A hero faces immense adversity, yet comes to a resolution with some positive elements. We learn, "Don't give up. Good things can happen." Good. Very simple, but good.
A hero faces immense adversity, which adversity is made worse by the hero's own troubled relationship with her past. She overcomes her doubts and fears, and comes to a resolution with some positive elements. We learn, "Don't give up. Also, don't give up on ourselves." Good. Very simple, but good.
A hero faces immense adversity which has been caused in part from within her own tribe. She discovers that a small cabal of wicked individuals within the tribe has been perverting its greater principles. Side characters imply that the tribe is systematically flawed, but are proven wrong when the tribe rejoices at the downfall of the cabal. We learn, "The tribe is itself always good, as long as we ferret out the rare bad apple." Bad. Very simple, and very bad.
A group of heroes aggravates itself through personal differences, then puts them aside in service of a greater good. We learn, "You can put aside personal differences in service of a greater good." Good. Very simple, but good.
Okay, now we're past kindergarten. No, let's be generous--we're now in double-digits, as far as age goes. What does the future hold?
A hero has some interesting adventures, and then dies. Other heroes reflect on the death. We learn, "Life is touching." Good. Pretty simple, but good.
A hero has some interesting adventures, is mistreated, and then dies. Other heroes reflect on the mistreatment and on the death. We learn, "Life is touching, and mean people suck." Good. Pretty simple, but good.
A hero wants sex with someone, and either gets it or doesn't get it. Our senses are titillated. Fine. We learn, "Primal instincts can be compelling." Good enough. Pretty simple, but good. We repeat.
A hero wants to solve a crime, and solves it. We learn, "All kinds of people can commit crimes." Okay. We repeat. We learn, "Enough searching always turns up an accurate, verifiable result." We learn, "Suspicious, interrogative people are to be trusted." Incredibly simple. Incredibly terrible.
Okay, now we've just become a teenager. No, let's be generous. We're up to fif-teen. We're an adult made a rightless nonentity by a society that hates youth while pretending to exalt it; that exalts age while pretending to hate it. What does the future hold?
A hero faces immense adversity, yet comes to a resolution with some positive elements, against a backdrop of popular yet incorrect impressions of pastoral feudalism or aboriginally rugged hunting and gathering. We learn, "Don't give up. Good things can happen. Within a certain frame of reference, cultural tolerance is blessedly paramount, while outside that frame, cultural tolerance is a deadly evil." Meh. Sort of simple. Did the Ogobola Tribe really have to eat baby seals and molest captive prepubescents while dancing to hard house remixes inexplicably produced by handmade skin drums and didgeridoos? Was Lord Slothebaum's insistence on turning out the lieutenant for raping the parlor maid really proof that, deep inside, he had the heart and sensibilities of a 21st century Gender Studies postdoc?
A hero explores various facets of a thoroughly detailed space empire with a social, political, and military structure based on a mostly-accurate depiction of a mostly-inaccurate 1950s take on the Roman Empire. He faces immense adversity, yet comes to a resolution with some positive elements. We learn, "Uhh, I guess the consul uniforms they described in those combined seventeen paragraphs in Chapters 13 and 154 were kind of cool, but how could they be losing a war of attrition with the Neo-Amazonian Femicomm Hordes if they could still generate a thousand robotic gladiator-bears every single day?" We gush, "Boy, he must've pulled info from at least three overviews of Rome.
A hero travels a scarred galaxy or planet, encountering isolated societies in various stages of development. Some are too wacky in one way, and are eating themselves alive; others are too wacky in other ways, and are not strong enough to survive in the real world. Hero's journey forces hero to realize that people are fundamentally broken. We learn, "Life sucks. Also, certain social policies are delusional." Meh. The definitive civics.
Now we're formal adults. What does the future hold? Or are we still stuck in kindergarten forever, albeit with more hoplite headgear?