Mythology and ritual are the same thing. Take a look at Phantom Empire, 1935 Mascot serial. This twelve-episode serial is the worst Western of all time. But buried beneath its trick riding and kid-style secret club is a message as deep as the secret underground queendom of Murania. That’s about twenty-five thousand feet, way down where the Queen’s Imperial Guards speak with a New Jersey accent.
Phantom Empire…The Cliffhanger!
Myths help humans get through the rites of passage that are common to all social levels, all tribes, and all countries. The universal issues of Birth, Death, and Rebirth are hard to handle for volatile adolescents. Hard for staid adults too. We all need role models to teach us how to deal with ourselves and others.(Lemme turn down the shoot-em-up on the TV, I can’t quite hear you. What did you say? How are cowboy movies like myths?)
Look, pilgrim…You take a semi-divinity like John Wayne. Put him up on the silver screen, giant size. Then put him through the Hero Quest, where he must find meaning in the conflict of guns, rustlers, and bar girls. He finds the true meaning of life after the big barroom brawl, and goes on to ride into the sunset, a changed and wiser man. A Hero. Up there on the altar in the theater temple.
In Phantom Empire, the Hero, played by Gene Autry, descends to the Scientific City of Murania. The kids and the two ranch hand clowns follow him there. The Hero finds a secret tunnel and gets blown up, starting his underground journey.
(Perils of Post-Adolescent Pauline! The Queen holds on to her rank the way she holds on to her stiff foundation garments.)
Queenie spies on Gene Autry, a lot, and commands that he be brought before her ALIVE.
(Go for it, Queenie!)
Who needs the breathing mask, and where? Ahh, who cares! After six episodes in a row, I had a hard time telling telling Gene Autry from the weaselly uranium prospector from the Queen’s evil henchman. I look at the horse to make sure. The one who sings is Autry.
Archetypes are the shorthand of storytellers. The Hero/Trickster confronts the Evil Queen, and also the Dastardly Scientist Uranium Rustlers.
The Hero survives many cliffhangers, cycle of death and rebirth, where the tapestry of reality is torn and rewoven. Did the Hero die in the Place of Peril, the Lightning Chamber? Did he find his way to the Cavern of Doom? Will he still be able to speak the Language of the Dead when he is reborn?
Stay tuned for the next thrilling episode, boys and girls!
And now a word from our sponsor…remember that Rice Krinkles makes your breakfast as much fun as a circus! So get your mom, the semi-divinity, to buy you some the next time she goes to the grocery store!
by guest blogger batboy42!
Now a word from bucko, the blog sponsor. You go on out and act heroic now! Stay tuned for part three, on Death, Rebirth, and what does it all mean anyway….