The hero is facing down the final boss. He is out of ammo. His support team is down. There is nowhere to run. Suddenly, he has a crazy idea. Beyond all odds, the hero achieves victory because of that idea. This plot trope frequently appears in all mediums of myth and pop culture, but where does it come from? What does it mean? And why do we keep seeing it?
That Crazy Idea
The crazy idea is actually called, “Supernatural Aid.” Supernatural Aid can come in many forms; it doesn’t have to be the crazy idea. It can be divine intervention, a lucky shot, an unexpected support character, or a random accident. The Supernatural Aid is the catalyst that turns a chain of events in favor of the hero despite the odds.
The term Supernatural Aid was first written about by mythologist Joseph Campbell. He was the first to recognize the pattern of the Monomyth. Campbell was a student of psychoanalyst Carl Jung who taught and studied character archetypes and how those related to people’s personalities. Jung is the origin of where we get introversion and extroversion personality types as well as the source of “The Force” in Star Wars.
From Jung to Campbell to Star Wars, the path doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. But in reality, it does. Supernatural Aid comes from “Willed Irrational Introversion” which is behavior repeated by the Jedi in all of the Star Wars myth. “Look inside yourself, Luke. Use the Force.” Then, at the last minute, Luke uses the force to bury the missile into the Death Star, blowing it to smithereens. The Jedi cannot function without knowing and using Willed Irrational Introversion.
The Paths of Conflict
So, the Hero is out of ammo. His support characters are unable to help. Communications to the outside have ceased. His hit points are low. There is nowhere to run. The final boss stands before him, and the fate of the world in his hands. The only aid he can call on for help is divine.
The heroes path of trials that lead him to the climax of the story has been fraught with conflict. This list of conflict types have been traditionally taught as three kinds, man v. man, man v. himself, and man v. nature. However, there is one more on the list that isn’t discussed which is man v. divine. This doesn’t always mean that man goes full fight club at a divine being, although that is one possibility. It also means that the hero struggles with his own inner divinity.
How to Train your Dragon
In How to Train Your Dragon, Hiccup saves the people of Berk by leading his friends to the island nest. There, he and his friends defeat the primordial dragon, and it changes the minds of the people of Berk that dragons and people can live in harmony with each other. Having dragons as help is an irrational idea for the people of Berk as dragons are the cause of trouble, not the answer.
The entire Doctor Who franchise is based on how a time-traveling alien saves the universe with his crazy ideas. For example, one of the most irrational crazy idea that the Doctor has had so far is in the episode, “The Day of the Doctor“. To save his home planet, Gallifrey, from the Daleks, all previous incarnations of the Doctor showed up in orbit around the planet. Then, he froze Gallifrey to a pocket dimension. During this episode, the Doctor crosses a few of his own timelines, which is forbidden.
“My will is as strong as yours, my kingdom as great. You have no power over me.” In Labyrinth, Sarah accepted her own inner power and divinity. Earlier, Sarah felt like a victim with no power over her situation. The thought that she had any power or control was an irrational thought. But as she faced the Goblin King, Sarah understood her importance to herself, to Toby, and to Jareth. The King would never have bothered her if she didn’t have a power of her own. Jareth told her that she did and that he wanted it, but Sarah was not willing to hand it over. The irrational part of her suddenly made sense and Sarah took control over herself and became the ruler of it.
Swiss Army Man
Finally, the most brilliant and bizarre example of the irrational thought is Swiss Army Man. The story features a severely depressed young man rediscovering the value of life with the aid of a corpse. It is all about Supernatural Aid from inside and outside a person’s head and the importance of both perspectives.
The Struggle of a Hero’s Value
A hero character will eventually struggle with his own importance to his world. If the hero is in balance with his personal divinity, he can call on it in his time of greatest need and rely on it appearing. But, to do that, he must willingly give himself over to the most irrational part of his brain. This part of him may tell him to “make a banana daiquiri.” The hero’s job is to trust in that irrationality and take the banana out of his pocket.
This is important because this is what characters do. It doesn’t matter if the character is fictional or not. We create our myths based on the human condition. In the aggressive primordial days of our existence, many people stood before the savage beast and prayed for salvation in the face of death. Every hero must go through the steps of the monomythic path. Every person is their own hero. All heroes need Supernatural Aid.
Ultimately, that is one of the major conflict struggles for any hero. How can someone with no power and all the flaws of humanity be the chosen hero? Or in other words, “How could I have that much value to the world?” Only The Force can answer that. And the hero must accept the answer, even if that answer is “because you are the one with the banana.”
Willed Irrational Introversion is chalked up to a crazy idea because the idea is only irrational before a set of parameters, not after. Humans perform this every day without realizing where it comes from or its importance to the world. It is so ingrained in our behavior it has become a part of the human condition. Thus, we see it repeat in our pop culture and our myth.
Be a Jedi
Humanity faces dangers untold and hardships unnumbered every day on a multi-leveled spectrum from individual to global. When the chips are down, and the odds are against us, we must rely on the eternal force of creativity. We need our crazy ideas. It is our sword and shield. Willed irrational introversion guides us through the path of conflict. It raises us up to be the hero of our own story. Each of us can be a Jedi and be the example of a hero. Thus, it keeps the human in the human condition.
Read more in our Myth in Pop Culture series here.