(Spoiler Alert: I do discuss the movie!)
As we arrive back at Aries again, it is time to talk about the male hero. Last year in Aries, I discussed two movies about female heroines in The Hunger Games and Whale Rider. Both our heroines, Katniss and Paikea, are great examples of emerging female leaders. And that leads us to the question: who are the new male leaders?
Aries is the scout of the zodiac, searching out the new and untried, leading the way for the rest of the tribe. Since Aries is the sign that begins at the Spring Equinox, it marks a new beginning, a new season of life.
That's what a hero symbolizes too. A hero arises out of the tribal unit of collective consciousness to correct an imbalance, heal out-worn beliefs and initiate new fertility and ideas, all to bring new energy and life back to the group. Today, we see this happening all over the world: people taking a stand to correct the imbalances in Western society. The archetypal hero's journey was described by mythologist Joseph Campbell in his book, Hero with a Thousand Faces.
The hero's journey also describes how a person brings his ego into a more balanced state with his spiritual Self. When we get stuck in old ego-patterns of behavior, there is no new psychological growth. Our lives are also stuck and become lifeless. That's when we find ourselves being called to the task of individuation, what Carl Jung described as a process of psychological integration, having for its goal the development of the individual personality. In general, it is the process by which individual beings are formed, as a being distinct from the general level of psychological awareness. For a man, this entails meeting his shadow and more importantly, working with his anima, the feminine aspect of his soul.
One of the messages of our Aries' movie, Oz, the Great and Powerful is that when there is an imbalance within the individual psyche or in the collective, nature itself works to correct it and bring it into balance. The great imbalance of the patriarchy is its disregard of Feminine Spirit and women. Unfortunately, men have been taught this lesson too well and often still do not honor and respect women and the gifts of feminine Spirit. Another message is that when you believe in someone or something, anything is possible. These are two lessons our hero needs to learn.
Our less-than-heroic hero, Oscar Diggs or Oz as he styles himself, sets out on his own hero's journey to rectify that imbalance within himself. Oscar has to face his anima and integrate the feminine aspects of his psyche: his sensuality, his imagination and intuition, his ability to connect and love. He does this by facing his dis-connection, his rage, his need to be powerful in all the wrong ways. This is the new and real hero's journey that men have to go on now.
Oscar (James Franco) is an egotistical small-time carnival magician with a great thirst for power and glory. He uses women and men without a thought about their feelings. He treats his helper Frank (Zach Braff) like a servant, refusing to consider him a friend. He treats women even worse; he makes them feel special by giving them a cheap music box that he says belonged to his grandmother, a powerful warrioress. He lies to women and charms them into thinking they're special without committing to them and their needs. He uses them.
Oscar relates to his "warrioress' grandmother when it comes to women--his emotions are at war. He wants to play the romantic hero, but in truth he doesn't have what it takes to be that hero. Since he uses his heroic, magical persona to have his way with women, it begins to crack when he is brought face to face with the truth. Then he runs away.
This don Juan attitude speaks to a need in Oscar that he won't acknowledge--he needs to feel loved and appreciated by all the women he seduces. But it's never enough and so he has to go on to another conquest. But it's also because he has a tender heart and doesn't know how to express it like a man. He can't admit that he hurts people's feelings, because he doesn't want to feel bad. So he'd rather ignore it. He's an emotional cripple, just like the young crippled girl who believes that he is a real miracle worker and can heal her.
Oscar is caught off-guard by her desperate plea and doesn't know what to do. He is confronted with his own inadequacy and lies for a moment. But even then he can't admit it to himself: he berates his helper Frank for not getting him out of the situation sooner. Oscar's attitude is: I'm not responsible to handle my own issues--it's up to someone else to take care of those unpleasant situations for me.
Is there anyone out there who has experienced this attitude in the men in their lives? Don't feel bad guys! That's what patriarchy wanted to teach you. That you were entitled. But now that you know that's what they brainwashed you into believing, it's time to let that paradigm go and find a different story, one where you are responsible for yourself, your people and your world.
Oscar doesn't want to bear the responsibility of his own life, even when there is someone special who does love and appreciate him. Annie is an old friend who he really cares about. She comes to Oscar to tell him that someone has asked her to marry him. She wants Oscar to commit to her, as it is obvious she has committed to him, but in a truthful moment, Oscar realizes that he's not good enough for her. He doesn't believe in himself.
Annie does though. She tells him that he can be a good man if he
wants to be. But Oscar tells her that he
doesn't want to be a good man, he wants to be a great man. Someone special and important. Someone who doesn't have the time to commit
to love. Love is work, and Oscar would
rather lie and scheme than do the hard work of loving someone. What he thinks he wants is power, money and
glory. Sounds like good solid
patriarchal values to me!
So of course, it all comes back on him. The father of one of the carnival girls discovers that Oz has seduced his daughter and goes after him. As Oz makes his escape in his hot-air balloon, he turns to find a tornado sweeping through the countryside and is swept away into it! His past has caught up with him.