In a glorious attempt to postpone working on my Proposal (and grading papers), I’m over at a friend’s house for an all day Pixar Party. They do these kinds of parties from time to time, and it all began with a party to watch the extended editions of Lord of the Rings. That essentially boils down to a 16 hour party that starts at breakfast and ends somewhere long after dinner. They expanded the idea to do other epic parties, such as Harry Potter. So today is Pixar. The line-up includes the three Toy Story movies, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, and Wall-E, and the Pixar shorts when available. There are many other titles that could be on the list, but my friends don’t own them on DVD.
What’s really interesting about watching Pixar movies back to back is that some common themes begin to manifest. Just about all of the stories follow some kind of stereotypical hero story a la Joseph Campbell, but yet they somehow break the mold and enter into an entirely new realm of myth.
One observation is that the hero is always part of a collective. They cannot succeed on their own. Buzz has Woody and friends, Nemo has his friends and Marlin has Dori, Wall-E has Eve. This new collective hero is a fascinating development of the post-Potter era. It’s almost as though we, as a culture, have moved beyond the black-and-white dichotomy of the lone hero, and have realized that we have to rely on a collective to actually accomplish anything, which runs completely counter to the individualism on which we built our country. Of course, our rugged individualism is what got us into the place where we are today. Not everyone can go from rags to riches and sit on the top of their flagpole.
The hero’s quest is ultimately for family. So if it’s true that the family is in danger of falling apart, and if it’s true that the myth creates the history, then this suggests that we are going to see a return of the familial unit in the not to distant future, but it’s not going to be the traditional unit. All of these Pixar movies are about creating family among a diverse group of people, not from biological bondage.
Myth scholarship is beginning to catch up to the discussion, and this new hero is beginning to enter into the conversation.