Modern Mythology 101: What Are You Teaching Your Audience?

Mythologist, teacher, and author Joseph Campbell said that the purpose of mythology was to teach people how to live their lives. That would explain why so many myths endured for so long.

As different as our modern world is from ancient times, it's nearly impossible to see how these stories apply to the lives we live today. So where does our current mythology comes from? I think it comes from books and movies. Maybe even video games. That kind of makes what we write today really important, I think.

But isn't romance just light, fluff reading? Housewife porn, some call it. Surely nothing to take seriously. Only suitable for air-headed girls.

But doesn't the romance genre speak to us about how we should treat each other? About how to value ourselves? About what a relationship between men and women should be? These are important lessons. And the audience is bigger than we think it is.

Some time ago, I read Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ayaan was raised as a Muslim in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya. She later became a member of Parliament in the Netherlands and this is her story. It's quite an amazing story, too, and I recommend it highly. My point in mentioning it here is that one of the fascinating tidbits she relates is how she and other young Muslim girls used to read Harlequin category romances on the sly. These books were her introduction to the idea that a woman might be treated as a man's equal. The one-man, one-woman relationships made these stories almost fairy tales, they were so far out of her frame of reference. The stories didn't cause any sudden liberation tendencies in these girls, but they did put a seed in her mind. One that helped her adjust later, when she so bravely left the Muslim world behind.

One of the lessons I learned from her story is that you never know who might read your story or what the impact on them might be. Even if what you're writing is "only" romance.

I'd love to know what modern "mythologies" took seed in your mind and how they shaped your thinking.


  1. Very interesting blog post! I enjoyed reading. I think that the whole battle of good vs. evil and how good somehow will trump has shaped my thinking (and my writing.) :)

  2. Good vs. evil. Isn't that the basis of most mythology? And so telling, Rebecca, that we seem to gravitate toward that, no matter what we read.