A few weeks ago, in my last post over at FFnP, I talked about the character of Jake Sully in the 2009 movie Avatar to explore the concept of the forest as a powerful metaphor for transformation.
But not every protagonist encounters his or her adventure within a literal forest as Jake did.
Consider James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) from the 2009 Star Trek movie.
The opening sequences of the movie show Kirk in action and reveal several key characteristics about the man who eventually accepts the challenge and enters Starfleet Academy. Evoking memories of the original Kirk (William Shatner) in the television series and subsequent movies, one core trait is Kirk’s style preference for thinking outside the box. By style preference, I mean how Kirk prefers to interact with the world around him.
So, take a man who is smart, bored, already something of a rebel and who constantly thinks outside the box and what kind of forest does he need to face?
Starfleet, with its structure, ranks and protocol presents the perfect contrast to someone who thinks outside the box.
How, then, does this divergence between Kirk’s and Starfleet’s motivations and goals fit in with the concept of transformation?
Jack Zipes, an authority on fairy tales, has this to say about the forest:
No one ever gains power over the forest, but the forest possesses the power to change lives and alter destinies. [Zipes, The Brother’s Grimm, p. 65]
As Zipes’ quote suggests, Kirk doesn’t conquer his forest. But nor does the forest completely conquer Kirk. In this case, the transformation is subtle.
At the end of the movie—and indeed as any Trekkie knows—Starfleet retains its structure, ranks and protocol. It is Kirk who transforms himself from a man who couldn’t find his place in the world into a Captain of the Enterprise, albeit one who thinks outside the box.