Jacques Maritain Center: Ethics Without God?

Without God: Resentment and Utopia in Mainstream Fiction[0]

Paolo Braga

Robert McKee, a famous theorician on scriptwriting, following Aristotle says that story, as well as philosophical argument, is a way of answering the question "how a man should live his life"[1]. A story, in fact, always carries within it an anthropological conception, telling how and why a man, choosing certain behaviour, decides about himself.

Keeping this statement in mind, my aim is to highlight the core elements of the idea of happiness suggested by a particular narrative model called "The Hero's Journey". This model is both a standard sequence of events and a stock of conventional dramatic roles widely used by professional movie and TV scriptwriters. The importance of the dramatic structure prescribed by "The Hero's Journey" is great because the narrative schema it suggests is nowadays the most used in Hollywood. It is a source of inspiration to which almost every important scriptwriter is familiar: from The Lion King to The Truman Show, from Rocky and E.T. to Face/Off, its conception of the timing of plot and of the narrative functions of characters is manifest behind the surface of numerous stories.

Firstly, I will show the cultural roots of the Hero's Journey. The theorician of scriptwriting Chris Vogler considered this model as a creative tool in order to make the categories of myth a source of inspiration for writing fiction[2]. Currently, in many movies the Hero's Journey is applied only in its more evident aspects: in these cases -- for example, Gladiator or A Beautiful Mind -- the model is merely exploited to decide the order of the events in the plot, when to make them happen, and to set the basic relationships between characters. In my paper I will not consider these cases showing a superficial use of the Hero's Journey. My intent is to focus on those movies which not only adopt the model as a method of building appealing narrative structures, but which are also fully faithful to its profound meaning, accepting its philosophical premises. These premises, if well analyzed, imply an ethic without God.

Secondly, I will stress how characters make their moral choices in those movies in which the model described by Vogler receives a radical acceptance, that is to say, I will focus on the moral criteria that these productions offer the audience.

Finally, following both some of the ideas of Hans Jonas and the sociological research of Colin Campbell, I will produce an anthropological definition of contemporary narrative imagery.

1. The Hero's Journey: a seminal model of narration.

According to Vogler's categories, to engage viewers, at the beginning of a film a character should be conceived as a person who lives a stable but rather problematic life. His existence is satisfying only in appearance, because his personality hides weaknesses -- sometimes in terms of values, more often, when the model is strictly respected, both in terms of the capacity of accepting reality and in terms of psychological inhibitions. The real story of a main character, then, begins when a messanger interrupts his daily routine and calls him to the adventure. If the hero answers positively, he enters a new dimension, assisted by an old and expert mentor: the hero leaves the ordinary, apparently well-known world, to make a journey in a special, unknown land. Here, after hard training, having overcome many trials, and having defeated his antagonist in a supreme ordeal, the character will attain full knowledge of himself. In this way, his personality will be completed; the different sides of his psyche will be balanced; the person will become strong enough to deal with the fatal flaw.

The more important result of the character's efforts is therefore a fresh, new glance at life. It is the attitude of feeling in harmony with the world and with people, now seen in a perspective -- perhaps eccentric but profound -- rooted in the experience of truth: the truth he has gained through his extrordinary journey. In other words, it is possible to say that the hero returns in his ordinary world empowered with "an elisir".

This frame is easily recognizable in many worldwide successful productions. The frame corresponds, for example, to the plot of Star Wars[3]: Luke Skywalker is called to adventure by two smart robots; then he is trained by Obi-Wan Kenobi and by Joda and learns how to use the clear side of the Force that is inside himself. Luke understands therefore how to dominate his anger while still being a fighter, how to move objects with his thought. Thus, in the end, he will conquer Darth Vader, master of the dark side of the Force.

Another good example is Dead Poets' Society[4]: Prof. Keating arrives in a severely ruled high school where he teaches his students the real essence of life. The teenagers in his class learn that passionate creativity means freedom; they learn that inspiration means liberation and that, by losing it, life becomes full of lies. Although not everyone is able to maintain this attitude (there is a shocking suicide of a student oppressed by a paranoid father), truth will have been revealed.

A similar frame, again, constitutes the plot of a more recent success: The Sixth Sense[5]. In this movie, the ghost of a psychiatrist learns to accept his condition as a dead man, by teaching a phobic child with paranormal capacities to communicate with the lonely spirits of murdered people and with his mother too.

Finally, similarly, the same story is told in The Matrix[6]: Neo, a hacker, finds out that his ordinary world is an illusion, that his usual life is an electronic simulation generated by a tyrannic system of machines to dominate mankind. With the help of Morpheus and of a group of rebels who believe that he is predestined to save everyone, Neo will learn both what the real world is like and how to manage with the global illusion he is in.

2. The philosophical conception behind the model.

A short philological inquiry proves how the idea of ethics guiding stories of this kind excludes God. The inquiry makes clear that this occurs not just because God isn't mentioned -- in fact He is sometimes present in a movie through symbols: the Cross, a Church, a statue of Christ. Fiction of this genre, on the contrary, subtly suggests the idea that the natural order, as a premise which, intelligible by reason, should lead to the notion of a personal God who created everything because of his love, is not the right premise if one wants to find the truth.

Chris Vogler's The Hero's Journey is in fact a synthesis, aimed at mainstream showbusinessmen, of a longer essay by Joseph Campbell: The Hero with a Thousand Faces[7]. Treading in the wake of Jung's analytical psychology, Campbell thinks that myth, to which he reduces also revealed religion, is a privileged way of arriving at truth about the meaning of existence. In Campbell's point of view, myth, and not philosophical thought in the western, classical meaning, tells in a symbolical manner what man is and what he ought to be.

In Campbell's opinion, myths of all cultures, if subjected to a comparative approach, depict the same anthropological idea and the same model of existence as the one ordered for happiness. The truth coming from myths consists in the persuasion that the ideal course of existence is in its essence an initiation passage which develops through three steps: separation from the world -- initiation -- return. For Campbell, these stages cover the distance between ignorance and knowledge, in explicit conformity with the gnostic philosophy, which he conceives as the western version of Buddhism and, in general, whole oriental thought[8].

This position basically means three points: a gnoseological one and an anthropological one, both depending on a third one, a metaphysical vision. In a gnoseological perspective, mythology tells us a secret: the object of our senses, and of our emotions, is just an illusion, a kaleidoscopic pattern of forms that veils true reality[9].

Secondly, in an anthropological perspective, man's reason is unable to grasp the truth: reason is inevitably drawn away by its attitude to the accentuation of opposites, while the subject is suspended between the misleading impulses of desire, fear and duty[10].

In the third place, in a metaphysical perspective and on a more fundamental level, true reality is an ocean of energy from which everything comes and into which everything dissolves; fragments of this power, sparks of it, constitute the core of each person who, enlightened by an esoteric knowledge, become aware of their belonging to the whole, like a drop of water belongs to the sea.

It's remarkable how Campbell correctly deduces from this premise the function of virtue, using words which are worth citing directly:

. . . mythology does not hold as its greatest hero the merely virtuous man. Virtuous is but the pedagogical prelude to the culminating insight, which goes beyond all pairs of opposites. Virtue quells the self-centered ego and makes the transpersonal centeredness possible; but when that has been achieved, what then of the pain or pleasure, vice or virtue, either of our own ego or of any other? Through all, the transcendent force is then perceived which lives in all, in all is wonderful, and is worhy, in all, of our profound obeisance[11].

3. The influence of Joseph Campbell on some representations of happiness in contemporary cinema.

It is interesting to consider more in detail how the gnostic view of Campbell influences mainstream narrative immagery. That is to say, it is interesting to see how it influences the Aristotelian idea of narration, entirely based on the notion of virtue, of natural law and of likelihood -- an idea strongly present in American productions introduced by directors such as Frank Capra and John Ford. Indeed, Campbell's view does exert an influence. It is honestly declared, among many others, by Peter Weir[12] himself, George Lucas, and John Milius[13]. Night M. Shyamalan, for example, gave a significant answer when asked about the motif of faith, a motif that is developed through his movies:

. . . it's basically this faith, believing in fate. Believing that ... [as] Joseph Campbell [said], "Take the adventure that's being offered to you." . . . There will be guides to help you along the way, and if you refuse it, you will experience a negative adventure in the same way through your life.[14]

My point is that a shift is perceivable in some contemporary cinema in the depiction of the telos of characters: it is a different idea from the narrative ending of a movie. The hope for a liberation from the constraints of everyday life tends to substitute the intimate assimilation of values granted by virtuous attitudes.

In Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life[15] George Bailey regains his hope, hope in the help of the community for his commitment in the concreteness of family in his social environment. Instead, in Dead Poets' Society, viewers are invited to an euphoric assertion of the Id, which is no longer a personal Id, but is the Ego of the group who has attained knowledge and whose members can share the same powerful current of energy. That is why during an intense sequence, while kicking a ball in a football field where Prof. Keating is healing the spirit of his students, one of them cries "I'm like God!".

In the same way, the ending of The Sixth Sense shows that the once phobic child is "now ready to communicate", that is to say, ready to feel compassion or, more precisely, to feel strong empathy with others, ready to feel the vibration of life. Similarly, in The Matrix, Neo, after his enlightenment, is able to enter the time of everything, even to enter "the bullet time".

If what has been described so far is correct, it is then possible to point out some of the elements of the ethical vision that is behind characters like those examined.

It is an ethic based on an illusory self-knowledge that is restricted to an instantaneous revelation. In fact, either the character finds the way of the gnosis and (as Campbell himself observes) can then live in an eternal ectasy because of the "eternal elisir", or, like the students of Weir, like Neo before meeting the rebels, like the child in The Sixth Sense, he feels predetermined by his past. The past is a veil which has deceived any possibility of attaining the meaning of life.

In effect, even when the secret knowledge is gained, it is often a matter of predestination. The importance of predestination bypasses that of a moral choice which is rooted in the rational evaluation of things: this is, for example, the meaning of Signs[16], the last movie by Shyamalan, in which the main character in the end understands that the last words of his dying wife had been a premonition of the way he would have saved his son from the aliens.

It is therefore possible to say that the subject either is happy because his praxis no longer meets restrictions, or he resents destiny, because it hasn't chosen him. And because destiny is an impersonal entity, resentment easily shifts against the subject himself. In Dead Poets' Society, in fact, the student who commits suicide because of the prohibition to become an actor resents both his father's strict mentality and his own existence.

In the second place, the ethic at stake seems to be quite blind towards family life. It is much more sensible to the sentimental affair between a man and a woman as an event in which one experiments for the first time the energy of the whole. Experiencing romantic love, man is rescued through an enthusiastic reaction from the acceptation of the world as it is in its appearances.

In Campbell's point of view, love is the encounter with the Goddess[17], which is the origin of the cosmic force. By the light of the affinity of this theory with Jungian categories, love means first of all a shock that creates a new balance in personality, originating a harmony between its gender identity, often problematic in the beginning, and the whole. For example, in Dead Poets' Society, again, the experience of first love is placed in the broader context of the enlightenment of the students. Love is a self-referred event; it's mainly the origin of a new self-knowledge; it has a therapeutic effect.

This is also the case, for example, of the main character in the movie Good Will Hunting[18], in which love and psychological therapy are explicitly linked. But the conception of gender identity as the result of an initiation process which cures an originally imbalanced personality is widely represented. The most famous example may be Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs[19], in which Hannibal Lecter, in spite of being a serial-killer, is a mentor, a psychiatrist guiding agent Clarece Starling, forced, in a male role, to discover her female sensibility[20].

The same discovery takes place in Titanic[21] by the main character troughout her relation with the artist intepreted by Di Caprio, who, having accomplished his mission, will die in the end.

My point, therefore, is that moral judgment and moral conscience are weakened by a frame in which ethical reasoning tends to be substituted by an extraordinary experience, so concentrated that it seems insufficient to embrace the course of an entire life and its daily commitment. The person fluctuates between utopia and resentment, because the subject of its telos is thought only in psychological terms. Significantly, in the second part of his book, Campbell approaches gnostic cosmology passing "From Psychology to Metaphysics."[22]

4. Adolescence and work in some TV long running series.

On the basis of these considerations, I'll try to test the correctness of my argument paying attention to a different kind of fiction: long running TV series. I feel that this widening of perspective will support my thesis: I believe that the elements I have pointed out starting from the "Hero's journey" are indicative of a significant trend in our culture.

It seems to me that those elements depict an influence that converges with other cultural and ethical models in building a globalized mentality which refuses to think of happiness in relation to God, and hence can't find happiness[23].

I will concentrate on the representation of adolescence and on that of professional work. I have chosen two series, Dawson's Creek and E.R.. Both are global successes, and both great examples of productions, the former representing teenagers, and the latter young professionals.

Dawson's Creek[24] tells the story of a small group of students during their high school years. Each one has serious problems either with family or in accepting the new kind of responsibilities and affective relationships connected with growth. To understand the ethical model proposed by this fiction, it is necessary to know the dramatic concept of the series from the words of its creator, Kevin Williamson:

My teenagers are self-aware and smart and they talk like they have 10 years of therapy and they have all the answers. But their behavior completely contradicts that. Their behavior is that of a 15-year-old, inexperienced and not sure of the next step[25].

This is the anthropological premise of Dawson: a premise which creates never ending problems to its characters, translating them into numerous events which have to be told thus lenghtening the series, providing innumerable exciting episodes for the audience.

The existential dynamism of such characters seems to be ruled by the fluctuation between utopia and resentment presented above. In this series, in fact, dialogues always activate the same pattern: the sequence of lines pronounced by two characters during a conversation invariably re-propose a climax from resentment to utopia. Obviously, the matter at stake is how difficult, how painful it is to become an adult: sentimental frustrations, obsession with sex, anguish about the future at college. One of the two characters who at the moment is suffering, resentful towards adults because of their utiliarian style of life, asks for his friend's advice. The friend, then, tries to relieve the pain of his companion resorting to a weak form of wisdom, what remains from a traditional morality if its anthropological reason is completely forgotten.

Two crucial elements are clear at this point. The first element is that the aim of the young therapist is identical to his patient's: how to preserve and to cultivate the emotional, though painful inspiration, which is an essential part of the adolescence experience. Secondly, the patient, in his pain, actually knows very well that the help he is receiving is not grounded in any different truth from the one he already possesses.

That's why the role of the wise friend very soon becomes that of an incompetent one. His words have the mere effect of giving the other character new confidence in himself, not a solution. The teenager who in the beginning of the dialogue was suffering, by the end of it has understood that what counts is exactly the strong emotion he wanted to end. Not only that, but he is also now so enlightened and so tuned in with the secret feelings of the apparently wise friend that he can tell him the truth: these strong emotions are the only possible condition for communicating with each other. There is no communication without empathy, without an intense fusion of the same emotion. Of course, this utopian conclusion sets the premise for a new climax that will start as soon as a new aspect of the emotional energy will strike a character.

Like growth, professional work is another crucial condition to attain happiness. In this case, as well, if the idea of a amorous creation is cancelled, work cannot be thought of as a way of receiving the world as a gift. The representation given of it by mainstream fiction seems to prove that there is no other choice than that between utopia and resentment. The seminal series E.R.[26] has shown emblematically the constant shifting between these extremes.

At the first-aid ward of the policlinical hospital in Chicago, a staff of workaholic physicians cope night and day with the medical emergencies of the city: crowds of patients in panic swarm into the hospital, making it impossible for the main characters to live private lives. Their only clear moral value seems to be resistence, like a soldier in war. In E.R. the enemy is death, the illness of patients which means absence of meaning. That's why the existence of characters, like their job, rapidly shifts from sequences of stasis, waiting for the next attack, to moments of explosive tension, during emergencies. While not declaring it, characters feed the illusion of the end of strain, the illusory chance of ending their work forever.[27]

In E.R. duty is the main cause of resentment. It's felt as an impossible mission, without knowing who the mandator is. The normative constraints of work tend to overshadow the constructive side of it. The fear of having made a mistake, for example during an operation, is so strong, that the praxis of characters is always oppressed by the sting of their conscience. The hospital is like an arena in which guilt is ever present.

In routine periods dialogues reveal conflicting and inquisitive attitudes. Each one, ready to a defensive reaction, approach colleagues teasing their weakest point, in the secret awareness that there is a "ghost in everyone's closet".

Living every day on the edge of nonsense, they have seen its many faces. In E.R. the protagonists, as in the noir genre, are hard-boiled characters. They have definitely lost their hope for enlightenment: they are almost persuaded that any decision they take will be a moral compromise, a surrender to the absence of a moral truth.

So, while they are thrown in an unintelligible universe, their refuge, again, is utopia. This latter now cosists of the arousal which is caused by the climaxes of professional effort. Only when the physicians are "losing" a patient, only when the deadline is impending over them, do they know what to do and, above all, they feel bonded: again, characters can communicate only when their emotions explode.

5. Conclusion: contemporary narrative imagery in the light of Hans Jonas and Colin Campbell's thoughts.

To conclude my paper, I will refer to the thought of a philosopher who has studied gnosis in great depth, Hans Jonas. I will underline its congruence with the analysis of consumeristic mentality developed by a sociologist, Colin Campbell.

In his classical article Gnosticism and Modern Nihilism[28], Jonas establishes a parallelism between gnosticism and existentialism. In his opinion, both positions are conviced of the abyss of alienation that is between man and the world, a world to which God, whether or not conceived in immanentistic terms, is indifferent.

For Gnosticism, Jonas says, "the world is the product, and even essentially the embodiment, of the negation of knowledge. What it reveals is an unenlightened and therefore malignant force."[29] It's refusal of law, the "antinomism" of gnosticism, is not so different from "the subversion of the idea of law in Heidegger's interpretation of Nietszche"[30]. The existentialistic freedom from a silent God, its idea of a "trans-essential freely "projecting" existence"[31] which can't find any clue in nature correspond to the negative gnoseologic statements of Gnosis.

Most of all, Gnosticism and Existentialism share the same belittlement of the present as a temporal dimension in which praxis could find its realization. Jonas cites the assertion of the Valentinian gnostic school: "What makes us free is the knowledge of who we were, what we have become; where we were, wherein we have been thrown; whereto we speed, where from we are redeemed; what is birth and what is rebirth"[32]. In this context, present is reduced to "the moment of gnosis itself, the peripety from the one to the other in a supreme crisis of the escatological now"[33].

Now, analyzing the categories of existence posed by Heidegger, Jonas notes that also in this case the present is annihilated. Existentialism reduces the present to the moment of the decision which originates from the reaction between the projected future and the given past: "moment, not duration, is the temporal mode of this present -- a creature of the other two horizons of time, a function of their ceaseless dynamics, and no independent dimension to dwell on."[34].

In both cases, therefore, "No present remains for genuine existence to repose in."[35] I'm suggesting in this discussion that the past is the one of resentment against destiny, the future is the one of the utopia of a perennial enlightenment in this present life.

All these elements can be seen in the light of what Colin Campbell says in his The Romantic Ethic and The Spirit of Modern Consumerism[36].

The thesis of this author maintains Weber's statement of the importance of the Protestant ethic as a precondition for capitalism. Campbell, however, goes further: he underlines a hidden side of the Protestant abnegation and ascetism: an emotivistic drive toward introspection and autostimulation of emotion (do my feelings prove that I have been justified?). This drive, as a stimulus for the demand of goods, was a fertile ground for consumeristic imagination. The cultural mediation operated by the Romantic Movement magnified the drive and, under the influence both of novel and of advertising (two contemporary inventions), it shifted the emotivism in direction of a dreamed, idealized reality.

To Campbell, this scenario is still alive, and mass media have enhanced it. He notes that nowadays, in middle class families, the young adult abandons his adolescence, which is romantic and bohemian, to enter into an adulthood which is ruled by rationalistic-utilitarian principles. He will preserve in any case his inflated imagination as an escaping system, as a secret utopian shell defending his dream of happiness.

It seems to me that technocracy and romanticism play the same role as the one played by ascetism and by libertarianism in Gnosticism. Jonas, in fact, observes that these last two moral figures are consequential to the gnostic depreciation of natural law. Ascetism as a disdainful condemnation of ordinary life norms and libertarianism as a proud reaction to its fallacy are two faces of the same coin[37].

Now, considering the plots of some mainstream fiction, and considering what Colin Campbell says, the conclusion of the present discussion is that instead of ascetism we find rigorism, and that instead of libertinism (but it is not totally absent, as advertising communication shows) there is emotional excitement. Rigorism finds its origin in an exasperated addiction to work in order to compensate a frustrated need for meaning. Emotional excitment, instead, is the expression of the divertissment from the absence of meaning, both in the form of the adrenalinic arousal and in that of romantic sentimentalism.

The circle is closed. The longings for a liberation typical of gnosticism, which depends on the incapacity of dealing both with duty and with pleasure, meets the melancholy of existentialism, which is in turn added to the melancholy typical of romanticism. The sentimental idealization of romance strengthens the longing for a gnostic abandonment of the self. In the meantime, resentment, generated by the frustration caused by the difference between imagined reality and that ordinarily lived, is another good reason for escape. Nostalgia for romance, and at times for childhood, meets utilitarian pressure in excluding family and in promoting a long adolescence.

There is no more ground for practical syllogism. Its premises are not intelligible values, but a continuum of emotional moods, extremely polarized between the opposites of feeling of inadequacy and of cosmic vibration, between absolute loneliness and absolute identification. Happiness is not rooted in values, but in a semantic field on which the character, the person, endlessly looks for a positioning, but never finds Someone to love and to be loved in return.

[0] I'm much obliged to Dr. Fulvio Di Blasi for his precious editorial advice and to Professor Armando Fumagalli for his willingness to discuss the topics of this paper.

[1] Robert McKee, Story. Substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting (New York: Harper Collins, 1997), 11.

[2] Chris Vogler, The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (Studio City, Michael Wiese Productions, 1992).

[3] Star Wars, directed by George Lucas (Usa, 1977).

[4] Dead Poets' Society, directed by Peter Weir (Usa, 1989).

[5] The Sixth Sense, directed by Night M. Shyamalan (Usa, 1999).

[6] The Matrix, directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski (Usa, 1999).

[7] Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (New York: Pantheon Books, 1949). I will refer to the edition by The World Publishing Company, Cleveland and New York, 1967.

[8] This point is particularly clear in Diane K. Osbon (ed.), A Joseph Campbell Companion. Reflections on the Art of Living (Harper-Collins, 1991). I'll refer to the Italian translation of this collection of lessons (Guanda, Parma 1998). Osbon proposes the contributions presented by Campbell in 1984 at the Elasen Institute in Big Sur, California. The participation of Campbell to a seminar at this Institute is itself meaningful of how his thought is well tuned with the New Age movement. On how New Age has been a powerful source of inspiration for the American cinema during the last thirty years, see Claudio Siniscalchi, Il dio della California. La New Age cinematografica (Roma: Ente dello Spettacolo, in collaborazione con Pontificia Università S.Tommaso d'Acquino -- Angelicum, Istituto Superiore di Scienze Religiose "Mater Ecclesiae", 1998).

[9] See how Campbell in the prologue of The Hero explains his vision referring both to the psychoanalytical conception of dreams and to the dionysiac origin of tragedy.

[10] On this particular point, about the influence exerted on Campbell by the Buddhist conception of pleasure, of fear and of duty as temptations, see A Joseph Campbell Companion, 180 (Italian translation).

[11] The Hero, 257.

[12] Peter Weir has directed, besides Dead Poets' Society, great successes such as Witness and The Truman Show.

[13] John Milius wrote, among many others, a movie that has made the history of cinema, Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. He also wrote and directed Conan the Barbarian.

[14] Patrick Lee, "Night M. Shyamalan had a sense that all Signs pointed to Mel Gibson" in Science Fiction Weekly, 276 (2002) digital version at the address www.scifi.com/sfw/issue276/interview2.html

[15] It's a Wonderful Life, directed by Frank Capra (Usa, 1946).

[16] Signs, directed by Night M. Shyamalan (Usa, 2002).

[17] See The Hero, chapter II.

[18] Good Will Hunting, directed by Gus Van Sant (Usa, 1997).

[19] The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, Usa 1991).

[20] For an analysis of this movie that shows how it is entirely based on the psychology of Jung, see John Izod, Myth, Mind and the Screen. Understanding the heroes of our time (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) 105-123.

[21] Titanic, directed by James Cameron (Usa, 1997).

[22] The Hero, 255.

[23] Of course I am considering American productions because they are the most viewed in the world, and I'm concentrating just on a segment of them whose principles seem homogeneous. I'm not forgetting that many movies produced in the U.S. show a different and positive anthropologic view: for example, some of the movies directed by Spielberg, and those directed by Mel Gibson.

[24] Dawson's Creek, created by Kevin Williamson (Usa, 1998).

[25] Ted Johnson, "Kevin Williamson who came of age on the real Dawson Creek, stays in touch with his inner teen" in TV Guide (March 1998) 7-13 digital version at the address www.silverwing.net/kw/articles/1998/tvguide.html.

[26] E.R. Emergency Room, created by Michael Crichton and John Wells (Usa, 1994).

[27] Incidentally, it's worth noting that on this subject in Joseph Campbell point of view work should be felt as a game; we could speak of work only when we don't like what we are doing. See Osbon, A Joseph Campbell Companion, 165 (Italian traslation).

[28] Hans Jonas "Gnosticism and Modern Nihilism" in Social Research 19 (1952), 430-452; subsequently revised and published with the title "Gnosticism, Existentialism, and Nihilism" in Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion (Beacon, Boston 1958, 19632), 320-340. We'll refer to the essay in his first version as it has been republished in Robert. A. Segal (ed.), The Allure of Gnosticism (Open Court Publishing Company, Peru (Ill.) 1995) 117-135.

[29] Gnosticism, 122.

[30] Ibidem, 127.

[31] Ibidem, 129.

[32] Ibidem, 130.

[33] Ibidem.

[34] Ibidem, 131.

[35] Ibidem, 132.

[36] Colin Campbell, The Romantic Ethic and The Spirit of Modern Consumerism (Basil Blackwell Ltd, Oxford 1987).

[37] The Gnostic Religion, 266-281.