The movie Arrietty is a wonderful movie which does a lot of justice for gender role reversal. The movie breaks a lot of boundaries and stereotypes in the film world about what it means to be a male character and what it means to be a female character. This is mostly due to very androgynous nature of both the main characters Arrietty and Sho. In my last blog post I wrote about the different masculine and feminine characteristics of both characters, and how if their gender roles were swapped how they would better represent the stereotypical male and female characters most often found in media.
For this blog post I wanted to focus on theories of male and female journeys. Once again throughout the movie Arrietty I found that these characters also shared neutral, journeys. Also playing as devils advocate a little bit here, I wanted to represent the diversity of the characters in this film by outlining both character’s journeys through the map which is opposite of their gender. For Arrietty I’ll be using Campbell’s classic “hero’s journey” map, and for Sho I’ll be using Maureen Murdoch’s heroines journey. So let’s start with Sho!
Here we have a very neutral character in terms of represented sexuality. Sho shows both masculine and feminie characteristics, but in my opinion he sways more towards the feminine especially towards the beginning of the movie which is in line with Murdoch’s layout. In the beginning Sho spends all his time laying in the meadow or in his bedroom reading books. He needs other characters to take care of him because of his bad heart and upcoming surgery. Because of his heart he is very reserved, his life is uneventful one could argue feminine. He experiences a separation from the feminine when he meets Arrietty who gives him a reason to start adventuring, and live for something. This is his identification with the masculine and also his gathering of allies. Sho’s road of trials is his troubles with keeping Arietty’s secret a secret. I also believe his overwhelming desire to help Arrietty’s family by giving them his doll house is a road of trials for him. The “ogre/dragon”is Haru his evil house maid. Sho’s boon of success skips forward to when he is finally able to help Arrietty save her mother. It completes his goal of helping Arrietty to the best of his ability. Sho also awakens to feelings of death throughout the whole movie basically, this is pretty straightforward since he is actually dying of a heart condition. The next two steps Initiation and decent to the goddess and yearning to reconnect with the feminine could maybe be represented by Sho’s sadness about his mother not being around. Although these categories are pretty vague for Sho. I believe healing the wounded masculine is represented when Sho can’t stand not saying goodbye to Arrietty and risks his life running to her. I feel this category is also a little vague but Sho’s split to into the masculine world was represented by Sho having a more daring life in his goal to protect and help Arrietty. In this way it hurts him to never see Arrietty again without at least saying goodbye. Although this category could also be represented by the feminine character (Sho) actually healing the wounded masculine character (Arrietty). Going by this interpretation Sho actually heals Arrietty by giving her the closure she needed to make her journey away. At the end of the movie Sho is able to integrate masculine and feminine by using the courage Arrietty has given him to be brave enough to face his heart surgery.
Next we move on to Arrietty’s character. Since we’re swapping roles here I want to analyze Arrietty’s journey using Campbell’s hero’s journey map. I’ll be using a map me and my class laid out in our class. Campbell’s first step in a hero’s journey is a call to adventure. I believe Arrietty receives this call when she has her first trip as a borrower with her father. For the first time she gets to enter the world of the “beings” where she has totally new experiences. I don’t think she has any refusal of the call, her father is more than happy to take her. Arrietty doesn’t have any form of supernatural aid, but this movie doesn’t call for it. It’s very grounded in the world of reality in terms of no magical powers, but Arrietty herself could be interpreted as supernatural. Arrietty crosses the first threshold when she is seen by Sho, a human being. This changes her world and even though she isn’t changing from one physical known world to an unknown world she is changing her state from being an unknown species to a known one by a human being. This makes a whole bunch of challenges arise for Arrietty. The belly of the whale is when Haru steals her mother. There is no turning back and Arrietty will not turn back until she saves her. The road of trails is the whole journey it takes to save her mother. With the help of Sho (which I consider her meeting with the goddess) she is able to save her mother which is the apotheosis. The two septs woman as temptress, and atonement with the father are pretty vague for Arrietty. I think what is tempting for Arrietty is wanting to stay where she is and have the nice things that Sho wants to give her. In that way Sho himself could be interpreted as temptation. She also is sad about leaving their friendship behind. The ultimate boon for Arrietty is when she meets Spinner and realizes that there is a whole world out there full of people just like her, little ones! Now her return shifts to returning to her species as a whole. The refusal of the return is basically her mother’s kidnapping which buts a halt on her family’s relocation. Arrietty crosses into the second threshold after a short magical flight of a few challenges faced as the family ventures from Sho’s house to Spinner at the lake. The second threshold is crossed when Arrietty and her family start their boat ride to the world of the little people. Arrietty becomes a master of two worlds because she is able to reconnect with her people but also make a true connection with Sho, who is part of a world beyond her own. Arrietty also experiences a freedom to live by being reconnect with her roots and no longer feeling the despair and anxiety of thinking her, her mother and father were the only ones left of her species.
I really love how fluid this movie is in its gender roles. It really shows that mapping journeys really isn’t based on the gender of characters. Sure plenty of male heres fit into Campbells journey map and many female heroines fit into Murdoch’s map, but its good to realize and find examples that break this pattern.