11 January 2013
The Road Forward
Envision a champion, emerging from the sacked city of Troy, which he previously conquered under his shrewd control. Odysseus—father of Telemachus, husband of Penelope, leader of men-- is now free after countless years of war to return to his homeland, Ithaca. Thus begins the longest journey of Odysseus’s life: a twenty year pursuit through many encounters with fantastic creatures, the cordial arms of the Phaaicians, and finally home to his yearning family in the Iron Age story of Homer’s The Odyssey. Advance to the modern day life of cars and highways. Lightning McQueen, a hotshot rookie race car driven to succeed,Lightning McQueen, a hotshot rookie race car driven to succeed,Lightning McQueen, a hotshot rookie racecar finds himself in a three-way tie with “The King” and the infamous Chick. On his way to California, he finds himself unexpectedly detoured to the sleepy town of Radiator Springs on Route 66. He must complete community service tasks to redeem himself, and find his way to California to zoom past the checkered flag and win the Piston Cup. After befriending such quirky Radiator Springs residents as Sally the Porsche, Doc Hudson, and Mater the Tow Truck, the eager young racer learns that sometimes life is more about the voyage than the outcome of the race. At first glance, the story of Odysseus and the story of Lightning McQueen may seem to have little in common. However, according to writer and philosopher Christopher Vogler, there are remarkable similarities between the two. Through inspiration from Joseph Campbell’s “monomyth” theory that every story follows roughly the same story structure, Vogler was able to create a 3-part, 12-step format that makes all stories essentially the same. His theory of the Hero’s Journey was that of a Preparation, Journey, and Return. When compared to the ancient example of Homer’s story of old, The Odyssey, Disney Pixar’s story of today, Cars, translates the Hero’s Journey archetype to today’s audience with striking similarities and only minor plot alterations as seen in the Preparation during the three-way tie race, the Journey through quiet Radiator Springs, and the Return to California for the Piston Cup Championship race. The Preparation stage of the Hero’s Journey involved the world of common day, a call to adventure, refusal of the call, meeting with a mentor, and finally crossing the threshold. In the stories of Odysseus and Lighting McQueen, both characters follow the general steps in the Preparation, but the most similarities fall under their ordinary worlds and refusal of the call. Odysseus has lived his life on the battlefield of Troy as a cocky general. When he finally leads his men to victory, he is given a bag of winds to help him sail by Cronion. Odysseus expresses arrogance in his ordinary world by not allowing anyone one on his crew to know what is in the bag, naturally making them curious: “All that time I had held the sheet in my hand and let no one else touch it” (Homer 112). This shows his arrogance to be consequential in the ordinary world, because the crew ultimately ends up opening the bag out of curiosity. Odysseus only thinks in the best interest of himself and the majority of the men. This would allow him to be a strong leader in war, but among his crew, it causes destruction. 4000 years in the future, Lightning McQueen is a cocky rookie racecar, focusing only on his primary goal: winning. On the final few laps, McQueen refuses to change his tires at the pit stop so that he can find a spot at the front before the race continues. His arrogance and over-confidence leads to a struggle in the final turn of the final lap. McQueen loses all of his tires and barely makes it to the finish line in time to tie with his two closest competitors, “The King” and Chick (Cars). Like Odysseus, only thinking about his personal gain during the race, he refuses to allow his pit crew to help him win and relies solely on his own...
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