Another week, another Star Wars reference. I swear, this ends come spring. Or March. Whatever arrives first. I can’t read the calendar from where I’m sitting. Enough about me though. Remember Luke Skywalker, from Star Wars? Now remember Mitch Martin, Luke Wilson’s character from Old School?
They aint that much different. And here’s why. There’s a method to their madness per se. It’s called the Hero’s Journey, a term coined by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero With A Thousand Faces. The “hero’s journey” refers to a step by step process that a hero embarks upon during his or her transformation in life. Buddha, Moses, Frodo Baggins and Jesus all did it, on much the same path. Luke Skywalker’s path has already been documented fairly well, but I don’t think anyone has touched upon the journey of Mitch Martin, so here goes. And I’ll illustrate the path from start to finish with some examples, just in case.
Our journey begins quite simply, The Call To Adventure: In Mitch’s case, this happens when he catches his girlfriend hosting gang bangs, moves out on his own not far from a college campus and is asked by his friends to host “Mitchapalooza.” He entertains their request, and the party is a hit, giving him and his friends a newfound air of legitimacy on campus. (In Luke’s case, it’s finding Princess Leia’s message inside of R2-D2.)
Moving right along, we arrive at Refusal of the Call: After the party, and the newfound air of legitimacy, Mitch is asked to head up an all-inclusive fraternity, which will be based at his house. He refuses. (Luke does the same, only he doesn’t want to leave home, not host parties at his uncle’s moisture farm.)
Next up comes what Joseph Campbell called Supernatural Aid: In Luke’s case, this was when Obi-Wan gave Luke a lightsaber, which would in turn guide him through the rest of his life. In Old School, it’s not so plain to the eyes. There isn’t a supernatural element to the all-inclusive frat, but I’m pretty sure that Mitch and his friends drink a beer when deciding whether or not to turn his house into a frat. That’s kinda supernatural, right? This is also around the time in the movie when Mitch begins to be referred to as the “Godfather.” And I guess the other worldly tone to that nickname would be the obvious choice here.
And now onto The Crossing of The Threshold: OK, maybe the order of the journey is slightly askew, but how does Mitch Martin, the fairly responsible 30-something lawyer, cross a threshold into becoming known as the “Godfather?” Simple, he sleeps with his boss’s underage daughter. (Luke, umm, he went to Mos Eisley and drank at the cantina. Probably not as fun, but a threshold nonetheless.)
Now what comes next? The Belly of The Whale, the thick of “Holy shit, where in the hell am I?”: It’s a spiritual, somewhat seemingly wet rebirth of sorts. Jesus got baptized. Mitch Martin endures a few bouts of basement KY-Jelly wrestling. (Meanwhile, Luke gets a drink thrown on him in the cantina, and of course, he’s the the fall guy to get pulled underwater when in the Death Star’s trash compactor.)
From here, we move onto Initiation, which in itself has a few separate sub-sections. The first of which is called The Road of Trials, which is easy enough to contrast with Old School since these guys are pledging a frat. What else is there but trials? For Luke, this would be the entire escapade on the Death Star. For Mitch, this would mean getting some of your drinking buddies to tie one end of rope to their unmentionables, the other to a cinder block, and throw that shit off a roof. Hero’s indeed.
And here’s where it gets a little murky. The traditional Hero’s Journey moves into the role of parents, such as Mother As Goddess and Atonement of the Father, before ultimately moving onto Apotheosis. For Old School purposes, I am removing the role of mother and father, and replacing them with brother and brother. Old School was a fraternity, and divisions were ultimately drawn between Mitch, Frank and Beanie while on Mitch’s journey. But in the end, he restores hope to the fraternity, mends his relationships with both Frank and Beanie and insures that the fraternity is allowed to survive, leading his brothers through a test of trials. Much the same way as Frodo, Sam and the rest of his hobbit crew split up and regroup during The Lord of the Rings. We weren’t presented with any parental trials, just the trials among friends. (Oh, and we should all know the Luke spiel here….)
But I’m forgetting about the Apotheosis. This would be the culmination of everything that the brothers had fought for, and yes, it’s winning status as an actual fraternity at the school. You didn’t have to look far for that. But for Mitch, it was more. He rose above his traditional expectations and actually became the “Godfather,” inspiring those around him into greatness and not backing down from a fight. (Luke, again, we all know what happened with him. He shot down the Death Star.)
From here, we move onto Return. Mitch and the fraternity have conquered the powers that be, and earned their right to exist on campus. He must now return to the life he left. So he moves out of the original frat house and gets back to his life as a 30-something lawyer, though his legend is not soon forgotten. And by becoming a legend, he transcends traditional life and death. He has completed the journey of the hero.
Like Jesus Christ, Frodo Baggins, Buddha and Luke Skywalker before him, Mitch Martin has become a monomyth. I still can’t wrap my head around what Will Ferell’s character Frank Riccard though. That’s the (other) stuff that legends are made of.