The Wizard of Oz. It’s a Wonderful Life. Lord of the Rings. Man of La Mancha. The Pursuit of Happyness. Star Wars. Harry Potter (1-7). Gone With the Wind. No doubt, you have your own favorites to add to the list of the best journey films of all time.
What is a journey film? It’s a transformative cinematic tale in which the heroine comes smack up against the painful realities of life, at which point she must undertake a sometimes long and always arduous journey to recover from, surmount, go around, push through, and just generally overcome her difficulties. Journey films tend to have several characteristics in common:
- The protagonist faces overwhelming odds: a natural disaster, a catastrophic illness, political upheaval, social constraints, economic calamity, war, family implosion, evil on the loose and looking for trouble.
- The “journey” may traverse a geographic landscape, or it may occur in the landscape of the mind—oftentimes both.
- The protagonist always finds or receives tools to help him on his journey: maps, magic talismans, cryptic notes, alchemical elixirs, books, signs, transportation, clearly marked paths, other-worldly guides such as angels, (blogs?), and so on. Think of Angel Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life or Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility.
- There are always boon companions. In other words, the heroine is never alone on her journey; she can always count on others to accompany her and assist her as she travels the unknown. Take The Wizard of Oz, for example. Although Dorothy is the primary traveler, the one who must defeat evil and find her way home, her friends—the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man—undergo their own transformative experiences.
- Transformation always occurs. Oftentimes, the hero finds himself back where he started, but he is fundamentally changed. Because of his courage and willingness to undertake the journey, he experiences a healing and a homecoming that allow him to lead a better life after his travels are over.
What do journey films have to do with depression? Glad you asked! You, as someone who suffers from clinical depression (nasty, chronic, intransigent), are the protagonist of your own journey film. You’re the star. Yeah, I know. You’d rather have blood-sucking leeches from head to toe than have depression. You’d be hard-pressed to wish depression on your worst enemy—even on our nation’s worst enemy (although it would be an effective way to take them out…). It’s small comfort to think of yourself as taking the place of Luke Skywalker jetting off to save the galaxy when you can’t even get out of bed in the morning.
That’s okay. You’re still a hero, even though you didn’t choose this journey (at least not consciously). And you have what it takes to strap on your hiking boots, hit the trail, and find your way through the wilderness—even though you’d rather not. The alternative is to stay stuck there, floundering in the quicksand of despair. I know you don’t want that.
This blog is both a potent tool and your companion on your journey of recovery from depression. In it, may you find inspiration, practical knowledge, healing processes, real-life companions as valiant as you are, and, most of all, hope.
Next time: “Trail Markers.”
(c) 2010 by Patricia R. Henschen