Stage number 10 of the hero’s journey is called: The resurrection. This passage, named after Jesus’ favorite hobby, is the last hardship that the hero will have to go through before the story ends.
The resurrection forces the protagonist to go through a process that represents death and rebirth where he will have to die and rise again changed for the better, but… again? Why? Didn’t he already do that in The Ordeal?
Well yes, the hero already went through a similar process in stage number 8 but, in some stories, it’s important that this process is repeated because the first time the change didn’t “stick”.
Return to the Ordinary World
The Special World has changed the protagonist for good. He is no longer the person that left the comfort of his home to go on an adventure, he is a seasoned hero who has seen and done the unimaginable.
For this reason, he can’t go back to his home and pretend that this experience hasn’t changed his view of the world forever. He needs to transform himself once again in order to be accepted back in society, without this last challenge he would be trapped (metaphorically or literally) forever in the Special World.
When the girl tries to find the truth, she realizes out that her father wasn’t an ordinary soldier, but that he had the same superpowers she possesses. He spent his life trying to keep his powers a secret and to live normally, but in the end, his power had the best of him and he took his own life.
The supernatural element of the series (a vague but destructive superpower), is a metaphor for psychological issues. Syd’s power represents anxiety, while her father’s power mirrors a veteran’s PTSD.
The story of a hero who managed to achieve his goal but is too traumatized to be able to live after his adventure is basically a cautionary tale.
Syd’s dad came back from the war to stay with his family, but while he was in the same room as them his mind was elsewhere. He was a hero who never managed to escape the Special World, and was trapped in there forever.
The central conflict of the last episode revolves precisely around The resurrection: will Syd manage to overcome her issues and a normal teenager, or will she follow in her father’s footsteps and take her own life?
The hero’s character arc
A character arc is a mental journey that changes the character for better or for worse during the course of the story.
If a writer uses the hero’s journey to construct a story there’s a fair chance that the protagonist will have to go through a character arc that will change his perspective on the world.
The best way to tell whether the hero has grown or not during his character arc, is to take the decisions he makes at the beginning of the story and compare them to the ones that occur at the end.
While writing a story like that you have to ask yourself two questions:
- Is the hero doing something differently?
- Is this difference a good thing or a bad thing?
While the vast majority of character arcs are aimed at making the protagonist a better person, there are also Negative character arcs that can turn a good (but flawed) person into a trainwreck. The protagonist throws away any chance they get at redemption and keeps making the easy choice instead of the right one.
I’m not Okay with this shows us that Syd went through one of those Negative character arcs like this:
- She adopts a positive attitude and decides to live like a normal teenager
- She is still pretending not to see the elephant in the room
“I guess I have a choice to make. Either I lock myself away from the world and just disappear, let this stuff destroy me too or… I could make pancakes instead!”– I’m not Okay with this
Syd takes a few steps in the right direction (she is more open with her friends and acknowledges her mistakes), but she still refuses to do the one thing that will help her the most (confront her anxiety).
The series gives us the impression The resurrection will lead Syd to happiness, but in reality, she is not ready to go back to her Ordinary World.
“The old self must be proven to be completely dead, and the new self immune to temptations and addictions that trapped the old form.”– The hero with a thousand faces
New Syd might be a happier and warmer person, but she’s still keeping Old Syd’s habit of ignoring her problems instead of solving them. And a surface level change is not enough.
Rescue from without
In The hero with a thousand faces, Joseph Campbell talks about the “Rescue from without”. It’s a phase in The hero’s journey where the protagonist is stuck in a situation similar to death and has to be saved by an ally.
This particular situation doesn’t have to be terrible in order to keep the hero from fulfilling his destiny. Sometimes the hero, like Syd, is simply living his best life thinking that his journey is over and that he doesn’t need to prove himself anymore.
But he is wrong, there’s still one crucial step to take, and if the hero is not going to go through with it, someone will have to force him to.
“Society is jealous of those who remain away from it and will come knocking at the door”– The hero with a thousand faces
Campbell describes a hero who is trapped into a state similar to death (for example the goddess Inanna who is literally trapped in the underworld), and an ally that will come to his rescue.
In I’m not Okay with this, we get the dark inversion of this. Syd is happily living in denial: her friendship with Stanley is strong, and she finds out that she might actually have a chance with her love interest Dina.
But then an enemy (Dina’s jock ex-boyfriend) shows up and forces her to confront her greatest fear of being emotionally exposed and vulnerable.
Her reaction shows that she wasn’t ready to “be rescued”, that she didn’t want to leave her perfect fantasy of being a normal teenager, that she wasn’t ready to complete the journey and go through with The resurrection.
In the book The writer’s journey, Christopher Vogler says that The resurrection is often the stage where the Showdown between hero and villain takes place.
The showdown is nothing but a confrontation between hero and villain. It doesn’t have to be physical, and if the story doesn’t have a specific villain, it might be the moment where the protagonist is forced to confront his own mistakes instead of fighting an enemy.
In I’m not Okay with this, the villain takes the form of the most hated creature in movies with 80s aesthetic: the school jock.
Brad blames Syd for the ending of his relationship with Dina, so he sets his mind into making her pay for it. Fortunately for him, he stumbles upon the diary that contains all of her most intimate secrets.
As Syd is enjoying her blissful high school prom, he jumps on stage and starts reading it to the entire school, making the girl’s worst nightmare come true. Unfortunately for him, the powers that Syd “claims” to have turn out to be real, and he dies before realizing that this was a mistake.
The showdown in this series brings an end to both the external conflict of the story (Brad and Syd fighting over the same girl) and the internal struggle of the protagonist (Syd trying to control her powers).
She might have won the “physical” conflict by killing her enemy, but she has lost her psychological battle by demonstrating that her powers cannot be controlled.
From the ancient Greek, Catharsis means “vomiting up” or “purification” and it refers to the moment where all the emotions (negative and positive) that were accumulated during the story are finally released.
The Catharsis and The resurrection often go hand in hand. Both provide the protagonist with the chance of starting from scratch, to become a new person that is not affected by the mistakes made by the old self.
Unfortunately, Syd’s catharsis ends up turning her into a tragic hero. She has spent most of the series feeling like she has no control over her life (her relationships, her status, her body and even her mind).
Now she has finally learned how to use her powers consciously instead of letting them take over whenever she’s anxious, but the dark turn of this is that she goes too far, becoming a murderer.
Killing Brad gives her control for the first time, but it also turns her story into a cautionary tale about a girl who never learned how to master her anxiety and ended up hurting others because of it.
The resurrection is probably the most emotional stage of The hero’s journey. It forces the protagonist to pass one last test before going back home and to prove that the change he went through were real and meaningful.
Some heroes manage to cross back into the Ordinary world and live on, others (like Syd) get stuck into the Special world because of a fatal mistake.