Archive for April, 2010
This the moment of alchemy when the Virgin takes the dream inside her and brings it to a tangible form in the world. She may do this by:
a) participating in a fashion show;
b) becoming beautiful;
c) receiving an object, or
a) Up to this point in the film the Virgin has not been revealing her true potential. She may not even be aware of her personal expression. When she participates in a fashion show she is trying on several looks and finding the right look for her true self. She may also be showing she has many looks rather than the limited world she finds herself in.
b) this is the ugly duckling scenario. When the Virgin becomes beautiful she sheds the notion that she has low potential and steps into her natural self. Here she actually dresses the part as in Pretty Woman where Vivian steps into the clothes of a business woman and valued woman.
c) receiving an object is another form of dressing the part. Billy Elliot puts on the ballet slippers, Jas puts on the soccer uniform (Bend It Like Beckham)…
d) in Brokeback Mountain, the true self is revealed by taking of his clothes. In this step he explores his true nature and begins his Virgin Journey.
I saw The Runaways last weekend and felt really mixed about it. There was such a powerful message about the need for feminine expression of sexuality, and creativity which Joan Jett addressed through rock music. It was so heartbreaking to see that genuine drive exploited for commerce until the girls self destructed. That was the powerful part.
It also felt like were we held apart from the journey of Joan and Cherie. It was a Virgin story with 2 protagonists. The two girls lived in a dependent world of absent father’s and mother’s struggling to regain their status as wives. The Price of Conformity was seeing a bleak future for themselves, taking out the garbage (filling in for their fathers in their mother’s lives) and being a nursemaid to an alcoholic father as shown by Cherie’s sister. Cherie told lies to hold her world together. She was not able to be authentic.
I was never sure if it was Cherie’s story or Joan’s story. I didn’t feel connected to Joan because we never saw her points of transformation. She Dressed the Part when she bought a leather jacket but I never saw her connect with the girls in the band and form a secret world where she grew in an understanding of what the music stood for. We got lots of explanation of what Kin Fowley saw in the music, but what was Joan’s drive and purpose? Not knowing this, I had no sense of loss when the band broke up, or elation when she cut a record on her own. What made it difficult for her? What did she give up in her belief system to break through the barriers to women in rock music?
If it was Cherie’s story we needed to see why she made key decisions, not just the results of those decisions. When she was free of the band, what happened that got her into rehab? What happened in that first moment when she started drugs, for that matter. Since it was the beginning of her downfall we needed to witness the motivation that compelled her to self destruction.
The mood in The Runaways is powerful, capturing that great moment in rock music history, but I felt the journey of Cherie and Joan never got told. They needed to hit more of the 13 beats of the Virgin’s Journey for the audience to really feel it.
The new catalogue is out! See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TwRslHIbio
With the launch of my book this past week, I think it is timely to take a look at the ultimate Virgin story – Cinderella. You can find Cinderella stories in cultures all over the world. In North America the most famous movie ones would be Ever After and Pretty Woman. Bollywood Hollywood and most recently The Year of the Fish are also great examples.
What these movies all have in common is that they follow the archetypal structure of the Virgin with a common method of keeping herself small. She holds the belief that she has to use her talent and energy to serve others to be loved or safe. So she puts all her time into the stepsisters and stepmother’s needs and neglects her dream.
There has been lots of great analysis of Ever After and Pretty Woman because they hit such a strong cord with female audiences. LaVeria Alexander and Alexis Krasilovsky ask the question if giving the protagonist a feisty attitude and physical strength really makes her story a modern feminine journey.
This is an excellent point. Do we have to give the protagonist masculine characteristics in order to make her an endearing lead character?
No. It works for Daniel because it has not been done at the sacrifice of her having a dream of bringing the principle of Utopia to the Kingdom (the drive of the Virgin archetype in this version), and it here that the growth occurs in our protagonist. She is strong but she carries a belief that she will only know the love of a mother if she is a servant to her. This cripples her until she Gives Up What Has Kept Her Stuck and accepts she can live without the love of her stepmother.
In Ella Enchanted, they abandoned the Virgin journey in the book and substituted a Hero’s journey with a female lead and it did not work at all.
It is important when writing the initiation of the Virgin journey not to be afraid to show the Virgin as lacking in power, just as the Hero initially Refuses the Call. It gives greater meaning to her eventual growth.
Take a look at Paul’s Blog on the Hurt Locker, over on the right hand column of this page. I think he makes some great points about our expectations of a Hero’s growth.
But I’m wondering if that was the point of the movie. The soldiers don’t believe in the cause and the people don’t want them there. The enemy is unidentified and there is no end that is even conceivable. This is a bad situation. But on a personal level, if James keeps being the perpetual hero he is not getting on with the other major transformations of life.
After one explores the boundary between the mortals and gods, as heroes do so well, and learns the skill and bravery to survive in the world alone (overcome the Mother complex), he needs to move on man, and learn to form a relationship with others. That was what Sanborn was able to do.
Maybe we needed a scene of the anguish of loving someone who will not risk loving you (James returning to war), or the joy of Sanborn, Stateside, facing life with an open heart. Sanborn recognized the value in connecting to others as a result of his experience with James.
Hurt Locker is about the downside of being a Hero and not being able to move to the next stage. I definitely left the theater thinking about that and when a movie makes me think, it’s a good one.
I went to a great talk by Jack Zipes and a light went on. Little Red Ridinghood is the Virgin tale of sexual awakening. She is threatened with being devoured, raped, or killed as she explores her sexual nature, depending on which version of the tale you read.
As a Virgin, her kingdom is discouraging her sexual awakening with all sorts of warnings because it makes them uncomfortable. And she faces real dangers but she carries on because she needs to feel alive. In the classic Disney telling of the tale she is saved by the woodsman and never really completes her journey of sexual awakening. The message seems to be she needs others to keep her safe and would be better off conforming to the wishes of her kingdom. But many movies have her accepting herself as a sexual being.
The movies An Education, The Accused, and Shadow of a Doubt all follow the Virgin structure in a Little Red Ridinghood way with the Virgin completing her journey.
In all these movies the Virgin starts in a protected (Dependent) world where she is warned not to stray from the path her culture wants for her. But she is curious and wants to feel alive in the world. Sarah dances seductively in a bar, (The Accused) Jenny accepts a date with an older man who opens a world of excitement and pleasure (An Education). Charlotte wants to feel more alive, for her mother (her future) to be more joyful and she wants Uncle Charlie to come and bring this to them (Shadow of a Doubt).
But this is the story of Little Red Ridinghood and the Virgin is playing with the wolf. The Secret World in The Accused is imposed on Sarah. She is unable to expose what happened to her and force society to say it was wrong because her lawyer cuts a deal. In An Education, Jenny keeps what she does on her dates with David secret from her parents and goes against the rules of her school because nobody can show her a way to be joyful as a woman in the world they are guiding her towards. She holds her world with David for herself so as not to be stopped even when she knows it is wrong. Charlotte keeps the secret of Uncle Charlie’s murderous past because he has brought her mother an ideal of happiness, something her father has failed to do.
In the end, the wolf is killed and the Virgin has found a place to be seen. A place for her sensual being, and all girl’s sensuality , that is safe (the Kingdom is Brighter).
In many retellings of Little Red Ridinghood she remains naive, getting closer to the wolf as she notices how big his eyes are and how big his ears are. She is intrepid and drawn in at the same time until she is in great peril. She may live in a world of patriarchy that discourages her from questioning what she is told, but her Virgin’s journey is to question and choose her own values before she gets devoured.
Storytellers who simply keep Little Red naive and have her Rescued are robbing the audience of the true growth of the Virgin. It is a false rescue if it serves to re-enforce the need for her to comply to the warnings and make her world smaller.