currently a 3.
3. Opportunity to Shine: they all go to his beach house for the summer and everyone’s efforts to plan his time send him to the garage to find a bike.
4. Dress the Part: He jumps on a pink banana bike and explores on his own and tastes freedom.
5. Water Wizz becomes his secret world where he makes a friend, Owen, who gives him a place of belonging (a job), and an irreverent attitude towards what other people say about you. He goes back and forth learning more how his mom is in a bad place and more of his own resources.
9. Kingdom in Chaos: mom’s boyfriend doesn’t come home and the teenagers take pity on her. He lies his way out of it but his alibi doesn’t hold up. All the kids know the beach is where parents act up.
6. No Longer Fits His World: Duncan challenges his mom to not turn a blind eye to a cheating behaviour. When she accept being treated badly, she is also accepting it for him.
8. Gives Up What Kept Him Stuck: the boyfriend blurts out that Duncan’s dad doesn’t want him. Duncan gives up the belief that all his problems will be solved by being with his dad. His mom is the parent that kept him. This is the reality he has to start with.
10. Wanders in the Wilderness: Duncan goes to Owen’s and learns that Owen had a similar father and now he is refusing to do anything that his father wanted him to. No rules, no seriousness… perpetual childhood.
9. Kingdom in Chaos: Duncan returns the next morn to finds they are all going back home. His mom has not been able to make a break from her boyfriend.
10. W in the W: Duncan tries to get his mom to stay at the beach with him. She won’t.
11. Chooses his Light: when they stop for gas Duncan jumps out and goes to Water Wizz to say goodbye and become a legend. He passes Owen in the tunnel – never been done before.
7. Two Worlds Collide: His mother comes looking for him and sees he has been coming there and is the employee of the month. He made a place for himself and he is happy. The boyfriend comes in and takes charge wanting to get Duncan under control.
12. Rescue: Owen steps between Duncan and the boyfriend, showing the mom how it is done.
13. The Kingdom is Brighter: The mom moves to the back seat with Duncan making the point that first and foremost they are a team and the boyfriend has to go, which is good for both of them.
There is a strong theme emerging in songs of a guy recognizing the beauty in a girl and she is completely unaware of how amazing she is. One DIrection’s That’s What Makes You Beautiful was the first one I noticed. Emblem3 has Chloe and Ne-Yo Let Me Love You. At first it seemed sweet but now I think it is kind of alarming.
The Virgin’s journey is about awakening to your promise, your potential. When you connect to your soul, you shine and people can recognize your beauty. These songs seem to shift the power to the observer, giving the singer the ability to recognize the beauty in the girl even though she is too naive to recognize it in herself. The empowering part is for her to recognize the authentic nature in herself. which creates her beauty It is not nearly as romantic to be the one to define her as beautiful as he thinks it is. It would be way better if he recognized her beauty as rooted in her being herself.
Beauty is an interesting concept. Robert Shank wrote a great book called the Soul of Beauty which recognizes beauty as the ability of a person to connect to their soul and give it a tangible form. I love this concept. One DIrection’s song says you have no idea how beautiful you are “That’s what makes you beautiful!” It is a Little Red Ridinghood song requiring the object of his affection to stay detached from her own sense of knowing.Emblem3 says in Chloe, “you’ve got me and that’s all that matters”. Is this an effort to secure his future. If she chooses not to stay in the relationship (or he does) who is she then? Before she gets into a relationship she needs to have a strong connection to what makes her intrinsically valuable. Otherwise he defines her and she loses her freedom.
I suggest “Chloe, I know our sister turns everyone on, but you’re the one I want” is about a guy playing on a girls insecurity. He says she’s beautiful because he wants her. If only you could see what I see in you.” Why are these guys choosing women who are unaware of their power to be all that they can be, or their connection to their beauty?
Ne-Yo “Let Me Love You until you learn to love yourself” is celebrating the Victim part of her, enjoying his heroic nature. I’m not saying it is bad but it is a message that being a Victim draws people towards you with undying love. It should come with a warning label. Sometimes these guys are quite disappointed if you get on your feet.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for heroically helping the Victim and the naive. This is more of a call for songs that celebrate young women who are shining because they know who they are and they are bringing it to life.
I had the pleasure of teaching a workshop for the Romance Writers of Australia last month (such a wonderful experience) and at one point a participant asked “when does the guy come in?” The more I thought about it, I realized, that is a really significant question. The Virgin’s journey is about knowing yourself and being yourself. That’s a lot of self. There doesn’t actually have to be a man. Gasp! But it is the love based world and more often than not there is someone to inspire the Virgin or to see her true self and create space for her in the kingdom out of love. The Hero plays a supporting role. There is an idea to turn your world upside down.
You could say that the Virgin plays the same role in the Hero story. People have actually complained about this for decades. The hero story, which dominates North American story telling, is all about the hero saving the day and the Virgin’s only role is to stand around being helpless. Often we boost the female role in the hero story by developing her plight or making her a heroine. Maybe the point is that a Hero story is about knowing you can push back fear and save the day, building your confidence as an individual in the world. The VIrgin story is about looking inside yourself and awakening to your unique gift and bringing it to the world. They are both individuating and are blessed with the support of their counterpart.
It is also possible to make the love interest a major driving force in the Virgin story. Sometimes the male character is also on a Virgin’s journey, which can be an interesting way to incorporate a love interest. Just having the guy in the story generates the world of love and makes it enjoyable.
Knowing yourself and brining your authentic self to life is a fundamental part of any relationship. Not doing this actually creates a compelling obstacle to love. A person has to have a connection to their authentic self before she can be recognized by her soulmate. Often we are so busy pleasing others, or trying to be the perfect version of what is desirable that we are disconnected from our unique way of being in the world. It makes it impossible to really connect with another person.
In other situations a person may have a connection to who they are but they don’t feel the boundary between themself and other people. This leads them to isolate themsleves in order to preserve themselves. Ironically when you own your boundaries you can afford to let people in more. She must love herself before she can love another.
And finally the Virgin has to actually get out of the house and into life before she has any chance of meeting love. Sometimes we are so disconnected from our intrinsic right to be happy and do things for ourself we spend all our energy in a supporting background role, servicing others.
So even though a VIrgin story is not about finding a life mate, it is about engaging in the love based world and taking up your power to be all that you can be. This journey is often supported by the love of another.