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Monday, April 15, 2013

Character Archetypes 101: The Hero

This week, we are analyzing The Hero, who had taken some time off from swashbuckling acts of courage and valor to somewhat cautiously perch on the edge of my couch.  The Hero is also known as the warrior, crusader, superhero, soldier, the winner, the rescuer, and the dragon slayer.

The "Good"

The Hero is goal-oriented, focused, and determined. He (or she!) fights to overcome adversities, to rise to the occasion, beat the odds, and take others with them as they do so. They have stamina, confidence, and courage in abundance, and all of this points to their ability to and likelihood of making a difference.

Typically, this archetype is strong, both physically and mentally. They are disciplined, driven, and competitive while at the same time being protective, helpful, and a team-player. They usually excel at sports or being athletic, and have loads of energy, skill and general toughness to achieve greatness in various arenas.

As noted above, a female can be The Hero archetype, because archetypes aren't stereotypes, but frameworks for characters. The female Hero often has the same qualities of the male counterpart, such as being independent, individualistic, assertive, and proactive. They often reject the "suitor" and the status quo in the story, such as in Mulan.

Both male and female Heroes are noble, tenacious, and relentless. They act with honor, stick up for the underdog, and usually view "rules" more like guidelines or suggestions, never something to buckle under.

The "Bad"

Heroes, as the ones creating most of the story or action on the page, might struggle with hubris. They accomplish a great deal under duress, and should be proud of this...but it can easily slip into
arrogance or trying to prove a point to others. 

They might pick battles unwisely or compulsively, even, with an obsessive need to win. The Hero might rush to action with adrenaline, rather than using their brain to think things through. They might even turn to the dark side (humming Darth Vader's theme here) and evil black magic to prove their strength and ability to overcome all obstacles in their way.

The shadow side of the Hero can veer toward manipulation and ruthlessness. Others might become enemies when they aren't. A Hero might also respond to stress by becoming a workaholic, and this unbalanced life wreaks havoc both internally and externally.

Above all, Heroes have mental dragons that need slaying, just as much as the story "dragons" do. They have to overcome their fears, and choosing a story plot that highlights their internal knot (to borrow author/editor Jeff Gerke's phrase) is the best way to showcase this battle.

Likely Goals

To prove worth through courage
To be strong and competent
To achieve mastery in order to improve the world
To succeed despite the odds
To infuse meaning in what they do

Likely Fears

To be weak
To be vulnerable
To be incompetent
To be seen as a "chicken"

Examples in the Media

I want to underscore the idea that Heroes are not necessarily men, so I'll break examples down by gender first, and then somewhat by genre.
Sylvester Stalone as Rocky
Anthony Edwards as Dr. Mark Greene in ER
Despereaux Tilling in The Tale of Despereaux (mouse)
Simba in The Lion King
Keanu Reeves as Neo in The Matrix
James Bond movies
Clint Eastwood/John Wayne movies

Lucy Lawless as Xena
Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz
Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
Jody Foster as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs

Archetypes Who've Completed Therapy

The Innocent
The Orphan

Let's Analyze

Traditional names of archetypes carry with them stereotypical connotations, which also include gender. I ran across Ariel's name (from The Little Mermaid) in several research pages...what do you think about her fitting the bill?