The Hero’s Journey is for squares and Young Adult authors who sit in Starbucks clicking refresh on YA title generators. ‘Storm of Ravens?’ ‘Crown of Flames?’ ‘Road of Knaves?’ Hmmm.
Consider the punk’s journey: Born guilty, gets drunk, no future, accepts his fate, coaches a hockey team. The end. May I present to you the unsung bastard of Hollywood: Emilio Estevez.
In Estevez’ key roles he plays a character in trouble but, more than that, sulkily going along with it.
His characters begin the movie in trouble like he was born in trouble. Being already in trouble is the status quo.
They sense an injustice but they are too immersed in it to see it from the outside or articulate it. Unlike a Tom Cruise or a Matt Damon character who might leap out of an explosion and outrun the bad guys to redemption, Emilio Estevez characters don’t see the point of going trough all the trouble. They are content to ball their fists in their pockets and schlep their way down the road, resigned to the unfairness of their predicament.
In Repo Man (1984) he’s a disaffected punk. His problems precede him and before he knows it, he’s a repo man before he can do anything about it. It’s existential, as with all his roles.
Otto: I ain’t gonna be no repo man. No way.
Marlene: It’s too late. You already are.
The Breakfast Club (1985) begins with all the characters already in trouble with authority. Estevez’ character Andrew Clark in particular is ironically in trouble for obeying authority — his father. Apparently there is no way for him to not be in trouble. He voluntarily shows up to weekend detention because he accepts his fate. Sure he did something wrong, what’s the big deal?
Allison Reynolds: You have problems.
Andrew Clark: Oh I have problems?
Allison Reynolds: You do everything everyone tells you to do and that’s a problem.
In The Mighty Ducks (1992) – you know it – he’s already in trouble with the law and he sulkily accepts his fate. His punishment is a foregone conclusion. He still resents it, like it’s not particularly fair, but of course he has broken the law and rules are rules. He must live out his punishment because of course he does. What else is he going to do?
Lewis: Rink’s got to be around here someplace.
Gordon Bombay: Look for a sign that says ‘Personal Hell’.
Stay with me here. In Albert Camus’ The Stranger, the main character Meursault is a kind of watcher of life as he goes through it. There is a sense that he is observing life, even his own actions, from behind a screen. And he is ultimately persecuted for it. He doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral and people judge him for it. Then in a fit of heatstroke he kills a man who flashes a knife at him. The deed is done and he accepts his fate. His lack of emotion is brought up as evidence of guilt.
And of course he’s guilty. But in a sense he’s also a victim of circumstance. He just kind of accepts it.
Also remember The Myth of Sisyphus, which Camus also wrote about. Sisyphus, the cruel Greek king, is condemned as a punishment to roll a boulder up a mountain for eternity. And he accepts his fate. He just goes through with it.
Like Meursault and Sisyphus, Estevez’ characters are guilty of crimes, but are also victims of circumstance, which is why there’s a surly sense of injustice they can’t articulate – just as in Albert Camus’ The Stranger, aka The Outsider and holeeeee shiiitt there’s a movie called The Outsiders (1983) and wouldn’t ya fuckin’ know? Emilio Estevez is in it.
He plays Two-Bit, the elder greaser for whom the kids at school are his audience. He sees he is doomed and because of that, life is funny. He is a young man who will spend his life without options. So he plays up the tragic humour. He is born guilty and he accepts his fate. (The Outsiders was also a pretty kickass Young Adult novel by S. E. Hinton, for that matter. One where the characters sure got the shit end of the sorting hat.)
Emilio Estevez, take a bow.
Bio: Ken Price has been a punk, a journalist, a care worker with the homeless, a horse track betting teller, and a pawn broker. His favourite thing to pawn was gold teeth. You can find him on twitter here @ninjakenprice.