Saturday, January 30, 2016

Monomyth & the Meaning Behind Top Gun

On this 30th anniversary of the fighter-pilot fueled epic of American firepower and military bravado Top Gun, it's great to look back at this insightful and equally cool piece of pop culture criticism about "Maverick & the Mono-myth" by @theunpoet, Whitney Collins. Collins is a true Gen X pop culture scholar who writes for The Weeklings, as well other publications and Barnes & Noble.

I love pieces that seek to deconstruct literature and pop culture through the foundations of the mono-myth, as first explained by Joseph Campbell in the Hero with a Thousand Faces. The Hero's Journey, which is the foundation of all epics and quest stories, is a comprehensive way to explain and understand the hero narratives of all of humanity. While the connections in a piece like Beowulf, or even Star Wars, are often obvious to many, the adaptation of the monomyth ideals to popular works like Top Gun are so fun ... and also worthy of debate.

But valid theories, hot guys, and catchy music aside, I think this movie stands the test of time because it tells the oldest story there is. The epic one that history likes to tell again and again. The one told in The Wizard of Oz, in Star Wars, in The Odyssey, in The Hobbit, in religious texts the world over…that of The Hero’s Journey. The mythologist and professor Joseph Campbell spent much of his life teaching the concept of the “monomyth”—the idea that all mythical narratives of yore tell the tale of a hero’s quest for meaning, a single narrative of the human condition. Curious as to how Campbell’s seventeen stages of monomyth might sync up with Top Gun, I sat down recently to watch it for the eighty-second time. Almost instantly, the scenes fell into the stages Campbell describes as essential steps in the pilgrimage. The symbolism popped off the screen. Suddenly, the pilots’ call signs weren’t just studly nicknames, they were representative of lore and legend. It was a whole new way to see the film. 

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