Archive for December, 2011
I just spoke on talk radio with Stephanie Gunning and Nancy Peske (I definitely want to check out her book, Cinema Therapy) (my NY interview). I’m still wired from great conversation with interesting people so I thought I’d continue the conversation here.
When I finish something I generally think, yikes! why didn’t I…. (probably says something deep about the voice in my head). This time I wish I had mentioned more recent movies! There are a ton! Like The Help. Which made me think about being helpful and the difference between the Hero and the Virgin.
The Hero helps others because they really need it. People could die. He learns there are things that are worth dying for and he pushes back the boundaries of his mortality to do it. All good. Hero grows personally, village is preserved and protected.
Now the Virgin is a different story. When she helps others it is often at the expense of herself as seen in The Help. People have power over her and she makes herself small to appease them. It’s like feeding the angry dragon so it won’t be grumpy and burn you (I’m thinking How to Train Your Dragon here). You give them what they want by being helpful and no trouble. This kind of helping you want to grow out of.
Psychologically, being helpful can be a sign that your protagonist doesn’t recognize her intrinsic worth – she needs a good Virgin’s journey (Maid in Manhattan, Ever After). Sometimes she is helpful to build a debt that she hopes will be repaid later. There is no healthy sense of entitlement that just because she exist she has the right to be the leading lady in her life. She needs to learn she can take up some space in life (that’s my favorite message from The Holiday). She thinks she can help others and some day they will turn around and say “your turn, how can I help you, love you, make space for you.” Of course that rarely happens unit she recognizes she can ask for it.
I did it again. More recent Virgin movies = The King’s Speech, An Education, Easy A, Black Swan – I’ve got to start watching more in the theaters! These are all out on video….
Being that I am Canadian, I would like to highlight some good Canadian Virgin movies. With Christmas coming you might be looking for a good virgin movie for a reminder of the importance of being authentic. New Waterford Girl, Better Than Chocolate, Bollywood Hollywood, Lars and the Real Girl, and District 9 come to mind.
Here’s a thumbnail in case you are interested in checking them out.
Mooney Pottie lives in Cape Breton and dreams of being an artist. Her family, however, sees a future for her as a nurse which she can do right there in Cape Breton. Moonie crafts a plan to fake a pregnancy and be sent away that sends the whole community on a journey.
Better than Chocolate is a Coming out of the Closet coming of age movie based on a time in Vancouver when a lesbian bookstore was censored by books being blocked from crossing the border. Maggie lives in Vancouver and works in a Lesbian Lit store as means of expressing her true self. She falls in love with Kim and the real comedy starts when her mother shows up to visit.
When Rahul’s white rock star girlfriend dies his mother decides to assert their East Indian values and insists he marry a nice Indian girl. He must at least be engaged before his sister can marry. When he learns she is pregnant, Rahul sets out to pretend to be engaged so his sister can have a timely wedding. He meets a beautiful girl on her own journey to be authentic despite her parent’s wishes that she marry an Indian man who will secure her father’s retirement.
When I first heard the premise of Lars and the Real Girl I thought it was a set up for a string of raunchy jokes. It turns out it is a heart warming story with some light comedy. Lars is a person who has known heart ache and isolates himself because of it. When the isolation gets to him he discovers he can get an inflatable girl that is all of the company and none of the dangers of being close to someone. He goes for it and the community is required to respond.
District 9 is a science fiction set in a time when a huge space ship settles over the continent of Africa casting a shadow. The ship is full of crustacean like beings of human intelligence who are refugees from their planet. They are confined to ghettos and used in experiments. One day a bureaucrat is forced to see the crustacean perspective and comes to know it is his authentic self. I’m not a big Sci Fi fan but I found the archetypal elements of this story REALLY interesting.
The Victim archetype as a very powerful onscreen presence which made me wonder, what is the secret to writing a victim character?
The Archetypical Victim is the shadow side of the Virgin. She/he is the character who has lost touch with her intrinsic worth. To put it another way, she lives in a culture that fails to see her value for being herself and she accepts this opinion in order to belong. I see a continuum between the Victim and the completion of the Virgin’s journey.
Fight Club and Black Swan have Victim leading characters. In Fight Club the narrator follows his journey and becomes a Virgin (a person who knows he is of value and gets his definition of what is of value from his inner guidance). Precious follows this journey as well. Black Swan and Virgin Suicides don’t successfully navigate their journeys making them tragic stories.
A Victim is shown to be devalued by some part of her society and to internalize that message. She may become depressed, deny herself joy, practice addictive behavior to numb the pain, or even self-mutilate.
The key is not to confuse Cowards with Victims. If fear is making his/her world smaller he needs to go on the journey of the Hero to overcome the fear (don’t judge the word Coward – it is a recognition of being controlled by fear and allowing it to justify your actions or inaction. We all operate as a Coward sometimes).
Virgins don’t need to take martial arts classes to overcome their hardship. They need to practice self care. To explore their creative, spiritual, and sensual nature in order to reconnect with their self and reclaim a healthy sense of self-worth and entitlement. We need scenes of dancing, eating well, diving into a bucket of her favorite ice cream, asking for help, or exploring her fashion delights. This is not frivolous. It is playful and essential to the journey towards the Virgin archetype.
Another word for the Victim archetype is the Whore archetype which describes a particular type of Victim. She has had the sins of her culture dumped on her and then run out of town. She is Scapegoated in order for the society to elevate itself – some people feel better about themselves when they can degrade another person. Easy A and Mean Girls have this kind of archetypal energy at play.