Different types of Refusals

Having the Hero blatantly refuse the call to adventure highlights what the protagonist has to lose, and how dangerous the task ahead really is. There are different types of Refusals:


The hero does whatever he can to not go on this adventure. An example would be the scene from The Lion King when Simba refuses to go back to save the Pridelands from the rule of Scar because he’s happy in his comfortable life with Timone and Pumbaa.


The Hero comes up with a bunch of reasons, true or false, in an attempt to make it sound like these primary “obligations” are in fact more important than what may happen on the adventure. An example of this would be in my favourite Doctor Who episode of all time, “The Waters of Mars” when the Doctor refuses to help the doomed crew of Bowie Base 1 as he refuses to alter such a huge historical event (the death of the crew of Bowie Base 1 inspires the human race to perfect interstellar travel).

Persistant Refusal Leads to Tragedy:

Either the Hero puts off the journey too long and the disaster he/she could have stopped has now taken hold, or our of spite the Shadow, or Villain has been given the opportunity to reap havoc, resulting in a tragic loss for the protagonist. In NBC Hannibal, Will Graham pretended to be best friends with Dr Hannibal Lecter, and when he refused to run away with Lecter, the doctor stabbed Will in the stomach, slit the throat of his surrogate daughter and mortally wounded two of their best friends. I’m still not over that episode.

Conflicting Calls:

The Hero has to make a decision affecting his or her life as well as the lives of others. Each decision will have it’s pros and cons and the Hero must decide which road to take. Though the movie is unspeakably dumb, we used The Matrix Reloaded as an example. The scene is when the Architect gives Neo the choice of either saving humanity or his girlfriend as visualised by two separate doors.

Positive Refusals:

Not following the obvious path laid out for the hero sometimes results in a happier conclusion. For instance, when Hiccup does not kill Toothless in How To Train Your Dragon they form a friendship that comes to decide the fate of Berk.

Willing Heroes:

These kinds of heroes do not think twice before storming down their path to adventure. They are either so interested in the road ahead, or so determined to reach their end goal. The Bride, Beatrix Kiddo, from Kill Bill is one such character. Literally as soon as she wakes up from her four-year coma she goes about getting her revenge on the people who put her in the coma in the first place, and who killed her daughter.

Threshold Guardians:

These can either be characters or events that try to prevent the hero from continuing their journey. Most female characters in a male-written action/adventure movie will fall into this category because the writers are awful. Thankfully there are some well written Threshold Guardians in the magical realm of film and television. One of my favourite characters of all time, Mycroft Holmes in BBC Sherlock, could be classified as a Threshold Guardian. He tries to stop his little brother Sherlock from getting involved in dangerous situations that could either break his heart or put his life at risk. As Charles Magnussen says in episode 9, “Mycroft’s pressure point is his junkie little brother.”

The Secret Door:

The Refusal of the Call may be presented in the form of a forbidden passage that the hero cannot go through. In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lucy is forbidden to enter the wardrobe in the spare room that leads the way to Narnia.


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