#TypesTuesday – The Defenders: The Appeal of Crossovers

Types Tuesday

by Guest Contributor Oscar Harding

Three of the highest-grossing films of all time are The Avengers and the two most recent installments of the Fast & Furious franchise. Besides a blockbuster budget and total abandonment of reality, they have something in common- they are ensemble pieces featuring much-loved characters interacting with each other.

Audiences have made it clear they want very different characters to come together for massive summer events. On the smaller screen, the latest attempt at capitalizing on this success has been Netflix’s The Defenders, bringing together the main characters from their 4 original series so far. The ratings aren’t believed to have been stellar, but critically it has received mixed reviews.  It is an excellent opportunity to examine how different character types interact with each other when forced together by extraordinary circumstances.

Daredevil – Power of Love

Daredevil, the heroic alias for blind lawyer Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is all-too-human, his decisions- rather ironically- blinded by his love for his friends, his city, his religion and the troublesome Elektra (Elodie Yung). He can never truly be a perfect superhero, despite his incredible skills and decades of training, because he lets affection get in the way.

Daredevil has been compared to Batman, but whilst both are motivated by justice, Batman is not held back by love (he is a Power of Truth character) and trusts few people. Matt, however, regularly ignores his calling because he knows it will put people in harm’s way. The only reason he teams up with Jessica, Luke and Danny is an entire city of innocent people is at stake.

Power of Love characters can be undone by there constant need to be relied on, indulging in self-pity as they believe they go above and beyond for those they love and their devotion is not returned. The more attached Daredevil gets, the more he sabotages himself, and in The Defenders his love for the antagonist constantly hinders the team’s efforts to save New York City.

But it is this personality that means he is equally reliable and will always protect his fellow teammates. In the dire situation that The Defenders find themselves in, Daredevil’s Power of Love traits are their greatest strength as well as their greatest weakness.

Jessica Jones – Power of Reason

Private eye Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is the polar opposite to Daredevil- the cynical alcoholic has little emotional attachment to anyone, driven only by the need to solve mysteries- it’s what she’s best at.

She is not obsessed with justice or love, and wants to defeat The Hand as soon as possible so she can be left alone. Everything but the mission at hand is a distraction.

Like all Power of Reason characters, be they detectives or not, Jessica sees the world as a series of puzzle to be solved, questions to be answers and codes to be cracked. The world has to adhere to set rules, and any deviation from that presents a problem. She also lacks the charm of other Private Eyes- Rick Deckard and Jake Gittes are Power of Truth characters who can use their charisma to achieve their objectives, but Jessica can’t rely on that.

Jessica, as reluctant as she is, is a vital part of The Defenders because … Luke is the emotional anchor, Daredevil is the defacto leader, and Iron Fist is the muscle, but Jessica is the one who drives the others to stay focused. Once she knows she has been proven right about this mystery that threatens New York, she is totally dedicated to the cause and never wavers. This cobbled-together team is an uneasy alliance, and when Jessica knows they are vital to restoring order, she is ruthless in making them stick to their objective.

Luke Cage – Power of Conscience

Bulletproof hero Luke Cage (Mike Colter) was once described by a nemesis as “Harlem’s Captain America”, and it’s an apt description. Like Captain America, Luke is a Power of Conscience character.

These characters believe they have to look out for others.  They have a profound sense of right and wrong. Luke is no exception- He fights for what he believes to be moral and right.  He will sacrifice everything to be Harlem’s hero, looking out for the residents of the borough because he thinks no one else will.

He encounters the rest of The Defenders whilst on a mission to deliver justice for a resident of Harlem who has been ruined by the secret organization, The Hand. The others cross paths whilst undertaking a quest or to solve a mystery- only Luke is acting out of the interest of someone else. This action speaks volumes about his character.

As part of an ensemble, he is the real anchor of the group. Jessica is reluctant to be part of the team every step of the way, Daredevil is blinded by his love for the enemy. Danny is unfocused in terms of who he is, and his mission. Luke has to remind them why they are fighting, who they are fighting for, and what is at stake. Like Jessica, he is reluctant to be part of The Defenders but understands it is necessary for them to stand to together. He is their moral compass and their steadying influence is essential with a group of such wildcards.

Iron Fist – Power of Ambition

Danny Rand (Finn Jones) refers to himself by the mouthful of a title “The Immortal Iron Fist, Protector of K’un-L’un and sworn enemy of The Hand”. It’s pretty obvious that he puts up a front to impress others.

He thinks that focusing on the mission will make him impervious to criticism, and will gain him the respect of others. Power of Ambition characters like Danny seek approval and often put on a facade to make themselves seem worthy of that approval. Whether they be ninjas with a magic hand or more pedestrian characters like Michael Scott or David Brent.

Danny has a reason for this behavior that does evoke empathy- the only survivor when his family’s plane crashed in the Far East, the young Danny was taken in by an ancient order of Monks and trained to be a weapon. He effectively has been brainwashed rather than having developed true conviction.  Such a tragic childhood means he is searching for people that will accept him and give him the love he hasn’t received since his parents’ death.

Danny is the one that brings together The Defenders- since he has the most knowledge of the enemy and their evil plan. He becomes the key to The Hand’s scheme which has been centuries in the making. Danny finally becomes the center of attention for good and bad reasons. He gets what he wants but has to learn humility and realize he has found, in The Defenders, the honest acceptance he has craved since he was an orphaned child.

For more examples of all the character types, you can purchase my in-depth e-books at the ETB shop, or you can read more articles on all the “Power Of…” types including James Bond, Doctor Who, Batman and Sherlock Holmes, every Tuesday.

There are also 9 pinterest boards full of character examples online. Check them out and let us know at ETBHelp@gmail.com if you have any other suggestions.

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#TypesTuesday – Calvin and Hobbes: Excitement and Conscience

Types Tuesday

by Guest Contributor Oscar Harding

Bill Watterson’s comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, which ran from 1985 to 1995, is to my mind the greatest comic strip of all time, surpassing even Charles Schultz’s Peanuts. Besides Watterson’s stunning art, profound philosophy and brilliant wit, it is the core friendship that has ensured that the strip has been remembered for many years since it finished. Named after Philosophers with rather dour opinions of humanity, Calvin is a 6-year-old boy and Hobbes is his stuffed tiger, real only to him. What is surprising about these closest of friends is just how different their character types are. But it goes to show that opposites attract, and these two bring out the best and worst in each other because of their character types.

Named after Philosophers with rather dour opinions of humanity, Calvin is a 6-year-old boy and Hobbes is his stuffed tiger, real only to him. What is surprising about these closest of friends is just how different their Character Types are. But it goes to show that opposites attract, and these two bring out the best and worst in each other.

Calvin

Calvin could be argued to be the ultimate Power of Excitement character. Indulging in fantasies as superhero Stupendous Man, intergalactic warrior Spaceman Spiff and hardboiled detective Tracer Bullet, when he’s not making the lives of his parents and teachers an absolute nightmare, he’s wreaking havoc as an inventor of disastrous machines out of cardboard boxes. Calvin ticks every box for a Power of Excitement character- he is an explorer, believing life should always be one big playground where he gets his way. He very rarely veers from his pursuit of fun. He is certainly the life of the party, and there is never a dull moment with Calvin. He represents both the light and dark side to the character type- his escapades are fun to read, but you can only imagine the destruction his ‘junkie mentality’ is causing others around him, as he can never get enough of what he believes to be fun.

Calvin ticks every box for a Power of Excitement character- he is an explorer, believing life should always be one big playground where he gets his way. He very rarely veers from his pursuit of fun. He is certainly the life of the party, and there is never a dull moment with Calvin. He represents both the light and dark side of the Character Type- his escapades are fun to read, but you can only imagine the destruction his ‘thrill junkie mentality’ is causing others around him.

Hobbes

Hobbes is part philosopher and all Tiger. No matter how insightful he can be about life in general, he has all the instincts of a “Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat”. Power of Conscience characters believe they are their brother’s keeper. Hobbes is forever the reluctant participant or sits out Calvin’s most outrageous schemes. Many strips often end with Hobbes trying to persuade Calvin not to do the wrong thing, or showing his viewpoint to be wrong. These characters also adhere to what they believe to be indisputably right- in this case, the laws of nature. Hobbes always stands up for the natural world and his fellow animals

These two work so well together because they balance each other out. Hobbes usually has incredible fun when he’s with Calvin, but at the same time, he is the equivalent of an angel on Calvin’s shoulder- although it often falls on deaf ears. One could technically be considered “good” (Hobbes) and the other “bad” (Calvin). The boy has growing up to do, and the Tiger could lighten up.

For more examples of all the character types, you can purchase my in-depth e-books at the ETB shop, or you can read more articles on all the “Power Of…” types including James Bond, Doctor Who, Batman and Sherlock Holmes, every Tuesday.

There are also 9 pinterest boards full of character examples online. Check them out and let us know at ETBHelp@gmail.com if you have any other suggestions or questions.

 

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#TypesTuesday – Schindler and Spider-Man: What It Takes to Be a Hero

Types Tuesday

Both Oskar Schindler and Spiderman are Power of Conscience characters.

These characters actually believe they are their brother’s keeper. They feel responsible for the greater good and for doing good. They wrestle with how far they should go in seeking justice and fairness for others, in exposing corruption and injustice, or in standing up against evil or wrong-doing. They worry about with what is the higher duty and what exactly is required of them in response.

Peter Parker loves Mary Jane but he must summon up the courage to let her go.  He does so in the funeral scene when he rejects Mher profession of love and says he can only be her friend.

The answer, in a drama, is the Power of Conscience character must sacrifice everything he or she holds dear to be the hero he was meant to be. Over the course of a drama, these characters are drawn further and further down the path of righteousness. They are compelled to do one small thing, then another and another until, in the end, they have sacrificed their personal concerns, their safety, their security, their family, their fortunes, and often their lives.

Oskar Schindler gives his ring, his watch, his cigarette case– one trunk of money and then all his trunks of money– but it doesn’t feel enough when weighed in the value of a life. At end of the film, he wishes he could have done more.

Power of Conscience characters are asked the existential question:  “If I am my brother’s keeper, how far must I go on his behalf”.  The answer is all the way.  These dramas are about sacrifice.

Sacrifice is a word that has very much fallen out of favor in our current cultural and political climate. Protect yourself.  Protect your party. Don’t sacrifice anything for the good of the country or anyone else.

#ThinkpieceThursday – Why Nine Character Types?

Thinkpiece Thursday

I’ve often been asked: “Why nine character types?  Why not seven or thirteen or any other number?”

Let’s begin at the beginning. Western societies use a Hindu Arabic base-ten number system. Nine is the terminal numeral before moving to another decade or numeric cycle. The final number, Nine, represents unity, completion, and perfection. In numerology, the world progresses in distinct nine-year cycles. For computer programmers, “999” means “end of file”. The Enneagram is an ancient Sufi teaching that has nine distinct personality points.

Nine is a Symbolic Gateway to Knowledge and Inspiration

The number Nine symbolized a mystical gateway to knowledge across many different cultural traditions. The Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Vikings all used the number nine to guide human beings toward some kind of transcendent truth, knowledge, inspiration or spiritual awareness.

In Greek and Roman Mythology

The Greek God, Zeus, had nine daughters, called the Muses, who orchestrated and presided over all creative endeavors. The Muses were also the daughters of the female titan Mnemosyne who personified remembrance. Muse means one who remembers.

In the ancient Greek and Roman world, all knowledge, and learning were under the patronage of these Muses. They inspired poetry, theater, music, dance, and art. Ancient educational institutions each dedicated a shrine or temple to the Muses. Such a place called as a mouseion, which is the Greek root of the modern word “museum.”

In the Ancient Greek and Roman world, creativity, memory and the passing on of knowledge and inspiration were all inextricably linked with the number nine.

In the Ancient World of Jerusalem

There were nine doors to the holiest part of the Temple in Ancient Jerusalem. These nine doors were the gateway to G_d. Why nine doors? In the Kabbalah, writings on Jewish mysticism, the number nine symbolizes the transcendent world because nine is a threshold number that allows for the transition to the next level of existence (to move from the world of one digit numbers to the world of the two digit numbers i.e., 1 + 9 moves to the next level of two-digit numbers 10 and so on.).

Multiplying by nine also reveals the mirror symmetry among numbers. If any number is multiplied by nine the resulting single digits always add up to nine. For example 2 x 9 = 18 (1 + 8 = 9); 3 x 9 = 27 (2 + 7 = 9), 4 x 9 = 36 (3 + 6 = 9) and so on.

The ancient Hebrews referred to the number nine as a mystical threshold between one world and the next and the symbol of immutable Truth.

In the Muslim World

The Holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. The month of Ramadan is traditionally believed to be the time when the Quran (Koran or Muslim Bible) was sent down from heaven, as a guide to living a good and proper life and as a means to learn how to achieve holiness and enter the gateway of salvation.

Nine and the World and Underworld

Viking mythology describes the Cosmos as being composed by nine worlds. The Ancient Mayans believed that human consciousness and history was built on nine distinct underworlds. The Divine Comedy, an epic poem written by the Italian, Dante Alighieri, in the fourteenth century, describes the author’s allegorical journey through the afterlife. In The Inferno, Dante describes nine circles of hell. In each circle, the sinners are guilty of one of three kinds of sin.

Three is a Number of Unity and Completion

Three is also considered a mystical number. Nine is divided equally into three parts with three in each part. Since ancient times the number three has symbolized unity and completion. The trinity of life is composed of substance (or form), intellect (or intelligence) and soul (or life essence). Three also symbolizes the trinity of the individual person as head (intellect), heart (emotion) and hand (physical being or physical action). Or the trinity of the family: father, mother, and child.

In Christian Tradition


In Christianity, God is divine as the Trinity. According to the Catholic Encylopedia: “The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion– the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: “the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.” The Holy Trinity forming a single God of unity and completion.

In Buddhist Teaching

According to the Buddhist tradition, all phenomena (dharmas) are marked by three characteristics, sometimes referred to as the Dharma Seals. The first seal, Anatta, is the unchanging, permanent essence of the soul. The second, Anicca, is the inconstant, unsteady, and impermanence of physical being. The third, Dukkha, is the self or world as it perceived by the individual and others.

In Hindu Tradition

Hindu teaching divides the cosmos into a set of three planes. Bhuloka is the “Earth world,” and is the physical plane of existence Antarloka is “Inner or in-between world,” and is the world of dreams and imagination. Sivalok is the “World of Siva,” and is the realm of the Gods, the saints and the most highly evolved souls.

The Magic Square

A magic square is three sets of three. It is created when each single digit number is used only once, but the horizontal, vertical and diagonal sums are all equal. (4 + 9 + 2 = 15 and 4 + 3 + 8 = 15 and so on). The sum 15 is also divisible by 9 and equals 3 (the number of each square in the row or diagonal).

The magic square was considered a sacred and powerful symbol in the Ancient Islamic, Tibetan, Buddhist, Celtic, Indian and Jewish traditions. The Chinese patterned their architectural temples along the harmonious principles of the magic square.

If this diagram looks familiar, you might recognize it as a basis for the popular 9 square by 9 square Sudoku number puzzle.

Now you know why there are 9 character types- time to check out some articles on all of them, and to learn more you can purchase my eBooks on the ETB store.

#TypesTuesday – Community and Interdependent Characters

Types Tuesday

by Guest Contributor Oscar Harding

Despite gaining something of a cult status after its six-season run, NBC sitcom Community still isn’t talked about enough. Not only is it smart and consistently funny, but its sweet and a true testament to the Power of Imagination. We’ve all suffered or enjoyed being part of a study group at some point in our life- no matter how absurd it gets, the show has always been relatable or at least has had an emotional truth to it.

The show is a  brilliant lampooning of various kinds of Film and TV tropes, but the reason it works so well emotionally is “The Greendale Seven”.  The Seven is a study group originally formed for a Spanish class.  All seven then go on to take Anthropology, Biology, and History. In addition to The Study Group, their flamboyant Dean and insane former Spanish teacher round out the ensemble.

As the show progressed, certain actors from the key group of nine left the show and the emotional holes are all too visible.. Like in life, there is a bittersweet passage of time- although that doesn’t really justify a drop in quality. It just proves that character is always key. This is a lesson that both Lost and, perhaps, Twin Peaks could have learned from. The simpler something is, the better.

The Study Group is utterly dependent upon each other.  Their dynamic is severely impacted when anyone is missing. They even regress as people, in some instances. I’ll be exploring how each member is part of a jigsaw puzzle that only really works when every piece is put together. Without each and every person, the show doesn’t quite work as effectively.

Power of Will

“Get me something cold and imported”

Although it could be argued greatness is thrust upon him, no Power of Imagination character would be able to control a group of people in the same way Jeff does- that character type is for the most part selfless. Jeff is every bit a Power of Will character. However, he is not a villain but instead a complex protagonist. He may be in control most of the time, but he only ever flexes his muscles when he is challenged, or actually called upon to enforce his will on others. Although he doesn’t often actively seek to be a leader or be in control, when his authority is threatened by outsiders he becomes aggressive. This is when his Power of Will character is most apparent.

Despite his obsession with his health and physique, he prides himself on avoiding work and actually putting in effort- the very crux of the show is that Jeff has to go back to college because he falsified his qualifications.  He is terrified of losing control and will do whatever he can to keep it. If anyone is considered better than Jeff, he will snap- this is when his Power of Will character is most apparent. He is terrified of losing control and will do whatever he can to keep it. If anyone is considered better than Jeff, he will snap- this is atypical behaviour of Power of Will characters.

So he may not conquer and dominate, but when someone gives him power willingly, as he is charming and convincing, he becomes obsessing with keeping it- and it is the Study Group that encourages him to act on the Power of Will personality he has. It is fascinating to see a protagonist that is a Power of Will character, because they exhibit traits that are traditionally considered by villainous and antagonistic. But he is incredibly likeable whether we see his flaws or at his default mode of “the leader”. As the show goes on, his warmth and affection becomes more apparent and he softens. However, his Power of Will traits can come through at any moment.

Power of Idealism

“You seemed much smarter when I met you”

“Thank You”

Being part of a group means Britta can indulge the worst traits of being a Power of Idealism character type. She wallows in self-pity, suffering intense mood swings and always having someone to exhibit her intense pain or joy to. Whilst the Study Group can actually benefit each other in some way, acting as foils for each other’s character types, Britta is the only member who actually outright suffers by being part of a group. By actually belonging and being backed up by friends, there is no epic drama so she has to create it.

A former “political activist”, in the loosest sense, Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) has an interesting arc in that she goes backwards once she joins the Study Group. Every other member either remains an unchanging constant, or evolves into a better person. Britta begins as the stable heart of the group, but soon becomes referred to as “the worst” and a “buzzkill”, and it’s all downhill from there.

She soon becomes the clown of the group, even more so than Pierce. This can be attributed both to the dynamic of the Study Group, but also the fact she is a Power of Idealism character. These characters, such as Carrie Bradshaw, Rick Blaine and Zhivago, believe life is a dramatic struggle, forever needing to be epic and exceptional. Britta preaches activism constantly, reminding people of how the system is oppressing them, and how there is injustice they should be speaking out against, yet she can never quite deliver on this herself.

However, her constant striving to tackle what’s wrong in the world does rub off on the rest of the group- more often than not, she is the one to tone down Jeff, or make Pierce be more considerate of how his actions affect others. It is interesting how her character can, in moments of clarity, save the Study Group from itself by reminding them never to be complacent.

Power of Reason

“TV adheres to logic, reason, rules. But in real life, we have this. We have you.”

Power of Reason characters see the world as a series of puzzles to be solved, and always use a frame of reference to decipher things, be it a simple conversation or an actual mystery. Abed’s frame of reference is Popular Culture. When he does not get his way, and people or events deviate from his line of reasoning, he goes beserk. This is a regular occurrence and is the only time we see the cool, logical Abed a dramatic breakdown.

Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) may not be the leader of the group, or even its central focus, but he is certainly its heart. He represents the best and worst about Community. Although it is a habit he improves upon as the show progresses, and the Study Group makes him less of a Power of Reason character, Abed filters his understanding of the world through what he sees in Movies, TV shows and comic books. He believes real life is like a TV show, and is obsessed with meta narratives.

He is a classic Power of Reason character, only getting emotionally involved with events when he believes it will drive forward the narrative of the TV show in his head, or a student film he happens to be making. The Study Group inadvertently helps him engage more emotionally and be more socially conscious, but they also encourage his bad habits by going along with many of his more insane ideas that allow him to better understand the world. Because he does not get tangled up in petty arguments and affairs of the heart, like everyone else, his detachment can often resolve conflict. In his most graceful moments, Abed is capable of incredible warmth because of the friends he surrounds himself with- and it is a pure warmth because he is unaware of his impact on others as it is a distraction for him and he admits to not fully comprehending things in the same way as the others.

Power of Conscience

“I am being assertive, and it is getting results!”

Power of Conscience characters, especially in comedies, are exposed for their hypocrisies, and the dark side of their character- going to extremes to maintain what they believe is just- can make for some very funny scenarios. We learn that Annie is unhinged and it is always hilarious, rather than disturbing. She starts as uptight, obsessed with maintaining order, and eventually learns to relax- but evens as her character learns and grows, she maintains a neurotic streak that comes out at the most inconvenient times.

Annie begins as one of the strongest characters, but in the show’s final season she is doing evolving and is given little to do, rarely relapsing into her old ways but losing the essence of her character.

Starting out as arguably the “child” of the group, even though she and Troy are the same age, Annie Edison (Alison Brie) is one of the characters who actually grows up and matures throughout the course of the show (as do Troy, Abed and Jeff. The others, not so much). However, the trappings of being a Power of Conscience character remain throughout.

When we are introduced to Annie, she is a goody two-shoes bookworm who always believes in what she deems to be fair and this is why her constant clashes with cheating slacker Jeff are so amusing. She is met with the polar opposite to herself, and their relationship is one of the most enduring in the show because they change each other for the better.

Power of Imagination

“You moving in here was supposed to tone us down!”

It’s interesting in such a madcap sitcom about a community college that former jock Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) has greatness thrust upon him in a place where no epic quest is ever likely to unfold. However, Troy’s arc from ignorant egotist to a hero with a heart of gold is arguably the most satisfying character arc out of anyone in Community. He leaves the show eventually with his head held high, and has changed for the better because of his time at Greendale with the Study Group. Whenever the show frequently takes diversions into genre spoofs of everything from westerns and space operas to police procedurals and action movies, Troy is always our reluctant hero even if he is not the natural leader.

Surprisingly, it is Power of Excitement character Pierce who turns to him most often for guidance and support (similar, in fact, to the dynamic of Rick and Morty). In fact, at some point every character puts their trust in Troy even when he believes he can’t help them. Like any Power of Imagination character, Troy brings harmony and balance, in this case to Greendale.

But, mostly because of his emotional investment in Abed, Troy willing to go along with the regular descents into high-concept madness that Community takes. He is a conventional Power of Imagination character in an unconventional setting you wouldn’t expect to house a reluctant hero like Troy.

He is the only person who truly understands Abed, and their friendship is one of the most charming in American television. He often guides Abed and assists him more than anyone else, because he has responsibility placed on him to guide his friends on the right path, whether it is in a ludicrous scenario or real-life dilemmas. Whether his foil is Power of Excitement or Power of Reason, Troy is forced to step up for the good of those around him.

Power of Excitement

“Ain’t no party without drugs!”

Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase) is a perennial agent of chaos, immediately identifying him as a Power of Excitement character. Pierce adheres to every stereotype of a Power of Excitement character- constantly seeking to please himself and have fun, he gets bitter and jealous when he is excluded from anything exciting, often with disastrous results.

A spoilt man-child who inherited a moist towelette empire, despite belonging to an accepting Study Group, Pierce often sabotages his friends as well as himself simply through his personality. As we explore his backstory through the show, we learn he is very much a “Peter Pan” type who never really grew up on account of his enormous wealth and oppressive father. He may not be the suave playboy type, like other Power of Excitement characters such as James Bond, Tony Stark or Indiana Jones, but his downfall is his refusal to ever settle. He has studied at Greendale longer than any of his friends because it is the only place where he can get his “fix”.

Pierce has moments of elderly wisdom and profound kindness, but they are few and far between. When these moments occur, they have so much more impact because it is unexpected, so is never completely irredeemable, but he never really evolves because of belonging to the Study Group, remaining a constant irritant and disruptor. However, there is an entire episode dedicated to the group dynamic when they temporarily exclude Pierce, and it becomes apparent that they need him every bit as much as he needs them.

Power of Love

“He’s dead to me, and anyone who goes to that fight will be too. Now, let’s sing!”

Power of Love characters may not mean to be so domineering and aggressive, but it is in their nature, and Shirley is no exception. Everything Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown) does is for those that she loves, whether it’s her sons, the Study Group or Jesus. She often believes she has to save her immoral friends in the Study Group from themselves. Even her friends have described her as “cloying” before.

But Shirley always means well- there are rarely malicious or selfish actions behind her intentions. But she displays the archetypal flaws of Power of Love characters- her affection and concern seems to translate in possessiveness and and aggressive need to dominate her friends hearts. Just because she seems sweet, besides her constant baked goods, doesn’t mean she is innocent.

Shirley sometimes just doesn’t understand why her friends don’t listen to everything she suggests, but she is relentless in making them see her point of view for their own good. She has sometimes even admitted that she is so kind and affectionate so that others will love her unquestionably.

Surprisingly, the characters who understand her most are Jeff and Pierce- sharing similar traits and the more life experience than their younger friends, these two relationships in particular are interesting because they show each other their strengths as well as their flaws. A Power of Love character makes sense as part of an ensemble, be it dramatic or comedic. Shirley belongs in the Study Group and the other members don’t realize how important it is they have a friend like her, just as flawed by the most loving and forgiving of them all.

Power of Truth

“I’m nuts, Jeff! Get with the program!”

Power of Truth characters are usually Detectives like Clarice Starling, or neurotic observers like Jerry Seinfeld. They believe there is always something sinister going on, often involving him. These characters are often paranoid, and forever restless. There is no one more paranoid, and of the belief there is a great conspiracy afoot, then former Spanish-teacher-turned-student Benjamin Franklin Chang (Ken Jeong).

Chang is a borderline psychopath, constantly destructive and on the surface seems like an agent of chaos. But he is not a Power of Excitement character because he isn’t looking for adventure and pleasure. He genuinely acts out of a feeling of rejection.He just believes people are out to get him, and rightfully so- people constantly reject him and this only fuels his actions.

Whenever the student body of Greendale become exaggerated heroes or villains in high-concept episodes like the Paintball trilogy, Chang is usually switching allegiances or seeking those he (wrongly) believes are evil and bringing them to justice. His biggest desire is to belong to the Study Group, but he is not Power of Ambition because he doesn’t put on a front.

He is an outsider to the Study Group, and Chang shows us that, to quote another supporting character, “their love is toxic”. Because of they way they are, unwilling to accept outsiders, characters that want to belong with them, like Chang and Dean Pelton, find their character traits exacerbated. If the Study Group simply accepted Chang, he may have identified as Power of Excitement or Power of Ambition.

Power of Ambition

“I heard you guys having a tiff. What’s the ruckus?”

“We were just wondering how often a man can come in here wearing an elaborate costume to deliver us irrelevant news.”

Like all Power of Ambition characters, Dean Craig Pelton (Jim Rash) wants to put on a front of being, at the very least, competent. He might even achieve it if he wasn’t so occupied with trying to join a group of students. Power of Ambition characters tend to pride themselves on some form of material wealth, or lifestyle, anything that can show them to be the best, or outstanding in some way. For Dean Pelton, it is his numerous costumes, clearly a literal disguise for his need to please and to impress.

He will often show up out of nowhere, interrupt a Study Group meeting in an attempt to become involved with the plot of the episode. He is an incredibly lovable character despite this, and the Study Group are genuinely fond of him, something he is either unaware of or chooses to overlook- it’s hard to tell which one of these it is.

All he wants is for Greendale to be respected, for the Study Group to involve him in their zany adventures, and for the love of Jeff- two of these are achievable goals, but because of the Dean’s characteristics as Power of Ambition, one cancels out the other and he ultimately achieves nothing. Despite this, he remains a welcome presence, as opposed to an irrelevant character who leaves no impact since he does not evolve.

For more examples of all the character types, you can purchase my in-depth e-books at the ETB shop, or you can read more articles on all the “Power Of…” types including James Bond, Doctor Who, Batman and Sherlock Holmes, every Tuesday. There are also 9 pinterest boards full of character examples online. Check them out and let us know at ETBHelp@gmail.com if you have any other suggestions.

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#TypesTuesday – Doctor Who: 1 Character, 9 Types

Types Tuesday

by Guest Contributor Oscar Harding

There is no other character in all of film and television like The Doctor from Doctor Who.

Countless actors have delivered unique and differing interpretations of everyone from Hamlet on stage to The Joker on film, Blanche DuBois to Hannibal Lecter. Sometimes characters in TV series like Eastenders or Film franchises like The Avengers are recast.

But The Doctor changes appearance, and retains all past memories. Every actor who has played The Doctor is also playing everyone who has come before them.

It is a fascinating anomaly and means The Doctor has, at some point throughout the show’s 53-year history been every single one of the “Power Of…” character types.What is particularly interesting is that in some way, the defining characteristics of each incarnation are a direct result of how their predecessor died.

The logic of the Regeneration concept allows for this unique quirk no other fictional character is able to do. With the latest actor to play the role, Jodie Whittaker, recently being announced, and the current actor, Peter Capaldi, about to finish his time in the role, it seems like a good time to look at an incarnation of the Doctor who has embodied each of the 9 character types.

BE WARNED! Major spoilers follow for every era of Doctor Who.

Power of Love

The First Doctor (William Hartnell) was introduced as a grandfather who fled his home planet with his Granddaughter, Susan. Every dangerous adventure he undertakes is occupied by a need to protect Susan as much as he also wants to show her the Universe and broaden her horizons. Susan eventually decides to stay with a man she meets on one of their adventures, and though it is heartbreaking for The Doctor, he realizes that letting Susan stay is the safest option for her.

Every dangerous adventure he undertakes is propelled by a need to protect Susan as much as he also wants to show her the Universe and broaden her horizons. Susan eventually decides to stay with a man she meets on one of their adventures, and though it is heartbreaking for The Doctor, he realizes that letting Susan stay is the safest option for her.

He may be remembered as grumpy, but almost every action of this incarnation is motivated by love, even if it doesn’t initially seem like it. This Doctor, despite his appearance, is young and everything he does is for his companions. He isn’t the embittered, battlescarred Doctor we meet later on in the show’s history.

His iconic speech as he bids his Granddaughter farewell shows the love and admiration he has for her:

Power of Ambition

The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) is the result of his predecessor being forced to change appearance against his will, and he wakes up, without his transport, and exiled to earth. He ultimately wants to be accepted by the military taskforce who have hired him, and to return to him people and be accepted by them.

His flamboyant action-hero persona is a cover for a lonely man who just wants acceptance. A classic Power of Ambition character, but one who is justified in his behaviour. His predecessor was forced to regenerate and exiled by his own people. Of course the Third Doctor would be Power of Ambition- the way he was born wouldn’t allow him to be anything else.

In this video him with his typical Power of Ambition attitude towards others:

Power of Will

Just one look at the outfit of The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) tells you everything you need to know about him. His predecessor looked young and acted young. Full of wonder and naivety, he saw the best in people and sacrificed his life to save his companion. Born from selflessness, The Sixth Doctor is brash and rather jarring- he is hard to like until you really get to know him.

Like any Power of Will character, he has the capacity to be boorish and abrasive, which can be as much of a strength as it is a weakness. This particular personality becomes The Doctor’s downfall as he is put on Trial by his own people (again) and pays for it with his life. Power of Will characters believe it is better to burn out than to fade away, and as the below video demonstrates, The Sixth Doctor takes no prisoners and offers no apologies for being Power of Will:

Power of Reason

Having made so much noise in his previous form, The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) learns from his most recent mistakes by opting for a more calculated, cerebral approach to saving the Universe. As time has gone on, fans and critics alike have praised this darkest of Doctors. Power of Reason characters see everything as a challenge or a puzzle to be solved, and The Seventh Doctor is a big fan of chess, playing everyone off against each other to save the day, be they friend or foe.

Acting the utter fool as a front, this incarnation was a master strategist, reveling in obstacles to overcome and not stopping often enough to think of those who were pushed aside in his quest to find resolution. Ultimately, this drive to outwit everyone would define the character for years to come, as the actions of The Seventh Doctor inadvertently caused The Time War- more on that shortly.

This video, showing The Doctor talking himself out of a gun being pointed in his face, is an excellent example of a Power of Reason character at work:

Power of Idealism

The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) cut a dashing, Byronic figure. A handsome romantic forever searching for adventure and that next high. He couldn’t be more of a Power of Idealism character, which makes his death all the more tragic. He regenerated from his cold, calculated predecessor on New Year’s Eve, 1999 and was immediately thrown into a race against time to save reality itself, without a moment to pause for breath. He had a love of the finest things in life, and was very much like the great Romantic poets like Shelley.

It was this lust for life which made him blind to the machinations going on in the Universe that resulted in The Time War, a devastating conflict that raged across every dimension. True to his Power of Idealism characteristics, he chose to ignore the conflict, except to play the hero and help those caught in the crossfire, though never interfering because that would involve difficult choices- being a warrior would be beneath him. Ever unique, he would “help where I can. I will not fight.” It was this refusal to try and stop the War that brought about his demise, as he tries to save just one person instead. Forced the regenerate, his end is perhaps the most heartbreaking of all the incarnations, as he tells those who would engineer his rebirth:

I don’t suppose there’s any need for a Doctor anymore. Make me a warrior.

You can watch the whole tragic ending in the video below:

Power of Imagination

Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.

The War Doctor (John Hurt) might be the most interesting incarnation of them all, and not just because he is the one we know the least about. Literally born out of necessity, he was conditioned for conflict and refused to take the name of “The Doctor” as he became a commander in The Time War. Everything we have seen and read of him, however, shows him to be reluctant- to fight, to kill, to forgive himself, even to accept that he is just as much “The Doctor” as everyone who came before and after him.

The War Doctor is every bit the reluctant hero, forced into existence and on an epic quest to end the greatest war in all of creation. Like any Power of Imagination character, greatness is thrust upon him, despite his protestations that he is the “Doctor No More”. There are incarnations that would take this quest on with swagger, many of them citing pacifism and choosing not to let anyone die because of their actions, but not The War Doctor. Forever doubting his is good and heroic, he is exactly like Frodo Baggins or Luke Skywalker, other classic examples of Power of Imagination characters. Exhausted by centuries of war, and having saved the day, this hero gets a happy ending as he regenerates, knowing he can proudly call himself The Doctor again.

The below video shows The War Doctor faced with his greatest decision, which could end the War but wipeout his home planet:

Power of Excitement

Power of Excitement characters are the life and soul of the party, and The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) is relentlessly fun to be around, and a real ladies’ man. But he never dares to look back, or stops to think that he can’t always be the hero. When he reflects on heartbreak or lets down his facade of constant cheeriness and optimism, it is in the most dramatic fashion. Everything he does is with flair, and in pursuit of adventure, but more often than not it is at the cost of those whose paths he crosses. Despite being a hero, like a Power of Excitement character always is, The Tenth Doctor is an agent of chaos.

Ultimately, this thrillseeking incarnation is a deeply tragic character because he rarely stops to reflect on his actions until it is too late. He was born from a predecessor haunted by his actions in the Time War who found love in Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler. That love is amplified when he turned into the Tenth Doctor.

At the end of his life, sacrificing himself to save his friend Wilf (Bernard Cribbins), his regeneration is the most destructive and explosive because he held off the process for so long. His parting words were “I don’t want to go” and he seems to be the personification of Dylan Thomas’ quote “rage, rage against the dying of the light”.

The below video shows the reckless dark side of this archetypal Power of Excitement character at work, as he defies the very laws of time:

Power of Truth

The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) came into existence after his predecessor, all alone, finally gave in and regenerated. He was literally given a baptism of fire, his TARDIS in flames and crashing towards Earth. After such a dramatic entrance, he is immediately faced with a multitude of mysteries he must solve, and even when he tries to ignore intrigue, this Doctor must turn detective for the good of those around him.

He finds a family after suffering so much loss as his previous incarnation, and the only way he can keep them safe is to pursue the conspiracies that seem to surround him. Ancient religious orders determined to kill him, a woman who claims to be his wife popping up all over his timelines, and cracks in the skin of the universe that threatens to consume everything. Facing similar challenges as his predecessor, Seventh Doctor, this incarnation has to be cunning, quickwitted, and always alert. The irony is it is this very characteristic is what brings about his end, which haunts him all the way at the start. His era gets very confusing, which seems appropriate for a quintessential Power of Truth character like The Eleventh Doctor.

The below video shows us what happens when a Power of Truth character is proved right, and he gets to the bottom of a mystery. It’s not pretty…

Power of Conscience

The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) began his time in the role obsessed with the question “Am I a good man?”. By the end of his life, desperately trying to save a community of colonists from an army of Cybermen, and stranded with two incarnations his best friend and worst enemy, The Master, he gave a defining speech when confronting them as they fled the chaos, which can be viewed in the video below. It speaks volumes to his character, and is the most obvious evidence that he is a Power of Conscience character through and through.

He started out as a bitter man, his predecessor stranded on Trenzalore for hundreds of years, protecting the planet from swarms of enemies and ending it all from sheer exhaustion. But this incarnation’s face was familiar- in fact, it is the face of a man he saved many years before. It was a reminder to himself to do what is right, no matter the cost. He may have been harsh like the Sixth Doctor at times, but came to prove that despite his gruff exterior, he had a heart the size of The First Doctor. No other incarnation has beat himself up so much about doing the right thing, and never letting injustice occur. Power of Conscience characters think about nothing else, and The Twelfth Doctor is no exception. He thought less of adventure, and more about what it means to be The Doctor- a good man.

What’s Next?

We won’t get our first glimpse of The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) until Christmas, and we won’t get to know her character until late next year, so it’s impossible to guess what type she will be. But if the conditions of her predecessor’s demise are anything to go by, she could very well be a Power of Love character. Only Time (and Space) will tell.

For more examples of all the character types, you can purchase the in-depth e-books at the ETB shop, or you can read more articles on all the “Power Of…” types including James Bond, Batman and Sherlock Holmes, every Tuesday.

And if you want to start an argument about guest contributor Oscar Harding’s analysis please post in the comments section!

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#TypesTuesday – Zero Dark Thirty and Power of Conscience

Tuesday Types

In Zero Dark Thirty, written by Mark Boal and directed by Katherine Bigelow, a young CIA operative called Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, is obsessed with finding and killing Osama Bin Ladin, a terrorist.

She is involved in morally reprehensible torture and criminal violence to track down and have her quarry killed.  She is driven and relentless, so much so that when she is successful she has no idea what to do next. And we have to ask, what does her immoral activity make her? Hero or war criminal?

Bigelow explains in an interview:

“I think what’s so interesting and so poignant for Jessica, myself, for all of us, is this idea that this woman (Maya) has spent the last ten years exclusively in the pursuit of one man and yes, at the end of the day, she triumphed, but it’s not a victory because finally, at the end of the day, you’re left with much larger questions like, where does she go from here? Where do we go from here? Now what?” Chastain adds, “I find that to end the film on that question is far more interesting than providing an answer.”

Power of Conscience characters wrestle with how far they should go in seeking justice or in standing up against evil or wrongdoing.  The question is: what is the higher duty and what exactly is required of them in response. In their Dark Side, these characters believe the ends justify the means (evil behavior for a good or moral purpose).  Maya is involved in terrible activities, but she does get her man. Can she live with herself?  Or is she willing to do even worse things for the next right cause?

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Why is the Cop on the Job?

In a serialized cop drama the mechanics of “How” a crime is solved is so much less important than “Why” the cops are doing what they are doing and “Why” they are affected by the job. If there is no “Why” it’s just cops going through the motions, which can make a serialized story feel by-the-numbers and hollow.

The “Why” provides the emotion, passion, and inter-personal conflict between the individuals in the story (and all the internal conflict within the character). Too often writers simply project their general idea of being a cop and use the mechanics of “How” to put the cops through their paces— Instead of being specific about “Why” one particular individual is a cop and “Why” he/she does the job in a particular or unique way.

There are four basic categories of “Why” anyone becomes a cop (or a doctor, or any other professional):

1. It’s a job. Being a cop is solid union employment and a dependable way to make a living and support a family. The cop does what is expected and punches out. The cop puts in the time and is concerned and responsible on the job. But he or she doesn’t take the job home and retires as soon as is feasible.

2. It’s a career. Being a cop is a good opportunity for advancement. The cop is working to achieve something else. The job is a means to an end (rising through the ranks, running for political office, becoming a consultant, etc.) It is a stepping- stone to something else and worth the hard work and extra effort to achieve a larger goal.

3. It’s a vocation. Being a cop is a life mission or a higher calling. The cop is there to make a difference, have an important impact, or change people’s lives. The work is a consuming passion for the cop. There is no dividing line between work and personal life. Work is the cop’s life.

4. It’s a mistake. Being a cop is not a good fit. The individual is a cop for the wrong reasons or the wrong motivations. Or the reality of the job doesn’t conform to the ideal of the job or the fantasy of being a cop. In any case, the individual puts in the time and effort, got the job, and now is trapped.

Any kind of employment, but particularly policing, has a variety of people who look at the “Why” of doing the job very differently. All individuals naturally assume their “Why” is the most valid reason or, if everyone else was honest, is the real motivation for anyone doing the job. This is a great opportunity for personal conflict in a story. Too often in cop shows (or shows featuring the medical profession) everyone is doing the job for the same reason. That isn’t the case in life and it shouldn’t be the case in drama.

Layered onto “Why” someone is employed as a police officer (it’s a job, a career, a vocation, or a mistake) is the “Why” of the individual’s Character Type. Looking down on nine different police officers toiling away long into the night it might be easy or convenient to believe they are all working hard for the same internal motivation or with the same value system and world view in mind. But every one of the Nine Character Types sees the world very differently, believes very different things about how the world works, and sees the primary role of a cop from a unique perspective.

1. Power of Conscience cops believe policing is an important duty and carries with it the responsibility of making the world a better place. Doing the right thing is crucial to these kinds of cops. Their struggle is what is the higher duty or the most right—law or justice. (These two principles are not the same thing). Hill Street Blues‘ Joyce Davenport (Veronica Hamel) is this kind of character. Howard Hunter (James B. Sikking) is the comic version on the same show. Homicide’s Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor) is also a Power of Conscience character. Rylan Givens (Timothy Oliphant) in Justified is a more recent example. Although not a cop show, the sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in The Walking Dead, was a Power of Conscience law enforcement officer.

2. Power of Will cops believe policing is a matter of strength and the ability to dominate the situation. The use of power is crucial to these kinds of cops. Their struggle is what actually constitutes strength or power— excess or restraint. (Does compassion and tolerance make you stronger or weaker?) NYPD Blue’s Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) is this kind of character. A more recent example is Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) on The Shield.  In The Walking Dead, Shane Walsh (Jon” Bernthal) is a Power of Will law enforcement officer.

3. Power of Ambition cops believe policing is a matter of winning or losing. Appealing to other’s self-interest is the way to get things done. Their struggle is with short cuts vs. the long hard patient slog—results or process. (If no one else plays by the rules why should they?) Hill Street Blues‘ John “JD” LaRue (Kiel Martin) is a Power of Ambition character. A more recent example is Lieutenant Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick) on The Wire.  Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins) is another example of this kind of cop in The Shield.

4. Power of Love cops believe policing is caring for others and helping them succeed. Compassion and understanding is crucial to how they get the job done. Their struggle is when to employ “tough love” or just give up on someone. (When does empathy or understanding simply enable bad or destructive behavior?) NYPD Blue’s Bobby Simone (Jimmy Smits) is this kind of character. Another example is Phil Esterhaus (Michael Conrad) on Hill Street Blues. Woody Harrelson as Detective Marty Hart in True Detective is a Power of Love cop.

5. Power of Idealism cops believe policing is a matter of individual style and personal excellence. Use of unique talents and refusing to buckle under to stupid bureaucrats is crucial to their method of policing. Their struggle is how to maintain their individuality and still be part of a larger organization. (When does being a maverick or a rebel cause more harm than good?) Homicide’s Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher) illustrates the Power of Idealism character as a cop.  Another example is Detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) on The Wire.

6. Power of Reason cops believe policing is a matter of keeping personal self-control and maintaining the social order. Objectivity, expertise and a depth of knowledge are crucial to getting the job done. Their struggle is to connect with their own emotions. Dexter’s title character (Michael C. Hall) is one of the best recent examples of this kind of character on the police force. Monk’s title character (Tony Shalhoub) is the comedic example. Sofia Helin as Saga Norén in the Swedish series The Bridge is another great example of this kind of cop.

7. Power of Truth cops believe policing is a matter of uncovering secret agendas and avoiding hidden pitfalls. Establishing trust, knowing who your friends are, and being attuned to conspiracies are crucial to getting the job done. Their struggle is to accept the ambiguity of the job and the possibility of never finding real certainty. (Is the “truth” a moving target or something fixed and certain?) Homicide’s conspiracy obsessed Steve Crosetti (Jon Polito) is this kind of character. Hill Street Blues’ loyal to the core Frank Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti) is another example.  Kurt Wallander (Kenneth Branagh) on the UK version of Wallendar is a Power of Truth detective so is Matthew McConaughey as Detective Rusty Cohle in True Detective.

8. Power of Imagination cops believe policing is a matter of listening to your instincts, following hunches, or special intuitive clues. Often access to what others cannot see or hear or a quirky special kind of insight is crucial to doing their job. Their struggle is how to interpret their unusual intuition or how best to communicate it to others. (Do they take me seriously or do they think I’m crazy?) This kind of cop is rare on television. Hill Street Blues’ Michael (Mick) Belker (Bruce Weitz) is an uncouth ruffian version of the Power of Imagination character.  Another example is police consultant Allison DuBois (Patricia Arquette) in Medium.

9. Power of Excitement cops believe policing is an adventure and a thrill ride. Their charm, good-humor and ability to get themselves in and out of traps is crucial to how they do their job. Their struggle is in following orthodox rules when it is so much more interesting to play fast and loose, improvise, and shoot from the hip. (Are we having fun yet?) Beverly Hills Cop’s Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is the quintessential example of this character.

The “Why” of policing combined with Character Type creates a variety of complex and interesting individuals. It would be possible, for example, to create four very different Power of Conscience characters depending on whether they view policing as a job, as a career, as a vocation or as a mistake.

Their values and their world views would not change but their attitudes would clash. For example: How these characters define their “higher duty” or what is the “most right” is hugely influenced by the reason they are on the job. Those different perspectives provide enormous potential conflict. Here is the breakdown:

1. A Power of Conscience cop who sees policing as a job would probably believe the higher duty is owed to family. This cop would follow the rules, be conscientious, but not take the job home.

2. A Power of Conscience cop who sees policing as a career would probably believe the higher duty is owed to the organization or society. The higher the cop rises, the more effective the position becomes to do good and improve the larger situation. This cop would be relentless in seeking opportunities to advance a larger moral agenda.  And the issue of “how much bad am I willing to do in service to a good cause” would be a recurring personal theme.

3. A Power of Conscience cop who sees policing as a vocation probably believes the higher duty is owed to the victims of crime. This cop’s passion would be justice for the victims and punishment for the criminals. His or her personal life would be consumed by this life mission.

4. A Power of Conscience cop who see policing as a mistake would probably believe the higher duty is owed to one’s self. Policing can be a dirty murky business where there often is no right answer and true justice is hard to find. This lack of clear-cut black and white or right and wrong would probably be an unbearable burden on this individual– giving rise to external moral outrage and internal guilt or self-loathing. How can I be good or worthy in a cesspool?

Creating an ensemble which clearly addresses “Why” the cop is on the job combined with Character Type provides an endless source of internal and external conflict. Making use of the full variety of human experience in specific combination creates memorable partnerships, unforgettable enemies, and extraordinary individual characters.

#TypesTuesday – Tracy Flick and Hillary Clinton : Power of Conscience

Tracy-Flick-Hillary-Clinton-EtbScreenwritingHillary Clinton and Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) in the movie Election are a great examples of hard-driving intense Power of Conscience characters.

I found a fantastic clip of Tracy and Hillary intercut in a scene from Election.  It is a wonderful sketch of everything that is most important to this Character Type.  The clip refers back to Clinton’s run against Barack Obama (a Power of Imagination character) in 2008.

Power of Conscience characters believe that leadership must be earned by dedication, hard work, thorough preparation, and devotion to duty.  Leadership must be deserved. One must be worthy in order to lead. At their worst, these characters can become rigid, accusatory, sanctimonious, judgmental, and hypocritical.

 

Aronofsky’s Noah & Adaptation Challenges

 

Darren Aronofsky’s film, Noah, has caused controversy and consternation across the religious spectrum. Some professed atheists are none too pleased, either.  Yet, the film racked up impressive box office numbers and has scored many positive reviews in both the secular and religious press.

Those who complain about the film criticize Aronofsky’s visual style, the mass killings of flood victims, Aronofsky’s straying from specific elements in the scriptural text, and adding creative elements not present in the original Bible story.

Whether you liked the film or not, Noah is a great look at the adaptation process and the key elements in transforming a story from one medium to another.

The story of Noah, as it written in the Bible, is episodic. One action simply follows another. Instructed by God, Noah has a goal.  He sets about accomplishing that goal in a straightforward sequence of events.

There is lots of external conflict in Noah’s Bible story: the rigors of building the ark, gathering the animals, the danger presented by the rising flood waters, and the endless days of floating across a vast watery world not knowing where or when they would land. But the Biblical text provides very few relationship conflicts and Noah has no personal internal conflict.  Much is missing or omitted from the original text that needs to be present in a successful fictional story.

Scripts fail when the protagonist only struggles with external obstacles.  Our internal struggles and contradictions define what we do and what we do defines who we are.  Character is action.  A character’s internal conflict drives the character’s actions in response to any and all external conflicts. Resolving that inner conflict is what creates a character’s emotional or spiritual journey.  No inner conflict no journey. As written in the Bible, Noah has no conflicted interior life. He simply proceeds on his mission step-by-step.

Among the Nine Character Types, Noah is Power of Conscience character. Power of Conscience characters are propelled to act out of an innate sense of duty, responsibility, and righteousness.  Noah is specifically described as “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, one who walked faithfully with God”.

Power of Conscience characters feel responsible for the greater good and for doing good. Internally, they wrestle with how far they should go in seeking justice or how much wrong should they do in the cause of right. They struggle with what is the higher duty. Is the precise letter of the law more important than the more generous spirit of the law? Which should prevail: justice or mercy? Is punishment or forgiveness the more righteous choice? What does the higher duty call them to do?  Please note: SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

Power of Conscience characters fear failing in their own eyes or in not living up to their own high moral standards. They fret over how far they should go in promoting their deeply held personal beliefs or acting on their moral outrage.

Some of the best adaptations start with a question.  I don’t know him personally but I believe Aronofsky started by asking himself why, after fulfilling his mission, does Noah drink himself into near insensibility, to the point he doesn’t bother to dress himself. Aronofsky’s answer seems to be— because Noah thinks he has failed.

Noah interprets God’s command to mean that human beings have fallen into corrupt and evil ways and must be wiped off the face off the earth.  Only the innocent (animals) are worthy of surviving. Noah believes he and his family are the last humans and will be of no use once the animals are saved.

In order to strengthen Noah’s position, Aronofsky doesn’t include Noah’s son’s wives in his retelling of the story. Only one son, Shem, has a wife, Ila, but she is barren.  When a miracle occurs and Ila conceives, Noah believes the child must be killed (sacrificed to God) if the baby is a female (and capable of reproducing).

Noah’s wife, Naameh, argues for mercy. Noah is adamant about his interpretation of his mission. After Ila gives birth to twin girls, Noah remains convinced about what he must do. He burns the raft Shem and Ila build to escape.  Ila runs back into the Ark.  When Noah finds her, knife in hand, she begs to be allowed to comfort the children so they won’t die afraid.  She sings a lullaby that Noah sang to her.  When the babies quiet, Noah cannot kill them in their innocent slumber. At the expense of his mission, Noah saves the babies.  Noah believes he has failed.

Ila comes to him in his depression and tells him that human compassion, mercy, and kindness are the most important virtues.  It is impossible to fail God if you hold these things in your heart and you act for the good of another.  Ila suggests that it is God’s will that Noah discover mercy in contrast to the harsh justice he has witnessed.

Noah is an Old Testament story brought into the New Testament.  What Ila tells Noah reminds me of what Jesus tells the Pharasees when he heals a man on the Sabbath.

Matthew 12:11— “And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”– so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

The letter of the law says it is forbidden to work on the Sabbath.  The spirit of New Testament teaching is that compassion, mercy, and kindness toward others are more important than Sabbath law or any other law. For the sake of compassion and generosity, Jesus ignored laws of ritual washing, laws forbidding association with women and those who were unclean, and dietary laws.  Over and over in the Bible, Jesus chooses mercy.

The role of Noah reminds me of the Power of Conscience conflict at the heart of Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Javert in Les Miserables.

 

Javert hunts Jean Valjean for decades.  Javert’s duty is to strictly enforce the law and to return all escaped convicts to prison.

Jean Valjean has the opportunity to kill Javert, and end the chase, but Jean Valjean spares Javert’s life instead.  Javert realizes his quarry is a good man.  Javert lets Jean Valjean go.

But Javert cannot live in a world where mercy might be morally superior to the letter of the law.  Javert kills himself because he cannot live with this contradiction of his rigid belief in his duty as a “man of law”.

Noah struggles with the same kind of contradiction. What is the higher duty?  Should we promote justice or extend mercy? How far are we willing to go in doing what we believe is right? How far is too far? These internal conflicts are at the heart of Aronofsky’s adaptation of the the Noah story.  They are the essential conflicts that make this brief episodic Bible story work as a movie.