Heroes and villains, it seems that we are either one or the other. Of course I am referring to men here as I continue on with the problem of the masculine in today’s world. Of course, one man’s hero is another man’s villain which makes the problem even more difficult to resolve. On the collective level, men don’t really have a definition of what it is to be a hero or villain.
Women have their own ideas of what constitutes a hero or a villain, which are just as varied as it is for men. It depends for the most part on which side of an arbitrary line one stands behind in making these judgment calls.
I would like to approach the problem with the consideration that everyone is both hero and villain. At different times during one’s life, both take turns emerging from the depths of one’s being; and often, such appearances are beyond conscious decisions that are made.
And to bring this different approach forward, I want to follow the Hero as described by C.G. Jung and by Joseph Campbell. In reading and considering this description, almost all women will testify to this “masculine” quest, this “heroic” quest:
“The hero is the ideal masculine type: leaving the mother, the source of life, behind him, he is driven by an unconscious desire to find her again, to return to her womb. Every obstacle that rises in his path and hampers his ascent wears the shadowy features of the Terrible Mother, who saps his strength with the poison of secret doubt and retrospective longing.” (Jung, Symbols of Transformation CW 5, par. 611)
It kind of sounds pale in contrast to the latest media versions which feature men battling the forces of darkness to protect innocent women and children that form the plot of most “heroic” films. But when you slow down and take the time for reflection, you will find that all the heroes are engaged in conflict with both themselves and others and at the core of these conflicts is the feminine, the earth mother, the captured and/or enslaved woman, the evil witch – all faces of one’s personal complex relating to “mother.”
Of course there is battle needed with the shadow figures, the monsters that issue from black holes ready to exterminate the hero; authoritarian figures who would strip the hero of all his power and leave him naked and exposed to the ridicule of the world; and, all number of all around bad guys who make life a living hell for the hero. You will find all of these in any good heroic tale at the cinema. You will also find all of these lurking within each individual male, found in the stories of their dreams which trace the journey of conscious development.
Of course most of us can’t deal with being our own heroes and villains, so we banish them deeper into our psyche and project the left over energies onto others in the outer world, others who we then name heroes and villains.