We are honored to share Mythology Scholar, Anime Expert, and Voice Actor, Crispin Freeman’s answers to our questions. Crispin actually inspired me to explore the idea of presenting the female journey in a whole new light. He eloquently stated that, “I’m very fond of magical girl shows like Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon and Escaflowne. I wish American animation had more female hero journey stories.”
Please zenjoy our interview of Crispin Freeman sharing his knowledge and hard-won insights about the female hero’s journey.
1. How did you get into anime?
When I was young, I was always fascinated by cartoons. I watched everything animated I could get my hands on, no matter the source. When I was 6 years old, my father yelled at me for watching too many cartoons. His criticism was probably motivated more because I wasn’t doing my homework and less because he disapproved of the medium of animation. Nevertheless, I remember making myself a promise when I was 6 years old that when I became an adult I would still like cartoons.
It wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized that some of my absolute favorite cartoons were made in Japan. When I was younger I didn’t realize that animation could be made in different countries. However, when I was in high school, the anime series Robotech was being broadcast on television and I was captivated by it. I realized that Robotech was Japanese in origin and that in fact all of my favorite cartoons from my childhood were Japanese. That’s when I became aware that I was a fan of anime.
I lost touch with anime when I was in college (this is in the days before the world wide web) but reconnected with anime when I went to grad school in New York City for acting. There was a store that sold anime videos on VHS tape. Also, back then the Sci-Fi channel was airing anime on Saturday mornings. Both of these new avenues for exploring anime rekindled my interest in the medium and I’ve been involved in the anime industry ever since.
2. What fascinates you about female hero journeys?
I think what fascinates me about female hero journeys is that they tend to be more emotionally and spiritually nuanced. The traditional male “doing” hero journey usually involves some sort of external activity or quest like slaying a dragon. Those types of male hero journeys are plentiful across cultures. What is more rare are the traditionally female “becoming” hero journeys that tend to be more focused on emotional or spiritual development and less focused on swinging swords or fighting battles. “Doing” hero journeys tend to be physical while “Becoming” hero journeys tend to be spiritual. Either gender can embark on either hero journey. A man, like Prince Siddhartha, can go on a becoming journey in order to become the spiritual leader known as the Buddha. Conversely, a woman, like Joan of Arc, can go on a doing journey in order to become a physical hero. You can also have a hero that does both at the same time. The prophet Mohammed was both a spiritual and a military leader in Islam.
Unfortunately, if you look back over history, the female hero journey has not gotten nearly the attention either creatively or scholastically that the male hero journey has. There are fewer female hero journeys in mythology and those journeys usually get less attention than their male counterparts in academics. However, there’s never been more of a need for strong female hero journeys than there is right now. Fortunately, some pop culture storytellers are filling that gap and creating female heroes that young women can identify with and model themselves after. I think it’s important to study those female heroes, to talk about how and why they are compelling so that girls can have more opportunities to find psychological role models that appeal to them. I think a preponderance of meaningful female heroes in pop culture storytelling will also have a beneficial effect on men. Sexism is a destructive force in almost every culture on the planet. This widespread chauvinism not only hurts women, but it damages men’s psyches as well. They learn modes of interacting with women that are demeaning rather than respectful and mutually beneficial. I think young men need to see female hero journeys and understand them as much as young girls do. It will help them realize that they do not have to conform to some macho archetype that insists on dominating the opposite sex in order to feel secure.
I myself never identified with that macho archetype and many times looked to other types of characters in order to find psychological models for myself. Female hero journeys are important to me not only to help ameliorate the vast inequalities between women and men than continue to damage our society, but I also look to those female heroes as a role model outside of sexists attitudes to allow me to be free from the pressure to be macho that I felt through most of my childhood.
3. Who is your favorite female hero? Why?
I’m not sure I have a single favorite female hero. I’m very fond of Nausciaa from Miyazaki’s first film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. I think the character of Sarah from the movie Labyrinth is also pretty great. Ripley from Aliens is awesome. Buffy and Willow from Buffy the vampire slayer are pretty amazing. There’s lots of great female heroes in the anime show Revolutionary Girl Utena. I’m also fond of the characters in Sailor Moon. And I have a soft spot in my heart for Captain Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager, the first Star Trek show to have a female captain, even though some people think the show is not very well written. I’ve always been far more comfortable when women are in positions of authority. I’m an old-school Doctor Who fan and I look forward to the day when we can have a female doctor. That would be amazing. It was done once in a parody, but never with serious intent. The closest I think we’ve had is Romana, the time lord woman who travelled with the 4th Doctor. I really like Lalla Ward’s portrayal of her.
4. How did you get into voice over?
I talk about how I broke into voice acting in detail in episodes 4 and 5 of my Voice Acting Mastery podcast that you can listen to at http://www.voiceactingmastery.com
In a nutshell, I was a theatrical actor who had always had a passion for Japanese animation. At a summer theater festival, a friend of mine caught me watching anime and offered to put me in touch with a studio in NY that dubbed Japanese animation. I sent them a recording of a radio play that I had acted in and produced and eventually I was able to audition for a show. I booked a small role at first and then was able to audition for larger roles. Eventually, I reached the limit of what I could achieve in New York and decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue voice acting more full time.
Thank you profusely for joining the FunZen Girls and our com-passionate, playful and practical approach while we discuss the Female Hero Journey. In our next blog, we’ll be sharing a fun illuminating interview with the beloved Linda Ballantyne, voice of Sailor Moon.
Linda’s Twitter : @LABallantyne
Linda’s Radio Show : http://www.imjustsayingals.com/