The Kitty’s Journey: Joseph Campbell and Friskies

Does a cat food commercial provide the best illustration of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey?

Today’s guest post comes from Shelby Cobras of Illogical Contraption.

Anyone with a sixth grade education should probably already know who Joseph Campbell is. An American mythologist, anthropologist, and author, Campbell was the first to define the perameters of the “Hero’s Journey“, a basic plot outline that most epic tales passed down through history follow. If you are not yet familiar with the “Hero’s Journey”, do not despair. This post will educate you.

The “Hero’s Journey” is a well-accepted phenomenon, an equation that applies to such disparate tales as The Epic of Gilgamesh, Star Wars, Conan The Barbarian, and… a cat food commercial?

Indeed. And not just an example. One of the BEST examples.

Trippy, yes, but adhering to the standards of the Hero’s Journey? Absolutely. Allow me to elaborate:
We will start with the first phase of Campbell’s mythical Journey:


1) The Call to Adventure: The point in a person’s life when they are first given notice that everything is going to change, whether they know it or not.

The Cat/Protagonist (from here on out to be known simply as “Kitty”) approaches the can of Friskies, unaware of the powers it possesses. A journey of epic proportions is in Kitty’s near future, although the hero remains ignorant of its approach.

2) Refusal of the Call: Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his or her current circumstances.

The refusal is exemplified here by Kitty’s brief hesitation and confusion when encountering the next step of the journey. (Bear in mind this is only a 60-second commercial.)

3) Supernatural Aid: Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known.

The swirling neon colors that emerge from the can of food act as Kitty’s “Supernatural Helper”, guiding him (I will ascribe a male gender role to the feline, although one is not specifically designated in the subject matter) toward the “Threshold”. Kitty is confused (as mentioned in the last step), but also enchanted.

4) The Crossing of the First Threshold: This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known.

Crossing the First Threshold

5) The Belly of the Whale: This represents the final separation from the hero’s known world and self. It is sometimes described as the person’s lowest point, but it is actually the point when the person is transitioning between worlds and selves. The separation has been made—or is being made or being fully recognized—between the old world and old self and the potential for a new world and self. The experiences that will shape the new world and self will begin shortly, or may be beginning with this experience which is often symbolized by something dark, unknown and frightening. By entering this stage, the person shows their willingness to undergo a metamorphosis, to die to him or herself.

“The Belly of the Whale”, for Kitty, is the first phase of his voyage, when he finds himself confronted by a large group of computer-generated turkey-things. This is a world like Kitty has never seen before, a place where fowl dance in unison and nothing is what it seems. It is a dark time — the portal back to Kitty’s old life has disappeared, and he has no choice but to carry on. The true Journey is at hand.

7 Comments on “The Kitty’s Journey: Joseph Campbell and Friskies”

  1. Topher #

    Wow, that commercial was trippy. Maybe the kids will start snorting cat food to get high. I know I wants me some!!!


  2. Greg #

    Does this happen every time Kitty is given Friskies?
    Because even if it doesn’t, it leaves some great expectations for the next bowl of cat food (and, by extension, people:


  3. Greg #

    Sorry, I’m kind of a copy/paste kind of person.


  4. Harold #

    Yea, but the Kitty’s Prequels sucked.


  5. Carlos #

    Best guest post ever.


  6. Tim Peever #

    I am with Carlos on it. This article is a fine example of why I follow this website!

    A co-worker once told me that at the advertising firm Wieden + Kennedy, they are quite tolerant of people drinking and doing drugs while on the job, so long as it helps their creative process. If you see a commercial that makes you think the writer must have been high when he or she thought of it… you are possibly correct.


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