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HOLY SHIT PEOPLE, IT'S NOT BAD ENOUGH WE'RE GETTING AN UTENA EXHIBITION RIGHT NOW

THEY. ARE. MAKING. A. NEW. MUSICAL. NEXT. YEAR. START LOSING YOUR SHIT RIGHT NOW

#1 | Back to Top12-13-2006 12:34:48 AM

rhyaniwyn
Myth is my Bitch
From: Tallahassee, FL
Registered: 11-09-2006
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Utena as a "myth to live by"

I was reading "Myths to Live By" by Joseph Campbell recently.  I love that man, and I simply don't have enough time to really read his other books (even though I OWN them in anticipation of that happy day).  I love him so much that I took 4 pages of notes of quotes and thoughts I had while reading.  Am I a nerd?  Probably.  Particularly since so much of it reminded me of Utena.  -_-;

I'm not entirely sure if this will create much of a discussion, but I've been thinking about sharing for a while, so I figured I might as well.  Basically it's just a disjointed thought process partially inspired by what I was reading.

pg. 70 wrote:

(UTENA!)
The universe from which we are to strive thus for release is to be known as an ever-appearing-and-disappearing dreamlike delusion, rising and falling in recurrent cycles.  When it is known as such and when one has learned to play one's part in it without any sense of ego, of desires, hopes, and fears, release from the ever-lasting rounds of meaningless reincarnations will have been attained.

pg. 73 wrote:

(more UTENA)
And since at the source of this universal order there is no personal god or willing being, but only an absolutely impersonal force or void, beyond thought, beyond being, antecedent to categories, there has finally never been anyone anywhere responsible for anything--the gods themselves being merely functionaries of an ever-revolving kaleidoscope of illusory appearances and disappearances, world without end.

Akio and Anthy are effectively stuck in the illusory world.  They repeat cycles of duels endlessly, repeat their same mistakes endlessly.  This could easily have Buddhist symbolism.

Akio calls himself the world's end.  He is, however, walking ego in the sense of egomaniac.  In a Freudian sense, he is nothing but id and desire that causes suffering.  He seeks his own pleasure and the power is simply a tool to gain more control over the illusory world around him in order to have more pleasure.  Possibly he is an allusion to Mara?  Is it, in fact, possible for him to have any more control than he already does (even if he were able to obtain the Power of Dios)?  What revolution would he have created?

I begin to think the most important theme of Utena is that of seeking and questioning everything.  It questions the validity of several cultural ways of life, it questions the validity of gender roles, the pressure of social expectations, social and sexual mores...it questions itself and its own answers. 

By parodying and swapping the gender roles throughout the series, it begins to accept them, and leads us to accept them.  By using gender-defined roles as a tool to speak to us, it encourages us to use/accept them. 

But then that's tossed away at the end with another question.  (I believe that Utena was inspiring and heroic, but not perfect in ANY way.  Her OWN belief that she failed is evidence of the narrowness of her own perceptions.)  The end could have stopped with their joined hands and the whole thing would have been different.

Some fans have a tendency to accept "Prince"ness, attributing it to either Utena or Anthy at the end, but ultimately series ends up questioning the rightness of its own archetype--its own expressed pinnacle of achievement--the "Prince"ness. 

So, the series says to us: there is nothing permanent; accept nothing without question; live your own life on the terms that suit you.  The answer that you find is no more complete than any other, but be certain it fulfills you.  Something may fit for a time and then fail you--continue seeking, even if it hurts.


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#2 | Back to Top12-13-2006 10:45:23 PM

brian
Atlantean Singer
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 588

Re: Utena as a "myth to live by"

This requires more deep thought than I can give at the momemt. But if nothing else Be-Papas have done a better job of tapping into Campbell than George Lucas has done.

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#3 | Back to Top12-14-2006 11:35:24 AM

tohubohu
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From: Boston metro area
Registered: 11-02-2006
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Re: Utena as a "myth to live by"

I think the series does an excellent job of showing the fallacy of the Prince mythology that's so romanticized and prevalent in the developed world.  Women are taught to wait for and hope for rescue, and endure whatever comes along because rescue is just around the corner, right?  But if there's any lesson out of the exploding of the Prince Myth, it's that one cannot rescue anyone else -- everyone has to rescue themselves.  If someone can't rescue herself, then all external "rescue" is temporary.

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#4 | Back to Top07-22-2008 12:02:07 AM

rhyaniwyn
Myth is my Bitch
From: Tallahassee, FL
Registered: 11-09-2006
Posts: 684
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Re: Utena as a "myth to live by"

Thou Art That
Joseph Campbell 

pg 30
"Our Notions of God"
 
There's a passage in the Old French Queste del Saint Graal that epitomizes the true spirit of Western man.  It tells of a day when the knights of Arthur's court gathered in the banquet hall waiting for dinner to be served  It was a custom of that court that no meal should be served until an adventure had come to pass.  Adventures came to pass in those days frequently so there was no danger of Arthur's people going hungry.  On the present occasion the Grail appeared, covered with a samite cloth, hung in the air a moment, and withdrew.  Everyone was exalted, and Gawain, the nephew of King Arthur, rose and suggested a vow.  "I propose", he said, "that we all now set forth in quest to behold that Grail unveiled."  And so it was that they agreed.  There then comes a line that, when I read it, burned itself into my mind.  "They thought it would be a disgrace to go forth in a group.  Each entered the forest at the point that he himself had chosen, where it was darkest, and there was no way or path."
 
No way or path!  Because where there is a way or path, it is someone else's path.

When I read this, I was reminded strongly of themes in Utena, and particularly of that amusing exhange in the first episode:

Saionji:  I'll meet you after classes at the Duel Arena in the forest at the rear of the school.
Utena:  Forest? The one that's off-limits?


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#5 | Back to Top07-22-2008 05:32:21 AM

Frau Eva
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Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 803

Re: Utena as a "myth to live by"

brian wrote:

This requires more deep thought than I can give at the momemt. But if nothing else Be-Papas have done a better job of tapping into Campbell than George Lucas has done.

OMG THIS.


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#6 | Back to Top07-22-2008 05:37:07 PM

Lightice
Azure Paleontologist
From: Finland
Registered: 10-21-2006
Posts: 1255

Re: Utena as a "myth to live by"

rhyaniwyn wrote:

Thou Art That
Joseph Campbell 

pg 30
"Our Notions of God"

Interesting...The subject of Chapel Perilous, where the Grail is hidden, is certainly present in Utena, as in many other great works of fiction. It acts as a metaphor for self-discovery through strife. Utena does a plenty of that late in the series, and so does Anthy, though largely through Utena. And then there are the other Duellists as well, ofcourse...


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#7 | Back to Top01-16-2009 02:17:43 PM

rhyaniwyn
Myth is my Bitch
From: Tallahassee, FL
Registered: 11-09-2006
Posts: 684
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Re: Utena as a "myth to live by"

The Seventeen Stages of the Monomyth

Not all stories have all 17 stages and don't have to in order to fit the pattern...but I think Utena fits many of them.

Departure (or Separation)

The Call to Adventure

The adventure begins with the hero receiving a call to action, such as a threat to the peace of the community, or the hero simply falls into or blunders into it. The call is often announced to the hero by another character who acts as a "herald". The herald, often represented as dark or terrifying and judged evil by the world, may call the character to adventure simply by the crisis of his appearance.

Campbell: "A blunder apparently the merest chance reveals an unsuspected world, and the individual is drawn into a relationship with forces that are not rightly understood."

Two possibilities --

1. Utena's resolution to "become a Prince" and save Anthy when she meets Dios/Akio and sees Anthy's suffering as a small child.
2. Utena's decision to challenge Saionji to a duel because of Wakaba.

Refusal of the Call

In some stories, the hero initially refuses the call to adventure. When this happens, the hero may suffer somehow, and may eventually choose to answer, or may continue to decline the call.

Campbell: "Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or 'culture,' the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved."

Two observations:

1.  You can see Utena's intent to throw her second duel as a refusal.  But it lasts only for a short moment, so it does not result in many consequences.
2.  HOWEVER, Utena wavers in her dedication to her goal on several occasions and suffers for it.  Most of these occasions occur when she puts her desire to be a Prince second to some other concern. 
- For example, the duel Utena loses to Touga. 
- Or episodes 33, 35, and 37.  "The Prince who runs in the night"?  Isn't it Utena turning away from her goal to be a Prince and running away from the sacrifices she will have to make to fulfill that desire?

Supernatural Aid

After the hero has accepted the call, he encounters a protective figure (often elderly) who provides special tools and advice for the adventure ahead, such as an amulet or a weapon.

Classic example: In Greek mythology, Ariadne gives Theseus a ball of string and a sword before he enters the labyrinth to confront the Minotaur.

Both Dios and Anthy qualify here.  Dios/Akio gave Utena the ring, which reminds Utena of her goal and seems to be the key to the dueling arena.  Anthy (who, incidentally, is shown as disguising herself as a crone once in episode 34) provides Utena with a sword to use until Utena begins to use her own.

The Crossing of the First Threshold

The hero must cross the threshold between the world he is familiar with and that which he is not. Often this involves facing a "threshold guardian", an entity that works to keep all within the protective confines of the world but must be encountered in order to enter the new zone of experience.

Utena crosses a threshold on several occasions...
- When she enters her coffin and is shown Anthy.
- When she leaves her coffin.
- When she enters the dueling arena.

I would suggest that Utena's departure from her coffin is the true first threshold, confirmed by the later threshold--just like how her original call to adventure is confirmed by a later call.

Belly of The Whale

The hero, rather than passing a threshold, passes into the new zone by means of rebirth. Appearing to have died by being swallowed or having their flesh scattered, the hero is transformed and becomes ready for the adventure ahead.

Utena has a symbolic rebirth when she enters and then leaves her coffin.
She is also baptized (and therefore reborn), in a sense, by the water drop at the entrance of the dueling arena.

Initiation

The Road of Trials

Once past the threshold, the hero encounters a dream landscape of ambiguous and fluid forms. The hero is challenged to survive a succession of obstacles and, in so doing, amplifies his consciousness. The hero is helped covertly by the supernatural helper or may discover a benign power supporting him in his passage.

The succession of duels building toward revolution is the road of trials and there are various obstacles and special challenges that build.  You hsould note especially those events in the arena that Akio put some extra effort into (like the "rescue" of the sleeping Anthy from the coffin after Saionji kidnaps Anthy).

Mother as Goddess

The ultimate trial is often represented as a marriage between the hero and a queenlike, or mother-like figure. This represents the hero's mastery of life (represented by the feminine) as well as the totality of what can be known. When the hero is female, this becomes a male figure.

Utena's increasing closeness to/eventual rescue of Anthy and the symbolic consummation of their clasped hands.

Woman as Temptress

His awareness expanded, the hero may fixate on the disunity between truth and his subjective outlook, inherently tainted by the flesh. This is often represented with revulsion or rejection of a female figure.

Anthy, Anthy, and Anthy.  She is certainly a temptress.  But as far as rejection/disillusionment...Episode 37 much?

Utena: I seem really feminine tonight. Akio-san said that.
Utena: What does it mean to be feminine?
Anthy: Girls...girls are all like the Bride of the Rose in the end.

Rejection followed by eventual acceptance.  (Put Mother as Goddess AFTER Woman as Temptress).

Atonement with the Father

The hero reconciles the tyrant and merciful aspects of the father-like authority figure to understand himself as well as this figure.

This is an interesting one.  Utena has to reconcile the fact that her Prince, the one she's been seeking, is also the Villain she's sworn to fight.  I don't think she makes atonement to Akio.  But her new awareness (if you feel she did come fully to grasp with it) of Akio would necessarily lead to greater understanding of Utena herself and what princeliness means.

Apotheosis

The hero's ego is disintegrated in a breakthrough expansion of consciousness. Quite frequently the hero's idea of reality is changed; the hero may find an ability to do new things or to see a larger point of view, allowing the hero to sacrifice himself.

The end of episode 36 and episode 37 are a major turning point here again--but so is Utena's childhood experience.

But the major scenes of change here could be: Utena's retrieval of her sword and the following the revelation of the projector.

The Ultimate Boon

The hero is now ready to obtain that which he has set out, an item or new awareness that, once he returns, will benefit the society that he has left.

For Utena, when she begins the duel of revolution, that boon is princehood and the power of revolution...but will actually ultimately be given in a form she may or may not expect.  (I didn't at first watch, so I doubt Utena expected it)

Return

Refusal of the Return

Having found bliss and enlightenment in the other world, the hero may not want to return to the ordinary world to bestow the boon onto his fellow man.

Utena leaves the world, but may not fit this step.

The Magic Flight

When the boon's acquisition (or the hero's return to the world) comes against opposition, a chase or pursuit may ensue before the hero returns.

I don't see an application for this, but you might!

Rescue from Without

The hero may need to be rescued by forces from the ordinary world. This may be because the hero has refused to return or because he is successfully blocked from returning with the boon. The hero loses his ego.

A definite possibility--"Now it's my turn to go to you.  No matter where you are, I'll find you for sure.  Wait for me, Utena."

The Crossing of the Return Threshold

The hero returns to the world of common day and must accept it as real.

The themes of SKU are such that it seems like rather than returning to world Utena knew, she breaks out of the illusions of the world she knew and entered a more "real" world.

Master of Two Worlds

Because of the boon or due to his experience, the hero may now perceive both the divine and human worlds.

Now I'd say Utena sees the illusion in the truth and the truth in the illusion.  Sounds silly, I know.  But not only did Utena manage to depart Akio's manipulated world, she was also able to act on the imagery the gate and of Anthy's coffin to speak to the "real Anthy." 

Freedom to Live

The hero bestows the boon to his fellow man.

This is very much what Utena (both via her inspiration and via Anthy in my interpretation) was able to do for the students.


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#8 | Back to Top01-17-2009 02:42:04 AM

Soukougnan
Black Rosarian
From: home. sort of.
Registered: 01-02-2009
Posts: 373

Re: Utena as a "myth to live by"

i am constantly startled at the level of intelligence in some of these threads.


what-- where did i go?

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#9 | Back to Top01-18-2009 08:37:14 PM

hollow_rose
Egghead
From: Ohio
Registered: 10-26-2008
Posts: 1074

Re: Utena as a "myth to live by"

It's been a while since I've read Campbell, so forgive me, but I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas about the other characters besides Utena and this thread? Perhaps where along their journey they get "stuck"?


20 threads dead so far.

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#10 | Back to Top01-19-2009 03:00:42 PM

rhyaniwyn
Myth is my Bitch
From: Tallahassee, FL
Registered: 11-09-2006
Posts: 684
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Re: Utena as a "myth to live by"

Normally you would apply this pattern to the main "hero" in a story.  But since it is also arguably an unconscious psychological pattern, there is asolutely no reason that many of the characters in a given story wouldn't fit the steps to some degree.

The only problem is that I'm not sure we know enough about most of the characters to really assess them on the "monomyth."  We can make educated guesses about the other duelists, but we actually don't see how anyone else was introduced to the duels.

The other two we know the most about are really Akio and Anthy.  Since I love Anthy with all my heart, here goes.

Anthy's Monomyth

There are two parallel stories here--Anthy prior to Utena and Anthy after (she then jumps back a few steps and her myth takes a positive turn).

Departure (or Separation)

The Call to Adventure

The adventure begins with the hero receiving a call to action, such as a threat to the peace of the community, or the hero simply falls into or blunders into it. The call is often announced to the hero by another character who acts as a "herald". The herald, often represented as dark or terrifying and judged evil by the world, may call the character to adventure simply by the crisis of his appearance.

Campbell: "A blunder apparently the merest chance reveals an unsuspected world, and the individual is drawn into a relationship with forces that are not rightly understood."

- I would interpret Anthy's original call to adventure as the threat she perceived to her brother's life.  This launched her negative pattern.
- Anthy's second call to adventure is Utena's--"take my hand."

Refusal of the Call

In some stories, the hero initially refuses the call to adventure. When this happens, the hero may suffer somehow, and may eventually choose to answer, or may continue to decline the call.

Campbell: "Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or 'culture,' the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved."

- (We discussed a while back, in another thread, that Anthy may be the original "revolutionary girl"--that by attempting to protect her brother, she broke out of the accepted female/princess mold and act as a prince...but that Anthy failed to some degree--either through circumstances or because her intentions were impure--and that as a consequence her actions were villified.  Anthy became known as a witch instead of a prince.) 

- If you keep in mind this idea that Anthy's role as witch and rose bride is the result of a failure to follow the princely path when Anthy was presented with a delimma ... then you can presume that Anthy refused the call to adventure.  Sure, Anthy wanted to help her brother, but she didn't want to break the mold and become a prince.  She wanted to keep her brother to herself so that he could be her prince.

- All of Anthy's suffering can be then viewed as the negative consequences of her refusal of her call to adventure.  As the quote says, her adventure becomes a negative one, her will becomes subjugated, and she becomes a victim to be saved.

Supernatural Aid

After the hero has accepted the call, he encounters a protective figure (often elderly) who provides special tools and advice for the adventure ahead, such as an amulet or a weapon.

Classic example: In Greek mythology, Ariadne gives Theseus a ball of string and a sword before he enters the labyrinth to confront the Minotaur.

Skipping

The Crossing of the First Threshold

The hero must cross the threshold between the world he is familiar with and that which he is not. Often this involves facing a "threshold guardian", an entity that works to keep all within the protective confines of the world but must be encountered in order to enter the new zone of experience.

- In Anthy's negative pattern she never crosses a Threshold.  In her positive pattern, Anthy leaves the safety of the coffin, overcoming her fear, the coffin, the swords, and Akio.

Belly of The Whale

The hero, rather than passing a threshold, passes into the new zone by means of rebirth. Appearing to have died by being swallowed or having their flesh scattered, the hero is transformed and becomes ready for the adventure ahead.

- Anthy, in her refusal of the call, enters a dark coffin.  While there, a significant part of Anthy's 'true self' is closed away from the world.  You can also read this as Anthy (or Anthy's spirit) being essentially "dead" -- there's a reason for the coffin imagery after all.
- After Anthy accepts the call, she is symbolically reborn after leaving her coffin.


Initiation

The Road of Trials

Once past the threshold, the hero encounters a dream landscape of ambiguous and fluid forms. The hero is challenged to survive a succession of obstacles and, in so doing, amplifies his consciousness. The hero is helped covertly by the supernatural helper or may discover a benign power supporting him in his passage.

- The duels are a road of trials for everyone--but instead of being a participant, Anthy is a prize and a manipulator.  So instead of growing, Anthy remains static and acts to inhibit the growth of the others on the road.

- But meeting Utena and having to choose between a new life and her old one (over and over) is a second road of trials for Anthy.  Anthy keep choosing the old life...but is also trying to walk a thin line--thinking that maybe she can have both.  She can't and eventually chooses Utena.

Mother as Goddess, Woman as Temptress

Mother as Goddess - The ultimate trial is often represented as a marriage between the hero and a queenlike, or mother-like figure. This represents the hero's mastery of life (represented by the feminine) as well as the totality of what can be known. When the hero is female, this becomes a male figure.

Woman as Temptress - His awareness expanded, the hero may fixate on the disunity between truth and his subjective outlook, inherently tainted by the flesh. This is often represented with revulsion or rejection of a female figure.

- Skipping - though there is plenty to say about the fact that this step isn't "missing", that it is in fact "inverted".  Both because of the roles Anthy takes for Utena and the roles Utena takes for Anthy.  Or Akio might act in this role for Anthy, but I don't have specific ideas yet.

Atonement with the Father

The hero reconciles the tyrant and merciful aspects of the father-like authority figure to understand himself as well as this figure.

- This is reversed for Anthy until she takes up her call to adventure after leaving her coffin.

- Anthy understands Akio better than anyone else--probably even better than Akio understands himself.  Like Utena, rather than embracing this male figure, Anthy ultimately has to reject Akio in order to gain her freedom.  Unfortunately, Anthy refuses to accept the truth about Akio and herself.

- On another note, Anthy continuously rejects Utena as a prince because of the fact that Utena "is a girl."

- Once Anthy's coffin is opened so are Anthy's eyes.  Anthy is able to move on from Akio and accept Utena as a prince even though Utena is a girl.

Apotheosis

The hero's ego is disintegrated in a breakthrough expansion of consciousness. Quite frequently the hero's idea of reality is changed; the hero may find an ability to do new things or to see a larger point of view, allowing the hero to sacrifice himself.

- If Anthy has an Apotheosis prior to Utena, it is (again) a negative one.  She is nearly destroyed by the events in her call to adventure and as a result, her new way of seeing things causes Anthy to embrace the label of "witch" and lock part of herself away for safe keeping.

- After meeting Utena, when Utena persuades Anthy to come out of her coffin, Anthy has a breakthrough into positive consciousness.  Her negative experiences up until that point and the inspiration of Utena's presence have changed Anthy's mind.  It's at this point that Anthy is able to take back up her call to adventure.

The Ultimate Boon

The hero is now ready to obtain that which he has set out, an item or new awareness that, once he returns, will benefit the society that he has left.

- See above!  Once Anthy leaves her coffin, she is ready.


Return

Refusal of the Return

Having found bliss and enlightenment in the other world, the hero may not want to return to the ordinary world to bestow the boon onto his fellow man.

- Anthy does not want to come out of her coffin in the first place.  Not because she is happy there, but because she is afraid that she will suffer more by leaving than by staying.

The Magic Flight

When the boon's acquisition (or the hero's return to the world) comes against opposition, a chase or pursuit may ensue before the hero returns.

- I don't see an application for this, but you might!

Rescue from Without

The hero may need to be rescued by forces from the ordinary world. This may be because the hero has refused to return or because he is successfully blocked from returning with the boon. The hero loses his ego.

- This one applies to Anthy as well...because of her suffering she fears return.  She has subjugated herself for so long and believes herself so unworthy that she will not or cannot return when asked.  The significant portion of Anthy's "self" that is locked away is lost to her until Utena frees it.  (Anthy stays because of her refusal of the call in a negative cycle until Utena inspires Anthy to break free, then Anthy's myth takes a few steps back).

The Crossing of the Return Threshold

The hero returns to the world of common day and must accept it as real.

There are two possibilities here:

- Anthy crosses the return threshold when she reaches for freedom from her coffin.
- Anthy crosses the return threshold when she leaves Ohtori campus.

Master of Two Worlds

Because of the boon or due to his experience, the hero may now perceive both the divine and human worlds.

- I'd say what applies to Utena applies to Anthy here.  Except that it may well be that Anthy does continue to perceive and even have magic in the world of Ohtori, she just leaves Ohtori physically.  That's just guessing, though, there's no way to know.

Freedom to Live

The hero bestows the boon to his fellow man.

- This is what Anthy gained and what Anthy's struggle and rescue inspire.

Last edited by rhyaniwyn (01-19-2009 03:04:00 PM)


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#11 | Back to Top01-21-2009 01:54:02 PM

StarlightArcher
Miki Molester
From: Texas
Registered: 12-06-2006
Posts: 30

Re: Utena as a "myth to live by"

Every story which follows "epic" themes will draw, sometimes heavily, from this formula. Via culture and heritage this formula in all its variations is familiar to us. And in someway fits comfortably into the myth category in the collective cultural conscience. A prince wouldn't be a prince without a dragon to slay. Who ever heard of a fairy tale involving a prince who stayed home and worried about taxes?

Myths involve action, involve pain (usually for the main character), and ultimate growth through the pain of overcoming the sweeping quest/challenge/rescue the protagonist must complete. Utena has these themes in spades, all the while quietly prodding viewers to question those themes. From the first episode the series asks us "But was that such a good idea?"

Utena's characters also benefit from having a level of human depth that is lacking in many animes. These characters have flaws. Personal, deep seated, therapy required flaws. It's those flaws which allow us the viewer to engage the character. Cheering for Mr. Perfect Prince Charming is one thing, but when the prince has hang ups and foibles similar to your own. Suddenly the character is real, his struggles are more personable, and his characters growth more applicable to the reader.

Is Utena a myth to live by? Absolutely in my book! By continually analysing character development and growth, one can learn masses about him/herself.


Why yes, I am made of Fabulous!

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#12 | Back to Top01-23-2009 09:43:11 PM

brian
Atlantean Singer
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 588

Re: Utena as a "myth to live by"

I cannot even begin to do justice to Rhyaniwyn's extensive list. It does seem to beg the question of whose story it really is. Joseph Campbell basically said that women do not have quests, they don't do, they just are. That may limit somewhat his usefulness for understanding Utena. Utena is clearly on a quest and whatever else Anthy is, she is not just being.

Between the two of them they exemplify many different types: Childe, orphan, warrior, sleeping beauty (both of them), earth goddess, sacrifice, whore, temptress, angel, devil, victim, hag, psychopomp, Queen, Princess, conqueror, prize, magician and more I cannot think of right now. From the viewpoint of the Setokai, Utena is a dragon selfishly keeping them from attaining the treasures they desire.

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#13 | Back to Top01-27-2009 09:22:24 AM

rhyaniwyn
Myth is my Bitch
From: Tallahassee, FL
Registered: 11-09-2006
Posts: 684
Website

Re: Utena as a "myth to live by"

Campbell was born and lived much of his life in a time that wasn't known for liberated women.  It was in the latter half of his life that the biggest strides toward gender equality were made.  Furthermore, he researched ancient mythology--not known for its strong female characters and most often emerging from cultures even more patriarchal than America in Campbell's youth.

Accepting that, we can take some of Campbell's personal statements on women with a grain of salt.  However, his cultural conditioning and personal preferences can't negate the truth of his analysis.  Why do I say that?

Well, ever read a relationship-help book, like "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus"?  These books often separate actions by gender, ie: "Men have a tendency to do this and think this, which can clash with women who have a tendency to do this and think this."  As a female reader, you may find yourself in a situation where you are actually doing what the book says "men" do and your boyfriend is doing what the book says "women" do.  Does that make the female reader a man and her boyfriend a woman?  Hell, no.  But for the purpose of writing, it's necessary to generalize and let the reader take it from there.

Much of what Campbell says about women in myth should be taken as analysis of the actual content of the great body of mythology.  Feminism or no, mythology and symbolism do separate traits according to "masculine" and "feminine."  When we compare Utena to the male sky god Uranus and Anthy to the female earth goddess Gaia, we aren't literally saying that Utena is a man...just that she is embodying a masculine principle in relation to Anthy.

I don't know if I've read the quote you're referring to.  But the way I read it based on other readings is...the masculine principle acts, it undertakes action while the female principle exists and receives.  Uranus descended to Gaia.  The man sales away to sea while the woman waits on the widows walk.

But that's not always going to be the case (the genitalia aren't necessarily going to match).  The important part with the hero's journey is that the hero becomes a hero when he undertakes the quest, when he *acts.*  Women can certainly be heroes.   It's just that...traditionally the heroes were men.  And traditionally a woman's role in mythology and fairy tale was to wait for the male hero, etc.

Joseph Campbell wrote:

"All of the great mythologies and much of the mythic story-telling of the world are from the male point of view. When I was writing The Hero with a Thousand Faces and wanted to bring female heroes in, I had to go to the fairy tales. These were told by women to children, you know, and you get a different perspective. It was the men who got involved in spinning most of the great myths. The women were too busy; they had too damn much to do to sit around thinking about stories. [...]

In The Odyssey, you'll see three journeys. One is that of Telemachus, the son, going in quest of his father. The second is that of the father, Odysseus, becoming reconciled and related to the female principle in the sense of male-female relationship, rather than the male mastery of the female that was at the center of The Iliad. And the third is of Penelope herself, whose journey is [...] endurance. Out in Nantucket, you see all those cottages with the widow's walk up on the roof: when my husband comes back from the sea. Two journeys through space and one through time."

"The hero, therefore, is the man or woman who has been able to battle past his personal and local historical limitations to the generally valid, normally human forms. Such a one's visions, ideas, and inspirations come pristine from the primary springs of human life and thought. Hence they are eloquent, not of the present, disintegrating society and psyche, but of the unquenched source through which society is reborn. The hero has died as a modern man; but as eternal man - perfected, unspecific, universal man - he has been reborn. His second solemn task and deed therefore... is to return then to us, transfigured, and teach the lessons he has learned of life renewed." (pp.19-20)

"Woman, in the picture language of mythology, represents the totality of what can be known. The hero is the one who comes to know." (p.116)

"The modern hero, the modern individual who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that presence with whom it is our whole destiny to be atoned [reconciled] cannot, indeed, must not, wait for his community to cast off its slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified misunderstanding. 'Live,' Nietzsche says, 'as though the day were here.' It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal - carries the cross of the redeemer - not in the bright moments of his tribe's great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair." (p.391)

None of this is incompatible and is actually quite fitting.  Utena herself is the major hero.  Utena undertakes the quest and acts.  Utena is the creative individual casting off the traditional role her society has allotted for her.  Utena learns lessons and comes to know Anthy.   Anthy, while she does have a fascinating hero's journey of her own, is Woman.  Anthy waits and endures.  Anthy is the mystery that must known.

These things are true :-)  At the same time other things can be true.  The Monomyth is a filter through which we can look at a story and come to a new or deeper understanding of certain aspects of that story.  It isn't a complete, unbiased, or even necessarily the predominant interpretation.  Though I love it, personally...gives me shivers.  Especially when I give special attention to how and when the characters switch from one role (passive) to the other (active).

Last edited by rhyaniwyn (01-27-2009 09:24:48 AM)


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#14 | Back to Top01-27-2009 10:24:20 AM

rhyaniwyn
Myth is my Bitch
From: Tallahassee, FL
Registered: 11-09-2006
Posts: 684
Website

Re: Utena as a "myth to live by"

I would also point out... An "epic" is one place to apply a hero's journey.  Possibly a more exciting place.

But... staying at home worrying about taxes is another place to apply the hero's journey. 

It's not just a pattern for stories of magic and adventure involving actual dragons...it's also applicable in the microcosm of our lives as a pattern for our individual journey and struggles (symbolic dragons that need slaying).

Those of us who recognize that can become the conquering heroes of our own personal stories.  Those of us who refuse the call to adventure make victims of ourselves. 

So even if there were no duels in SKU, no swords, no arena, and no castle in the sky...just the mundane everyday life of Utena and her reclusive friend Anthy...the myth would still be there.


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#15 | Back to Top01-29-2009 06:37:40 PM

brian
Atlantean Singer
Registered: 10-22-2006
Posts: 588

Re: Utena as a "myth to live by"

This may not be apropos but the Ruka-Shiori duel strongly hints that all the duels are purely symbolic. The sudden flash from the dueling ground to that scene where Ruka is publicly dumping Shiori implies that no time has passed and no space traversed. Everything was there in the bright sunlight and grass all along.

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#16 | Back to Top01-29-2009 08:12:39 PM

Ragnarok
Caption Captor
From: Canada
Registered: 10-20-2006
Posts: 4472
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Re: Utena as a "myth to live by"

brian wrote:

The sudden flash from the dueling ground to that scene where Ruka is publicly dumping Shiori implies that no time has passed and no space traversed. Everything was there in the bright sunlight and grass all along.

Hm? Ruka dumps Shiori in the dueling arena. He has a scene with Juri at the end of the episode where she wants to know what he's really after. The next episode begins with Shiori publicly begging him to take her back.

The duels are symbolic, but the only instant transition between the dueling arena and reality is shown in the final two episodes.

rhyaniwyn wrote:

The only problem is that I'm not sure we know enough about most of the characters to really assess them on the "monomyth."  We can make educated guesses about the other duelists, but we actually don't see how anyone else was introduced to the duels.

There is one. We see Nanami get her ring and be introduced to the duels during the course of the series.


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