Oh Archetype, How I Love To Hate To Love Thee

A few days ago, t.s. wright brought up the topic of Avoiding Cliches. Within that article was the mention of one of my favorite TV binge opportunities, The 100. I agree with pretty much everything t.s. said about the series, as well as the fact that such modern means of entertainment really get me to thinking about writing characters that will eventually meet the world — and a world of critics.

It seems to me that way too many recent TV writers have become convinced that knee-jerk violence, fumbling indecisiveness, and radical, gratuitous instances of self-sacrifice attempts are what viewers crave in their protagonists. (Deliberate attempts at self-sacrifice always leaves a ridiculous body count behind.) Maybe they think this is the way to exhibit humanness — that this is a good representation of human fallibility and therefore it is endearing.

In one reader/viewer opinion: Uh, no.

I’m fairly certain that Earth would not be so populated at this late date if humanity was that much of a mess. We wouldn’t have made it out of the Dark Ages for cryin’ out loud.


My new favorite binge (this month) is the Netflix series Jessica Jones. Her story is adapted from the Marvel character, of which I knew nothing prior to seeing ads for the series. (I had a terrible childhood devoid of comic book entertainment.) One thing I have learned about the Marvel world recently is apparently there is an inordinate amount of people in the tiny square footage of Hell’s Kitchen, New York with super abilities.

Also, I like the Jones archetype. Much like her neighbor a few blocks down, Daredevil, she is an advocate. A protector of peoples’ rights to just live their lives free of evil manipulation and criminal danger. She is, on the surface, callously misanthropic, has a knack for sniffing out folks who want to stay hidden, and she’s got a taste for cheap whiskey — sounds like the perfect ingredients for a P.I.! Whatayaknow! She’s a P.I.!

Jones also possesses uncommon physical strength and carries around a pretty heavy guilt complex. This character is delicious.

I bring up archetypes because … here’s the thing about archetypes: they stay true to themselves. Yes, these characters at first glance might give the impression of being capable of suffering one-dimensional stiffness and become despised by their could-be fans. But that’s not likely. What you’ll not find them doing is waffling and waffling and waffling. They stay true to the mission — a mission, a solid personality, usually formed from early and traumatic influence.

Like initial delectable story lines, even a solid archetype can be corrupted and left to die a terrible death on the page or the screen. We’ve all seen it happen. However, those that survive are always the ones that remain true to what ideals conceived them. Don’t ya think?

For your reading pleasure, here’s a site that discusses Marvel archetypes. Drop a line or two in comments to tell me your favorite archetypes (Marvel or otherwise), and why you think their stories have longevity and credibility.

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2 Responses to Oh Archetype, How I Love To Hate To Love Thee

  1. Michele D. says:

    Over the weekend I caught parts of the movie Sabotage (Arnold Schwarzenegger). I enjoy action movies as much as the next person, but this film was so gratuitously gorey that it was pornographic. It made me so incredibly uncomfortable that I was blocking my eyes from few a lot of the time.

    I’m so done with the trumpeting of violence in visual media. It doesn’t do it for me. A good character with a complex story – yes. Also, are writers the only ones who can tell when a character’s actions seem unnatural and forced? I’ve had that argument with my friends NUMEROUS times. (It doesn’t seem natural. Why. Why would they choose to move the plot along like that when it’s so disingenuous?)

    Jessica Jones is something I have to start watching. I’m a sucker for good archetypes.

    Liked by 1 person

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