The Dark Knight – Alfred & The Power of Love

Alfred Dark KnightToday I’m sitting on a screened porch in Wisconsin, on vacation, and taking a closer look at another Character Type in The Dark Knight. Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s long-time friend, confident and butler, is a classic Power of Love character.

A character driven by the Power of Love is often someone who tirelessly pushes another forward in a story.  Although typically developed as a female character,  a Power of Love character can also be a compelling male ensemble player (or even lead).  These characters— often soft-spoken, gentle and compliant on the outside— are made of strong, even steely, stuff on the inside.  They believe the best place to be is the “power behind the throne.”

All these qualities are very evident with Alfred.  His courtesy and refined manners mask a steely determination and protectiveness on Bruce Wayne/Batman’s behalf.  Alfred stands just behind Batman’s power and is a subtle but strong presence in the story.

Alfred: I suppose they’ll lock me up as well. As your accomplice…
Bruce/Batman: Accomplice? I’m going to tell them the whole thing was your idea.

In a large part the whole concept of Batman is Alfred’s idea. Bruce/Batman’s continuing story hinges on a key action Alfred takes.

Power of Love characters are defined by their determination.  They will not give up on whatever goal, scheme or objective they have in mind for the object of their attention.  These characters  sincerely do believe they know what is best for others.  They can be very cunning in controlling and manipulating others (always for the other person’s own welfare).

Alfred advises, consoles and prods Bruce/Batman through-out the film.  Rachel entrusts Alfred with the note that, ironically, are her last words.  Alfred first delivers Rachel’s farewell note and then surreptitiously takes it and burns it.  He does so out of love for Bruce/Batman, and he sincerely believes he (Alfred) knows what is best.  Maybe so, but Alfred also deprives Bruce/Batman of the truth and the last words of the woman he loves.

Relativity and Human Personality

Leonard-Susskind-etbscreenwritingI read this in a fascinating discussion of Leonard Susskind’s new book The Black Hole War:

“Einstein, in the special theory of relativity, proved that different observers, in different states of motion, see different realities.”

That universal statement of the laws of physics and humanity is at the essence of the Nine Character Types.

The Nine Character Types details how individuals are propelled into action.  These different states of motion (and motivation) cause different kinds of characters to see the world vastly differently.  Each Character Type has a unique perspective based on his or her actions.  And any character’s actions define his or her perspective

There are only three possible biological responses (actions) in response to anything.  These are Fight (Confront), Flight (Withdraw) or Submit (Embrace).

Each Character Type has:  1) Immediate Tactics (what the character does in response to an unexpected problem, challenge, threat or opportunity;  2) a Long-term Orientation (what the character does in response to any ongoing situation;  3) Strategic Approach the character uses to obtain any long-term goal or objective.

A character (and any human being) has a flight, flight or submit response to each of these differing situations.  Conflicting impulses and actions create the internal tension and conflict a character feels.

Let’s take a Power of Love mom as an example:  She bops her son over the head to discipline him when he brings home a bad report card from school (unexpected problem), gives him a warm embrace to tell him she loves him (on-going relationship/situation), and then bops him again to get him motivated to get better grades (achieve her long goal of having her son better himself).

These conflicting impulses will cause many an internal conflict in the mother over the years– the conflicting desire to smack a kid and embrace him.

Any Character Type can be a mom and each has a vastly different approach to parenting.  I used the Power of Love mom because she is a strong character stereotype easily recognized for the purpose of example.