Thursday, July 05, 2007

Archetypes and Gender

When I said "tomorrow" on Tuesday, obviously I meant after the holiday (not that I, um, forgot there was going to be a holiday). Since we were having a rare day when the sky was a really funny blue color and there was this yellow thing up in it, and nothing was falling from the sky, I took the day off to relax. Now we're back to rain, and I'm back to work. I didn't do anything particularly exciting other than not work. Even if it wasn't actually raining, there was the threat of rain, and the ground is totally soaked, and then there are the mosquitoes, so I didn't try to go to any fireworks shows. Instead, I watched 1776 on TCM. I don't think I've seen that all the way through since I was a small child and saw it in the theater.

So, now for more on archetypes ... The question has come up in comments about whether these archetypes are gender neutral, and if not, why not. Therefore, today I'll address gender issues.

According to this book, there are hero archetypes and heroine archetypes. In some cases, there are types that match each other pretty well. There's the female Boss who's the equivalent of the male Chief, the female Spunky Kid who maps to the male Best Friend, the male Charmer who's like the female Seductress, the male Professor who's like the female Librarian, the male Warrior who maps to the female Crusader, the female Waif who maps to the male Lost Soul. There don't seem to be female equivalents of the Swashbuckler or Bad Boy, and there don't seem to be male equivalents to the Nurturer or Free Spirit (though I suppose you could make the argument for equating the Free Spirit to the Bad Boy, since they're both about disregarding rules, although the connotations are entirely different).

However, when you really look at it, the female and male versions that seem similar are pretty different. I guess the Boss and the Chief pretty much are the same, but with the Spunky Kid and the Best Friend, while they're both about harmony and loyalty, there's an implication of cheerleading and encouragement to the Spunky Kid that isn't there for the Best Friend, as well as a sense of the underdog. There isn't really a male type for the underdog who has to come from behind to win out, other than the Lost Soul, but that's entirely different.

The male Charmer is more about getting his way through charm, while there's a more sexual implication for the Seductress. The Waif may be detached and drifting like the Lost Soul, but there's an implication of helplessness there. But the one that really bugs me is the Librarian and Professor. Both are into knowledge and having the answer, but the Professor is more about discovery and innovation, while the Librarian is more into knowing stuff and following rules.

Of course, as soon as I started thinking about this, I started thinking of all kinds of possible exceptions, and it started explaining characters I previously hadn't been able to classify.

Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter books is the perfect Librarian -- she's an outstanding student, feels she's failed if she doesn't already know the answer to something, and she loves rules.

But would you call Samantha Carter in SG-1 a Librarian? She's brilliant and into knowledge and research, but that type doesn't seem to fit her. She's really more of a Professor, even if she is female.

Then on The Office, we have Dwight, who's a real know-it-all who likes authority and rules but who isn't particularly innovative. He cares more about knowing the answer than he does about really learning stuff. I'd call him a Librarian.

If I do try to come up with my own archetype classification system, I'd make it gender-neutral and just have some separate types. For instance, I might call the Librarian type the Straight-A Student/Teacher's Pet, while the Professor might be the Inventor/Innovator. You may have more female than male nurturing types, but it doesn't mean there are no male nurturers, just as while the Bad Boy is more likely to be male, how else would you classify Faith on Buffy, who would rebel against anything?

I'll have to start looking to see if I can find examples of female lost souls or male nurturers.

1 comment:

Angie said...

We watched 1776 when I was in middle school and studying the American Revolution. At one point I looked away from the screen and noticed that the teacher was the only other person awake in the room. The only thing that would've made me look like more of a nerd would've been if I was singing along... which I easily could have and probably would now. :)