The Hero’s Journey and Documentaries – Sheridan Dastrup

The Hero’s Journey was created by Joseph Campbell. The Hero’s Journey is basically every good story distilled into a cycle. In this cycle, a hero is called to adventure where they leave the known to face challenges and temptations. As this goes on they overcome whatever it is that called them to adventure and this transforms them. The last step to this cycle is that they return to where they started as a new, more developed person. This cycle occurs in most, if not all, of the good fictional stories that we read and see. When authors use this they create a compelling story that people can relate to. The hero always starts off as a normal person; they are always someone that the audience can relate to. As they go through the challenges that face them we as an audience grow too.

The Hero’s Journey works in fiction but it often doesn’t play out that neatly in documentaries. While many people have interesting stories to tell, they don’t often play out neatly into the Hero’s Journey. Because of this, documentaries often don’t follow the Hero’s Journey cycle. The purpose of a documentary is to shed light on things that we don’t know about. Documentaries often depict an interesting piece of history or an issue that is going on in society. While the Hero’s Journey makes fictional story more compelling and some would argue that is the one of the only ways to create a story that maintains the audience’s attention, documentaries don’t need it to keep the audience engaged. Many documentaries have a compelling story and because of how much the people in the documentary care, the audience is easily brought into the story. The details that are put into a documentary are what keeps an audience’s attention rather than the Hero’s Journey.


One thought on “The Hero’s Journey and Documentaries – Sheridan Dastrup

  1. meaganmthornton February 8, 2015 / 11:50 pm

    This is an interesting example of where the hero’s journey may not work. I wonder if directors sometimes find themselves wanting to portray their story in the old traditional pattern of a hero’s journey even with a documentary. -Meagan


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