Editorials · On Characters

Jonathan “JoJo” Joestar and the Innocent Hero

The Innocent Hero usually begins with a tree. No seriously, trees are everywhere with these guys.

“The trust I have is in my innocence and therefore I am bold and resolute.”

– Some nobody named Shakespeare or something

Think far, far back to when you were a kid. In those (presumably) fun, idyllic days of youth, was there ever a single moment where you realized that not everything in the world is sugar and rainbows? Don’t fall into the illusion that it has to be dramatic or overly Lelouchian; think simple. Perhaps it was the time that one of your best friends in Kindergarten pushed you off the slide? Or maybe it was when you discovered that Santa Claus isn’t truly real? Hell, it even could have been when this one blonde jackass showed up to your house, kicked your dog in the face, kissed your girlfriend, and then incinerated that said dog after stealing your father’s love.

Wait, what?

Every hero within Joseph Campbell’s monomyth/hero’s journey outline can be divided twelve specific categories, each with different goals, ideals, and many, many faces as Carol Pearson describes in her book, Awakening the Heroes Within. A story which we’re so in love with that we’ve told it countless times without knowing, the hero’s journey is ultimately a story about being human, and each explores a different mask of human nature. From the Orphan Hero to the Seeker Hero, from the Creator to the Destroyer, each of the twelve personas encompasses a different set of emotions with different goals and yet, the same journey at their very core.

Our titular protagonist, JoJo, also falls into one of these hero archetypes, the Innocent Hero. He fits it to a T.

Yes, this hulking, living chunk of muscle is… the face of innocence.

The quickest, simplest way to introduce any of the twelve traditional heroes outlined by Carol Pearson is to explore the etymology of the first the key word, in this case, innocence. While we may think of the innocence to be a descriptor for freedom from crime or guilt, here in the hero’s journey, innocence takes a far more archaic, classical meaning than what is often perceived today. The word itself is essentially derived from two words, both given to us from the Latin tongue.

Word Math: In (sometimes negative prefix, “not”) + Nocere (“to harm”) = Innocence

The basic formula is in, a preposition for in or on which sometimes takes the definition “not” when attached to a word, plus the real stinger, nocere, the word for “harm.” In other words, the Innocent Hero is initially characterized by innocence in a completely pure form, that is, freedom from pain or being hurt. He is innocent, uninvolved, and untouched by the real world. He is unharmed. That is, until the fall.

Each hero archetype goes through three distinct levels unique to their grouping and JoJo’s Innocent Hero category is no exception.  So far, we’ve seen JoJo travel through his archetype’s first two stages: paradise and the fall. Both stages are central to JoJo’s development as a character and his identity as the Innocent.

Level One, which we’ll refer to as paradise, is often categorized as a period of prolonged innocence and bliss. Heroes experiencing Level One of the Innocent Hero always hold an unquestioning acceptance of the environment and their authority figures. These men always believe that their world is perfect; life is already being fully experienced as it is. Before Dio arrives, JoJo is completely unaware of the true evils which lurk outside of his domain and holds a singular, unbending definition of justice. He does not question, he does not deny, and he does not hate, even when confronted by other young bullies. This is because JoJo’s life is virtually perfect. His father spoils him and shows him forgiveness at the dinner table, he lives in a lovely mansion garnered with everything which suits his needs, and from a boxing match, we can  see that he was previously the most popular kid in the town before Dio’s arrival. However, JoJo is never arrogant, uptight, or selfish due to his living arrangements. He is merely innocent. And yet, he’s perfect, but not complete.

In myth, literature, and film, paradise often takes the form of two symbols: nature and a castle. Both symbols make up and represent a safe, temporary shelter for the hero. Jojo’s begins his story in cozy arms of both environments. We constantly see JoJo rolling about his vast private properties in his front yard and his gargantuan mansion, both of which symbolize the safety from harm and have deep, deep routes in our stories. JoJo’s green pasture of a front yard represents the nature aspect of the symbol. Like in Adam and Eve, Alice in Wonderland, Batman Begins, and Katanagatari, we first see our hero in a pasture, forest, or garden and next to a tree. Gardens and foliage are symbols for tranquility, perfection, and protection in several cultures and here it still holds. Similarly, the “castle” (the Joestar mansion in this case) is commonly associated with similar attributes; it’s a stronghold, an impregnable fortress for the king and his servants. Until Dio arrives, we never actually see JoJo outside of his two strongholds: he is separated from the “special world” and oblivious to the pain which lies on the outside.

This is… symbolism?

Level Two, the level which every goddamn hero gets stuck on for some reason, is the most important of the Innocent Hero’s phases: the fall. Sometimes represented by an extremely literal fall (again, Alice in Wonderland, Batman Begins), the fall is essentially a fall from innocence and the first experience of pain. Before the fall the Innocent Hero has never experienced actual pain or suffering, which is why this experience completely turns his world upside down. More so, this pain becomes the initiator for the hero’s journey. It disrupts and separates the hero from his feelings of safety and starts him on a journey towards regaining his innocence. The Innocent Hero’s Level Two is the dealing with that pain and preparing himself for a return to complete safety.

However, it is important to remember that the Innocent Hero’s ultimate goal is a paradox within itself. Innocence lost can never, ever, be regained. You fall once, that’s it. Once you are aware, pure innocence is gone forever. The most the Innocent Hero may ever regain is a sense of safety while retaining a peace of mind and knowledge of danger, transforming him into the Wise Innocent.

JoJo’s fall should be completely obvious to the audience and it’s the arrival of Dio within the first episode. Big shocker right? Over the course of the first episode, Dio destroys JoJo’s life completely and introduces him to real pain. The chaos that Dio brings isn’t even close to what the bullies we first meet. What Dio does is turn paradise against JoJo, making JoJo a complete outsider. Dio’s carnage hits JoJo not only a physical level, but on a psychological as well. Dio incinerates his dog alive, kisses Erina, and gauges out JoJo’s eye in a game of boxing, a dishonorable act even in the days of the ancient Greeks. The bastard even turns his own father and friends against him! It’s damaging, it’s painful mentally and physically, and JoJo wants to go back to before Dio ever came into his into his life. And this can only be changed with the eradication of Dio, the destruction incarnate in JoJo’s life.

Unsurprisingly, Jonathan Joestar’s biggest fear is also representative of the Innocent Hero. Out of all the things in the world, what Jojo fears most is abandonment. Dio is scary as shit to our protagonist not primarily because he’s willing to kill him or his father, but because he is able to take not only his innocence, but also isolate him from paradise and his allies. After Dio is done with him, the trust between JoJo’s father and friends is withered and gone. His dog is dead. His girlfriend can’t even face him. There are now consequences for JoJo’s actions, no matter how trivial they may be. They say that every crime possible is in some way a theft and that’s what Dio does; he steals JoJo’s friends, family, attendants, and girlfriend and sometimes, he even steals their lives.  As an outsider to his town, JoJo is abandoned and most of all, alone.

Now, this experience is extremely important to JoJo’s identity as the Innocent because it highlights the Innocent’s classic strengths and weaknesses. Each hero archetype has a specific specialty and crux. JoJo’s biggest strength is his trust and optimism that endears within him while undertaking the fall’s challenge. In the second phase, his endearing optimism and honesty often gains him friends and turns foes to his side; in this case episode two’s Speedwagon. Unfortunately, this weakness often leads to his crux; the hero is prone to obliviousness, exploitation, and becoming dependent on others to fulfill his mission. Despite his massive frame, JoJo possesses a childlike mentality and a sizable naivete, two things easily exploited by foes.

As an undertaker of a journey paradoxical in nature, JoJo must overcome both lies and illusions and then learn to confront pain instead of repressing it. The biggest part of JoJo’s shadow is denial. The Innocent Hero’s journey is ultimately a battle with confronting the illusion of innocence and moving on from his ghastly illusions of safety. While the ultimate goal is to be as safe as possible, the Innocent needs to experience danger in order to return to asylum. What makes the Innocent so great is not only his unrelenting faith and goodness in the face adversity, but his rebirth as the Wise Innocent, where trust and optimism come without denial, naivete, or disappointment. Only when he finally knows the faces of death and loneliness will he understand true safety. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, right?

Stray Snippets

  • Hopefully this is just part one. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to write about the other components of the Innocent Hero, namely the Shadow of the Hero (which is always the best part). I won’t go in-depth for the Shadow or Level Three until they actually shows up.
  • Thanks to Altair and Vega’s very own Vucub Caquix, I can’t get Dio’s and JoJo’s modeling poses out of my head. Thanks, David.
  • Only used the word “innocent” 30+ times. Nope, not excessive there, no way.
  • This is the only time four years of studying Latin has ever come in handy, ever.
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