Archive for January, 2011
Eastern Promises explores the Whore archetype where the sins of a society are heaped on the Whore and she is run out of town, or in this case dies of neglect and misery in child-birth.
The Whore or the Victim archetypes has lost connection with herself (suicidal) and is attached to others in a completely powerless way. She is disconnected from a caring community and even a belief in herself. Sensing she is vulnerable evil forces make her the scapegoat.
Before the story opens, Russian Mafia boss in America, Semyon, has a son who is showing signs of being gay (Kiril). Semyon puts Kiril to the test, telling him to rape Tatiana, a 14 year Virgin who has come to America to be a famous singer. Kiril cannot rape her so Semyon proves his superiority by raping Tatiana and discarding her to his brothel. She and her baby are declared slaves to the superior mafia boss with no familial connection.
This is the back story that calls the heroes into action. Anna is a midwife at the hospital and finds a diary of Tatiana’s life. She determines to find family for the baby girl. In the film, Tatiana’s diary and the baby together represent the Virgin in the story. The second hero is the mafia driver who has a core of decency in an ugly, gritty world.
Eastern Promises is a great example of a hero story where the Virgin, which catalyzes the hero’s journey, is well-developed making for a rich story.
It’s a good reminder when writing Virgin stories to take the time to create a rich understanding of the hero who may play a role in beats 3 (opportunity to shine), 5 (Secret World) and/or 12 (The Re-ordering).
This story is very plot driven except when the Virgin is represented (in the form of the baby or the diary). We do not get emotionally close to the other characters. This high contrast gives great impact to the tragedy of the Virgin.
The Russian underworld in America is graphically revealed and made more ominous by the speaking of Russian which we, the audience, struggle to understand, treated as if we are irrelevant in our own culture. This along with the violence (including a fight scene in the steam room that is blazed on my memory forever), create a strong impact as to how dangerous these elements are to the Whore/Virgin and to all of us. The Whore becomes the Virgin when people stand up for her. In the end, this baby girl is the key to bringing down the mafia boss, which makes the Kingdom (America) a brighter place.
This is a really well crafted film where the heroes are not cast in the hollywood mould and are archetypally very strong. Thanks Fran, for bringing this movie to my attention.
First time I watched this movie I thought it was inane. Poppy just laughs her way through everything. But I didn’t get very far into it before I was called away. When I watched it all, I found it to be profound.
There are two drives in the human condition, away from fear and towards joy. We live in a world that is largely fear driven. If you want to see what those two worlds look like side by side, watch this movie.
Poppy faces life with a drive towards joy. Even back pain, which interestingly, pain management researchers have found has profound ability to manage pain. The driving instructor, Scott, faces life with a drive to manage and control fear and fear inducing situations.
Watch how Poppy is completely non-judgemental of others. Her comfort zone with chaos is really high. She seems to have an incredible trust that if she goes with the flow of things an answer will be revealed to her. She doesn’t have to controlanything, Poppy simply follows life with curiosity. And love. Even when she is being abused physically and emotionally she only sends out caring energy. Poppy is clear on her boundaries and doesn’t let negativity change her sense of herself – she’s not a Victim. She also never seeks revenge or justification for wrongs done to her.
Happy Go Lucky is a fascinating study of what it would look like to be driven through life by joy. I’m going to watch it again with the Director’s comments!
King George the VI is both a Hero and a Virgin. He is called upon to inspire his people as they are entering into war with Germany for the second time in a generation. He heroically faces his fear of speaking to fulfill his duty to his country. His ‘foreign land’ where the Hero always goes like a fish out of water, is the new world of radio communication. Suddenly there is technology that puts the King in the livingroom of members of the Common Wealth all over the world (there is a great line where the father bemoans the loss of the old days where the expectation of being Royal was to simply stay on your horse). For a man with a speech impediment, speaking to the multitudes on the radio was akin to facing death. He is called to action by the fact that his people are being called to face that challenge, literally, and need his leadership.
The Promise of King George VI is to be a great leader. As his wife and children see in him, King George has the heart of a true leader. He is generous and loving, and interested in the well-being of others. His father and brother have created a Dependent World where he is mocked and pressured whenever he shines his natural abilities in order to affirm their superiority. What King George needs to give up, that has been keeping him stuck, is the belief that he deserves the treatment his father and brother give him. He preserves his belief that he has a loving family by being the bumbling coward they assert him to be. Until his father dies and his brother abdicates the throne and his people need a leader as they are called to war. When he is all his people have, King George gives himself permission to shine.
Here’s the breakdown of the beats. WARNING: SPOILERS
1) Bertie lives under the oppression of his brother and father, and develops a stutter (2) which makes him a lame Royal. With the invention of the radio and the failing health of the King, Bertie is expected to speak to the Royal subjects all over the world (3). After a series of public humiliations, Bertie meets a speech therapist named Lionel (5). In Lionel’s office Bertie explores the roots of his impediment and learns to be less reverential to the Royal tradition and attach to himself. He is to be crowned King and he goes against the advice of the Arch Bishop and asserts that Lionel will have a place at the ceremony(6). Lionel is outlandishly irreverent about the church and the throne (9). The Arch Bishop tries to reclaim his control over Bertie, the future King, by revealing Lionel has no credentials (7). Bertie must choose between his personal experience of Lionel and his methods, and the way it looks to others and he decides to align himself with Lionel (10). Bertie becomes King George the VI (11) and with the support of his family and Lionel delivers a rousing speech to the nation that they must agin go to war. He has overcome his impediment and risen to his potential as a leader (13).
Is there a Virgin Story in You?
Here’s a summary I did for screenwrightist.com last December
There are Hero stories everywhere, but how familiar are you with the feminine journey to know yourself and be yourself? This is the journey of the Virgin. Movies like FIGHT CLUB, AVATAR, AN EDUCATION, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, PRETTY WOMAN, and SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE all follow this archetypal structure.
THE VIRGIN JOURNEY
The Virgin begins her story in a Dependent World where she carries her kingdom’s hopes for its continuation, which are contrary to her dream for herself. She is reluctant to go against her community, but then she has an opportunity to follow her dream in secret. She acknowledges her dream by dressing the part she was meant to play, if only temporarily. Enlivened by this first experience, the Virgin goes back and forth, juggling the two worlds, enhancing her dream in the Secret World, while appeasing her Dependent World. Eventually she no longer fits in either world and she is caught shining. In this crisis, the Virgin has a moment of clarity and gives up what has been keeping her stuck. The kingdom goes into chaos. She wanders in the wilderness trying to decide whether she will make herself small again to make people happy or choose to live her dream. She chooses to be true to herself, except in a tragedy like VIRGIN SUICIDES! The Virgin loses her protection and it’s grim, but the kingdom re-orders itself to welcome the Virgin, and the kingdom becomes a brighter place to live.
I’ve used the pronoun ‘she’ here, but the journey is taken by both male and female protagonists. Just as women can be Heroes, men can be Virgins, archetypally speaking.
VIRGINS AND HEROES
To know which story you are creating, you have to look at the protagonist`s driving force. The Hero looks to overcome his fear of death by venturing into the unknown. He learns that he can exist in the greater world without the comfort or protection of his village, a.k.a. mother (did you say Mother Complex?). His is a journey to preserve and protect what is good in his village. He discovers his ability to stand alone through a self-sacrificing journey that requires him to be brave, skilled, strong, and rugged.
The Virgin, on the other hand, is driven towards pleasure. She is seeking to know what brings her joy, through her talent, true nature or dream. She learns to hear her inner voice, while the voices of her kingdom are planning her life all around her (classic Father Complex). Her journey towards self-fulfillment brings chaos and change to the kingdom. The Virgin learns to be authentic despite the wishes of others through creative, spiritual or sexual awakening.
THE POWER OF ARCHETYPES
The journeys of the Hero and the Virgin are universal to the human condition which is why we see them in cultures all over the world. They are the two halves of becoming an individual. Names, occupations, settings, genders and time periods can all be changed but the structure is still consistent.
When viewers come in contact with these archetypes they get a feeling of elation or resonance. Some call it an “aha” moment and it gives me chills. They inspire that feeling of identification that writers want for their protagonists. People are naturally drawn to archetypes and their transformations, even more than once. All these features make writing with archetypal structure very powerful.
So, when writing a Virgin story of being true to yourself, you want to include these thirteen beats:
- Dependent World
- Price of Conformity
- Opportunity to Shine
- Dress the Part
- Secret World
- No Longer Fits Her world
- Caught shining
- Gives Up What Kept Her Stuck
- Kingdom in Chaos
- Wanders in the Wilderness
- Chooses Her Light
- The Re-ordering
- The Kingdom is Brighter
The order can be re-arranged and some beats can be explored more deeply or repeatedly while others are represented by a single line of dialogue, or a look. The range of ways these beats can be used is infinite!
I did a guest blog on writerunboxed.com and people were really interested in the term Virgin. The main reason I used this term was my choices, based on other people’s references to this archetype, were Princess, Maiden or Virgin. Since I’m making the point that this archetype refers to males and females equally (we all have a masculine and a feminine side), Virgin seemed the only term that would work. I don’t know any men who would admit to being on a Princess journey. (While I’m on the subject, when I say she or her I mean s/he or her/him. I default to the feminine for Virgin archetypes and the masculine for Hero archetypes but both are implied.)
I found the term works really well. Exploring the historical use of the term Virgin gave me insights into the archetype. For instance, first I learned it means ‘of intrinsic value’ as in a Virgin forest. The Virgin’s journey is to look inside herself and see her authentic nature and bring it to life, despite what everyone else thinks she should do with her life. This definition really worked for me.
Another definition is that she is ‘a woman unto herself’ or as I like to say ‘a person unto oneself’. This captures the goal of knowing yourself and being yourself despite the demands around you. This is what she must do as there will always be many emotional pulls around her. She is on a journey to know her values and trust that out of the chaos this brings, life will organize itself around this way of being. Greek goddesses that were described as Virgins were said to own their own values. This meant they could choose who they were going to have sex with or not have sex with. They did not let societal expectation control them. I love the contrast between this definition from M. Esther Harding’s Women’s Mysteries and patriarchal definitions.
Patriarchy defines Virginity as inexperienced sexually which gives a man confidence he was not being compared to another and his children were from his sperm. In actuality the patriarchal Virgin is a Victim archetype as she does not control her own values. So, in my small way, I am trying to reclaim the original definitions of Virgin and add it to the mix.
Normally I watch a movie a couple of times to really see the beats. The first time I just enjoy it. I will not be able to watch this one a second time. If you like creepy it is REALLY good. Me, I’m a coward.
Here’s what I got from the first watching.
The Dependent World is really well developed. Nina is attached to her Mom who was a promising ballet dancer that got pregnant. Now the Mom is living through Nina and in particular blocking her sexual awakening. No coincidence Nina is a sexual Virgin. So this is the story of Nina’s journey to sexual awakening against her mother’s wishes. It is in the same category as The Virgin Suicides.
Since this is such a new movie I won’t go through all the beats but they are there for anyone who has seen it. I’ll do a few more to get you going. The Price of Conformity is isolation, which is always a step towards insanity, and the requirement to be “Mama’s sweet little girl”. Nina’s unmet needs have her clawing at her skin and picking at her digits until they bleed. Yikes! Such a sharp contrast to the beauty she creates as a dancer.
The Opportunity to Shine is when she is selected to be a dancer that portrayed not only the White Swan but also the passionate Black Swan. Nina is given the opportunity to unleash her sexual desire. Dresses the Part is when she steals the objects of the previous dancer, Beth, wanting to wear her things to feel like the lead ballerina who is sexually active with the choreographer, Thomas. The Secret world is created around her loss of touch with reality and hiding her scratches. Back and forth she goes as she struggles to know herself and be herself.
I think this movie does a really great job of showing what that fall into a psychological disorder feels like. And brace yourself. It is a tragedy.
this one compares the difference between the Hero and the Virgin journeys…
The Wonder of Archetypal Structure by Kim Hudson for writer unboxed
I remember my first day in film school when I learned about the Hero’s journey and felt like I had found my purpose in life. I’m pretty sure there was music. The twelve beats that describe the universal story went something like this:
The Hero lives in an Ordinary World until one day he receives a Call to Adventure. At first he Refuses the Call, because of the great danger, but after Meeting with the Guide, the Hero Crosses the First Threshold to a foreign land. Suddenly away from everything familiar, the Hero is Tested in his ability to survive. Clear in his purpose, he meets Allies who can help him and learns about his Enemy. The Allies make Preparations to enter the Enemy’s lair and increase their chances of success. The challenge is great and things go badly as the Hero faces near-death in a Crisis, but escapes with his life. He is Rewarded with an advantage when next he faces the enemy (namely that he can face death and live). He takes the Road Back and meets the enemy in a Final Battle. The Hero defeats the enemy, and Returns with the Elixir that will keep the village safe.
Great movies like Alien, Matrix, Beverly Hills Cop and Unforgiven follow this structure.
Then I was told that all story from all time is a Hero’s journey. My guts told me otherwise so I set out to find a pattern for a uniquely feminine journey.
Both involve the quest to stand as an individual. The Hero does this by selflessly meeting the needs of the village and also challenging his fear of death and learning he can live away from the comforts of home. The Virgin does things differently. She takes up her personal power by looking inside herself and deciding who she is and what unique gift she has to bring to her community, despite what they have planned for her. Stories like An Education, Shakespeare in Love, Billy Elliot, and Brokeback Mountain all follow this structure. The thirteen repeated beats I found in Virgin stories are:
The Virgin begins her story in a Dependent World. She carries her kingdom’s hopes for their continuation, which are contrary to her dream for herself. At first she is afraid to go against her community but she has a small Opportunity to Shine in secret and she takes it. She acknowledges her dream by Dressing the Part. Enlivened, the Virgin creates a Secret World and goes back and forth, juggling the two worlds, enhancing her dream and appeasing others. Eventually she No Longer Fits Her World and gets Caught Shining. Suddenly the Virgin has a moment of clarity and Gives Up What Has Been Keeping Her Stuck. The Kingdom Goes into Chaos. She Wanders in the Wilderness and must decide whether she will make herself small again or choose to live her dream. She Chooses Her Light! She loses her protection and it is grim, but the kingdom Re-orders itself to accommodate the blossoming Virgin, and finds the Kingdom is Brighter.
It makes sense there are two stories because the human condition has two main drives: one away from fear and the other towards joy. The Hero and the Virgin represent the two distinct journeys to take up personal power and stand as an individual using these drives. The Hero learns to physically occupy a big territory without fear while the Virgin learns to own her own mind and be joyful. And they are gender neutral. Men and women can be Virgins and Heroes.
The two journeys require very different environments. The Hero goes to a foreign land so he can prove he can live without the comforts of home. He thrives on time pressure and a clearly defined goal. His village is basically good and worth preserving while Evil is outside and needs to be destroyed. He is about being rugged, brave and strong.
The Virgin stays in her community because these are the voices in her head that control her. She is about looking inside herself and knowing who she is separate from her culture or duty. The antagonist is often someone she loves and the Kingdom eventually changes to make space for her out of love. The Virgin finds a Secret World because her growth thrives in timelessness and curiosity. She is open to wherever being authentic takes her. This usually takes the form of a creative, spiritual or sexual awakening.