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Popular Mythology

Debra Merskin


Myth comes from the Greek word mythos meaning “speech” or “story.” Contrary to popular parlance that says a myth is something untrue, false, or fake, mythology is in fact true stories and timeless tales passed down from generation to generation. Myths provide answers and explanations for the big questions of life, such as: where did we come from? What is love? Where do we go once we die? What is the role of nature? And so forth. They are the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. They are truthful, inasmuch as they reflect a belief (even if erroneous or hegemonic). Early on, Joseph Campbell (1949) established that every society has what are called the Big Myths – stories about love, life, origins, and death. How these myths are articulated varies enormously from culture to culture. In early times, myths focused on immediate needs such as personal safety, finding food, and understanding weather. Today, however, many myths focus on and construct femininity and masculinity. The concept of beauty, for example, has always existed and varies greatly between cultures. In industrialized countries such as the US the ideal female beauty is a tall, thin, big-busted woman (→  Body Images in the Media ). In others, she is plump and short. It is the nature of human beings to believe in the stories we hear and see, regardless of whether they are factually provable or not. The real meanings ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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