#TypesTuesday – James Bond: From Power of Excitement to Power of Reason

Types Tuesday

Bond.  James Bond.

Paul Haggis changed the course of 007 with his reboot of Casino Royale.  I had the great pleasure of working with him on Quantum of Solace as a consultant.  That film followed up our work together on In the Valley of Elah. 

Casino Royale effectively updated, renewed and refreshed the James Bond character for new audiences. The Bourne franchise suddenly made Bond seem old fashioned. So a complete reboot was in order.

The classic James Bond, like Indiana Jones, and the more comedic Austin Powers, was written and played as a Power of Excitement character. Stories driven by the Power of Excitement are about getting out of traps and escaping from entangling situations.  They are thrill rides.

Power of Excitement characters refuse to be confined, corralled, or domesticated.  They flee adult responsibilities and commitments.  Peter Pan is a classic Power of Excitement character.  So are the protagonists played by Hugh Grant in his early movies.  These characters are incredibly charming but basically are kids.  Their mantra is, “I don’t want to grow up.  I don’t want to settle down.”

Mimi Avins, in The Los Angles Times, hits the nail on the head when she writes:  “There has always been something adolescent about 007. Sure, Britain’s best-known secret agent occasionally bears the fate of the free world on his deltoids. What he hasn’t shouldered, as he’s whizzed from one adventure to another over the last 44 years, is the ordinary responsibilities and commitments of a modern adult male. He’s an eternal lad, with a teenager’s contempt for authority and the ring-a-ding-ding Rat Packer’s attitude toward women that real men outgrow about the time they realize Maxim isn’t seriously meant to be a guide to life.”

Charming Power of Excitement characters’ devil-may-care “I just want to play around and play the field” behavior can be rakish and “bad boy” charming when a character is young.  But, after a certain age, it grows tiresome can verge on the pathetic.  That’s why, in his later movies, About a Boy and Brigitte Jones’ Diary, for example, Hugh Grant plays this character type’s darker side.  Power of Excitement characters and actors playing the boyish scamp or charming playboy have a definite expiration date.

The incredibly valuable Bond franchise was facing a difficult dilemma in remaking Casino Royale.  The perennially adolescent Power of Excitement Bond had been around for a long time and might not seem as appealing to the current, more cynical, movie-going audience.  An expiration date was looming.  These are darker and less innocent times than when the Bond movies debuted with such flash and fun in the psychedelic 1960’s.

So how does 007 evolve and grow up?  What kind of character is the new “more adult” Bond?  The producers’ and screenwriters’ answer was to transition the character from a Power of Excitement character to a Power of Reason character.

Power of Reason stories are about alienation vs. connection.  They are about order vs. chaos. These characters are distant, sarcastic and can be perceived as cold.  It’s not that these characters don’t feel things— the trouble is, they feel things too deeply.  To avoid being overwhelmed by their emotions Power of Reason characters shut down and withdraw into themselves.  Bond’s reaction after Vesper’s death.

Power of Reason characters are experts in their field. They are stubborn, tough, and opinionated and always believe they know best.  They are loners and prefer to work alone.  These characters buck authority because they believe they are best left to their own expert devices.

These characteristics lead Bond to clash with M over and over in Casino Royale.  This new Bond is more resolute and less cavalier than the previous Power of Excitement Bonds.  Earlier 007s had a devil-may-care attitude of rebellion against “adult” constraints and authority. The new Bond simply believes he knows best and should be left to it.

Daniel Craig was an inspired choice to play the new Bond.  Despite early carping and criticism by fans, his character type is ideally suited to this Power of Reason 007.  Writing about some of his early stage work a reviewer noted that Craig “contains his violence like an unexploded mine.”  There is a cool and controlled quality to Craig’s previous roles in Layer Cake and Munich.  His expertize and ability to disengage and get the job done, despite the internal and/or moral cost.

Another excellent example of a Power of Reason story and character is Luc Besson’s wonderful film, The Professional, starring Jean Reno as Leon, a hit man.  Leon meets a little girl under crisis circumstances and learns to love— with tragic, but heroic, consequences.

Television Power of Reason examples include Dr. Gregory House on House and the comedic detective series Monk.  Even though all these characters are individually very distinctive, they each share the same emotional and motivational core.

When transitioning a character the question is how to recast the same behavior with a compelling new motivation.  Consistency, authenticity and character type is key. Previous 007s killed as sport and barely rumpled their tuxedos.  They were flip, flash, and fun:  the eternal “lad.”  This new adult Bond doesn’t avoid obligations and responsibilities.  He executes them, both literally and figuratively, with chilling and brutal expertize.  This is a Bond who is bloodied but unbowed.  He has scars on his soul.  And he doesn’t really give a damn if his martini is shaken or stirred.  He has darker, more adult concerns.

The good news is that Daniel Craig as 007 is back in 2019!  I hope he is put to work fighting Neo-Nazis and alt-right terrorists!

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#TypesTuesday – Sense8’s Lito Rodriguez and Power of Ambition

Types Tuesday

As between The Leftovers and Sense8, I am definitely more of a Sense8 fan. True, there is the usual silliness, over-seriousness, and logic holes not uncommon to Lana Wachowski’s and Lilly Wachowski’s work. But I loved the characters!  They are people I’ve enjoyed spending time with and getting to know better.  Among my favorites is Lito Rodriguez, telenovela superstar.

Lito is an immensely popular, sexy, romantic leading man.  Women swoon. Men quote Lito’s lines like Evangelicals quote the Bible. But… He is a deeply closeted gay man. His image is a lie. He characterizes himself as a smooth talking fraud.  He is terrified his secret will be exposed.  Lito is a Power of Ambition character.

Power of Ambition characters believe that nothing is as important as projecting a successful, polished image– Even if the character has lie, cheat, or steal to do so. Image is everything.

 Popularity is crucial to their sense of self and feelings of well being.

Characters like Lito, crave the reassurance of the visible, tangible evidence of their outward success. The definition and meaning of “success” are at the heart of any Power of Ambition character’s story arc. Is success measured from the outside or from within?

This is Lito’s struggle.  Can he be truly authentically himself (and be true to the man he loves) even if it destroys his popularity and ruins his lucrative career? Or will he desperately continue to maintain the lie that is his life and destroy his chance at happiness with the love of his life?  Is inner integrity and authenticity success or are the toys, trapping, accolades, and applause success?

For more information on Power of Ambition characters and other examples click HERE.

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#TypesTuesday – Celebrity Chefs & Character Types

TYPES TUESDAY

head-chefs_medium

I am in Copenhagen at a TV conference focusing most on factual entertainment or reality shows. Scandinavian broadcasters, producers, and creative executives are attending.  I’ve been invited to present a large lecture and an invitation only workshop.

The narrative problems are surprisingly similar in fiction and non-fiction. In a lawyer show, a cop show, or a doctor show a whole group of characters is doing pretty much the same job.

They all meet challenges, reversals, and opposition from someone or something along the way. Every character wants to be successful and do a generally good job. Likewise, in an elimination reality show, everyone is together in a group doing generally the same thing.  They all want to be successful and do a good job which, in the case of a reality show, means lasting long enough to win the big money prize by avoiding eviction from the competition.

Whether you are writing a scripted drama or producing an unscripted reality show, you have the same character problem: How do you differentiate each character and make each one a unique and compelling individual? The key is why characters do what they do, how they define doing a good job or a successful strategy, and how they approach challenges, obstacles, work, or what they love.

CELEBRITY CHEFS

In preparing for the Copenhagen conference, I wanted to illustrate the Character Types with real life individuals who are clearly defined characters in their own right and who each embody a very different approach to life and work. The subjects had to have an international reputation since I am speaking with producers from a variety of different Scandinavian countries.

Celebrity chefs are a great example. Each person is doing approximately the same thing (discussing and/or demonstrating food, cooking, or dining opportunities), they all want to be successful and generally do a good job.  How they define that job, for themselves, is vastly different.

Here’s how analyzing real people can help in creating a scripted drama or an unscripted reality show. The Character Types are the same whether applied to celebrity personalities or fictional characters.

Here are how the Character Types line up and my observations on each kind of real life Food Personality:

POWER OF CONSCIENCE

jamie-oliverJamie Oliver is a Power of Conscience character. He is a food crusader, his mission is to teach people the right things to eat and the proper, healthy approach to planning and cooking meals.  The name of his show is Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: Campaign for Healthy Eating.  Here is what his American website has to say:

This food revolution is about saving America’s health by changing the way you eat. It’s not just a TV show, it’s a movement for you, your family and your community.

Oliver’s UK website is sub-headed “The Ministry of Food”.  He is not afraid to impose his views on others and has ignited a real controversy over the food served in schools in the UK.  Some mothers have reacted in protest.

Two angry mums are mocking Jamie Oliver’s healthy eating campaign by running a junk food service for school children.

Julie Critchlow and Sam Walker say youngsters are snubbing overpriced “low fat rubbish” dished up at school lunchtime.

So, using an old supermarket trolley, they are running daily deliveries of fish and chip lunches, pies, burgers and fizzy drinks, passing the food through a gap in a fence…

…(A)s environmental health officials and council chiefs were called in a bid to ban the mums Sam, 41, hit back: “This is all down to Jamie. I just don’t like him and what he stands for. He’s forcing our kids to become more picky about their food.

“Who does he think he is, all high and mighty? He can feed whatever he wants to his children but he should realise that other parents think differently.”  – The Daily Mirror

Power of Conscience characters believe they know instinctively if something is wrong, unjust, unfair, improper, corrupt, bad judgment, or out of line. Their opinion and response are swift and immutable. They are propelled forward by personal outrage and moral indignation, usually on another’s behalf.

These characters believe they are their brother’s keeper. They feel responsible for the greater good and for doing good.   Jamie Oliver believes food choices have serious moral implications for health and social responsibility.  When he is criticized, it is for a too strident, judgmental or preachy attitude.

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#TypesTuesday – Bugs Bunny & Chaos

Types Tuesday

What’s up, Doc? A Power of Excitement character, that’s what! This week I’m talking about everyone’s favorite wascally wabbit, Bugs Bunny of Warner Bros. Looney Tunes fame.

I had the great good fortune to work with the remaining animators of “Termite Terrace” fame, including Chuck Jones.  I interviewed these amazing artists (somewhere I still have those tapes) and looked at their original drawings. in one of my first jobs as a consultant.

The object was to standardize the characterization of the Warner Bros. cartoon pantheon for legacy purposes.  These characters are now all over the world in television, merchandizing, and spin offs (Baby Bugs Bunny).  And Bugs needs to look like Bugs and act like Bugs wherever he appears. I helped create the official style and character guide.

But back to Bug Bunny’s Character Type:

Power of Excitement characters play the role of the merry prankster. They keep things lively, entertaining, interesting and off-balance for all the other characters  At heart, these characters are anarchists.  They love to cause chaos to keep things amusing or to shake up the existing (dull, boring, or pedantic) order of things.

Bugs Bunny is smart, sassy and adept at getting into and out of traps.  He is an anarchist, who refuses to obey rules (including the law of gravity).  “Ahh, Doc– I never went to law school.”  Bugs is a charming agent of chaos in every one of his cartoon roles. Bart Simpson is another example of this smart mouth “bad boy” character.

If we look to the Dark Side of Power of Excitement, we need to look no further than The Joker in the Batman franchise to find an example.  The clip below is the definition of an Agent of Chaos gone bad:

#TypesTuesday – The Hurt Locker & Power of Idealism

TYPE TUESDAY

Kathryn Bigelow has a new film, Detroit, being released now.  The biggest criticism of the film so far is the lack of a strong central protagonist. Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the film yet myself but will write about it soon.

In her previous film, The Hurt Locker, Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) is a memorable Power of Idealism protagonist.  He has a cocky, shoot-from-the-hip, iconoclastic style in defusing roadside explosives.  These deadly bombs are hidden in the sand, in cars, and in the occasional corpse.  He has techniques that are all his own as he travels through the gutted terrain of Iraq ravaged by war, poor planning policies, and the smash-and-burn fury of local insurgents.

Characters driven by the Power of Idealism want to stand out from the crowd, to be extraordinary, unique and special.  They are rebels, iconoclasts, mavericks, and artists of all kinds.

Power of Idealism characters are intense, passionate and rebellious. Everyone in the story immediately recognizes and acknowledges that their role is somehow heroic or “larger than than life.”  They don’t play by anyone else’s rules.

Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) in The Hurt Locker is a quintessential Power of Idealism character.  He is intense, cavalier and is moving swiftly toward becoming a legend.  In this exchange, his reputation grows:

Colonel Reed: You the guy in the flaming car, Sergeant James?

Staff Sergeant William James: Afternoon, sir. Uh, yes, sir.

Colonel Reed: Well, that’s just hot shit. You’re a wild man, you know that?

Staff Sergeant William James: Uh, yes, sir.

Colonel Reed: He’s a wild man. You know that? I want to shake your hand.

Staff Sergeant William James: Thank you, sir.

Colonel Reed: Yeah. How many bombs have you disarmed?

Staff Sergeant William James: Uh, I’m not quite sure.

Colonel Reed: Segeant?

Staff Sergeant William James: Yes, sir.

Colonel Reed: I asked you a question.

Staff Sergeant William James: Eight hundred seventy-three, sir.

Colonel Reed: Eight hundred! And seventy-three. Eight hundred! And seventy-three. That’s just hot shit. Eight hundred and seventy-three.

Staff Sergeant William James: Counting today, sir, yes.

Colonel Reed: That’s gotta be a record. What’s the best way to… go about disarming one of these things?

Staff Sergeant William James: The way you don’t die, sir.

Colonel Reed: That’s a good one. That’s spoken like a wild man. That’s good.

A. O. Scott, writing for the New York Times describes James like this:  “Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) is something else, someone we recognize instantly even if we have never seen anyone quite like him before. He is a connoisseur, a genius, an artist.”

The artistic temperament— and the yearning to be “something more extraordinary” creates a white hot intensity of feeling in these characters.  In contrast, long-term relationships and the comfortable companionship that committed loving couples (and families) share seem suffocatingly pedestrian.

Power of Idealism characters, operating in their Dark Side, are unprepared to make the ordinary, small, everyday sacrifices real long-term every-day love requires, especially when there are children involved.

In this exchange James explains to his infant son:

Staff Sergeant William James: You love playing with that. You love playing with all your stuffed animals. You love your Mommy, your Daddy. You love your pajamas. You love everything, don’t ya? Yea. But you know what, buddy? As you get older… some of the things you love might not seem so special anymore. Like your Jack-in-a-Box. Maybe you’ll realize it’s just a piece of tin and a stuffed animal. And then you forget the few things you really love. And by the time you get to my age, maybe it’s only one or two things. With me, I think it’s one.

Staff Sgt. William James wants to live fast, die young, and leave a legend behind. He simply cannot find the extraordinary in ordinary family life. He must follow the adrenaline rush, upping the level of risk, and taking ever more dangerous chances.

For more information on how to create a powerful, dynamic Power of Idealism character, click HERE.

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#TypesTuesday – Tywin Lannister and Power of Will

TYPES TUESDAY

Game of Thrones is back on HBO. In between waiting for the next episode to air, I continue to explore the offerings on Amazon Prime and Netfilix. I just watched The Great London Fire, a series on Amazon. It’s great fun to imagine that Tywin Lannister had a bastard son whose progeny eventually made it to London by 1666. And in the year of the great fire, one these progeny, Lord Denton, finds himself elevated to the head of security and spy master for King Charles II.

Both characters are played by the wonderful actor, Charles Dance. Both are Power of Will characters. Tywin Lannister is a King and Lord Denton is a henchman, but they share the same philosophy.

Power of Will characters believe that expanding their power base, extending their territory, protecting and defending what is rightfully theirs (according to them) and swiftly avenging any wrong (or perceived wrong) is how one gets along, gets ahead and stays ahead in the world.

Power of Will characters take what they want, fight for every inch of turf, refuse to show any weakness themselves and pounce decisively on the weakness of others. They have a kill or be killed framework for everything. They believe absolutely in the Law of the Jungle.

For more information on Power Will of Characters click HERE

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#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.

 

#TypesTuesday – What do Olivia Pope, Nicholas Brody, and Birgitte Nyborg have in common?

Power of Conscience characters know instinctively if something is wrong, unjust, unfair, improper, corrupt or out of line. Their judgment and response is swift and immutable. They are propelled forward by personal outrage and moral indignation, usually on another’s behalf.

Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) on Scandal “saves people.”  She says she and her colleagues “wear the white hat.”  She is a “fixer” and her private practice is propelled forward by injustice and exonerating the wrongly accused.

U.S. Marine Sergeant, Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) in Homeland violently turns against his country, initially, because of the grave injustice of a U.S. military drone strike on an Afgan school.  He adopts Islam and becomes a terrorist to expose and expiate what he sees as a morally corrupt war.

Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) in Borgen withdraws her party’s support for Labour when opposition leader Michael Laugesen cynically reverses his position on asylum seekers in a pre-election ploy for votes.  The injustice of this propels her to denounce Laugesen’s morally repellent stand and, in a surprise twist, she is elected  Prime Minister.

Power of Conscience characters really do 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 promoting what is right, seeking justice and fairness for others, in exposing corruption or  injustice, or in standing up against evil or wrong-doing. They worry about what is the higher duty and what exactly is required of them in response.  The question of what is the higher duty particularly plagues all these characters and is at the center of all their personal conflict.

In Scandal, Olivia Pope believes that  President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) is what the United States needs.  The question is how much wrong is she willing to do for a cause that is right?  She is one of Grant’s top campaign advisors and is willing to fix an election, lie about her illegal conduct, cover up his past wrong-doing in order to serve what she sees as a higher duty, getting an essentially good man elected.

In Homeland, Nicholas Brody is torn between his love for his family and the cause for which he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, to be a suicide bomber targeting the President and his top administration.  What is the higher duty?

In Borgen, Birgitte Nyborg is continually torn between her duties as Prime Minister and her family.  While doing what is right for the country she must neglect important personal obligations and disappoint those she loves. Her need to do right by her countrymen costs her her marriage.

Other sides of this issue tear the characters apart in terms of what is the moral imperative and what is politically expedient.  All these characters struggle between what is right and what is possible (and the attendant compromises needed to get anything done). How much compromise is too much?  Law vs. justice is also an issue.  What is legal isn’t always just.  What is just isn’t always legal.  Again, it all goes back to what is the higher duty?

Without laws there is no civilization.  Without mercy and being just there is no humanity.  This is the quandary for Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) on The Walking Dead. He is a Power of Conscience character who leads a band of survivors during a Zombie Apocalypse.  Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal), his one time police partner, argues the group needs to do everything and anything necessary to survive.  No matter how unjust, no matter what moral or civil laws are broken, survival is the highest value.  Rick believes that to survive in such a way makes them all less human.  And yet, Rick is driven to do terrible things, always struggling with what is the higher duty.

Power of Conscience characters fear not living up to their own internal standards or sense of propriety, honesty, and decency.  They are afraid of being or becoming unworthy.  These characters don’t fear failure in the eyes of the world; they fear not living up to their own (often impossibly high) standards. They are some of the most conflicted characters on television.

 

#TypesTuesday – Archetype or Character Type? Wizards in Harry Potter

dumbledore-etbscreenwritingI was having a conversation with a friend the other day about archetypes. I must admit, I am not a fan. To me an archetype is a job description: a wizard, trickster, mother, hero, outlaw, seductress, judge, or mystic simply do different kinds of work in a story.

Let’s take the first job on the list, wizard. The Harry Potter book and film series features many different wizards. Each has his or her own individual kind of wizardry and distinctive personality.

That’s the problem with archetypes. There is no one way to be a wizard. There are lots of different ways to play that role in a story. Different wizards view their role or job differently, believe different things about the world, and frame their responsibilities very differently. In a story, a character’s job or role is much less important than how the person sees the world, understands that role, and fulfills his or her duties.

That’s where Character Type comes in. Character Type determines how a person views the world, sees his or her place in it, and develops a philosophy of life and love, Character Type creates innate strengths and weaknesses and determines the lessons to be learn over the arc of the story. Different Character Types are concerned about very different aspects of their role or job. For example:

A Power of Will wizard is most concerned with using his or her abilities for vengeance or to expand and defend a personal domain or to bend others or the elements into submission.  Lord Voldemort is a great example.  “There is no good and evil, there is only power…and those too weak to seek it.”

A Power of Conscience wizard is most concerned with the justice and ethics of magic and how it is most rightly or properly used.  They do not break rules or tolerate misbehavior.  Minerva McGonagall is a great example:    ‘Now, I must warn you that the most stringent anti-cheating charms have been applied to your examination papers. Auto-Answer Quills are banned from the examination hall, as are Remembralls, Detachable Cribbing Cuffs and Self-Correcting Ink. Every year, I am afraid to say, seems to harbour at least one student who thinks that he or she can get around the Wizarding Examinations Authority’s rules. I can only hope that it is nobody in Gryffindor.”

A Power of Ambition wizard is most concerned with the flash, dazzle and showy presentation required to be impressive, gain prestige, status, being popular, or acquiring a grand reputation.  Draco Malfoy is a great example:  “My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford… You’ll soon find out some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.”

A Power of Truth wizard is most concerned with divining oracles and prophesies or delving into deep dark hidden secrets.  They are secret keepers and it’s hard to know where their real loyalties lie.  Severus Snape is a great example:  “What made you think he’d really stopped supporting Voldemort, Professor?”  Dumbledore held Harry’s gaze for a few seconds, and then said, “That, Harry, is a matter between Professor Snape and myself.” Snape has the most surprising reveal in the story, which changes our whole view of him at the end.

A Power of Reason wizard is most concerned with the magical formulas or precise processes that lead to specific knowledge or expertise.  Hermione Granger is a great example:  “That’s what Hermione does. When in doubt, go to the library.” She is a little off-putting and can be very condescending but she is one of the smartest and best informed young wizards in the group.

A Power of Excitement wizard is most concerned with adventurous exploring, wild experimenting or creating the chaos that makes magic fun and surprising.  They hate being bored or trapped. Sirius Black is a great exmple:  “Personally, I’d have welcomed a dementor attack. A deadly struggle for my soul would have broken the monotony nicely. You think you’ve had it bad, at least you’ve been able to get out and about, stretch your legs, get into a few fights…. I’ve been stuck inside for a month.”

A Power of Love wizard is most concerned with relationship magic, bonding spells, and creating mutual alliances.  These Character Types are stalwart friends and are self -sacrificing for others.  Harry’s best friend Ron is a good example:  “We’re nearly there,” Ron muttered suddenly. “Let me think — let me think…” The white queen turned her blank face toward him. “Yes…” said Ron softly, “it’s the only way … I’ve got to be taken.” “NO!” Harry and Hermione shouted.”That’s chess!” snapped Ron. “You’ve got to make some sacrifices! I take one step forward and she’ll take me — that leaves you free to checkmate the king, Harry!”

A Power of Idealism wizard is most concerned with creating magic that is completely unique, entirely special, and is a reflection of his or her deepest passions.  These are the truly exceptional wizards, those who are the legends.  Dumbledore is a good example:  “Professor Dumbledore, though very old, always gave an impression of great energy. He had several feet of long silver hair and beard, half-moon spectacles, and an extremely crooked nose. He was often described as the greatest wizard of the age.”  Harry Potter is also such a legendary wizard, specially marked, and charged with a unique and extraordinary destiny.

A Power of Imagination wizard is eccentric, slightly dreamy and live in a world of their own.  Although unassuming, these Character Types have enormous heart and bravery.  These kinds of wizards can see and hear things others don’t or simply miss.  Luna Lovegood is a great example:  “Oh, yes,” said Luna, “I’ve been able to see them (winged horses) ever since my first day here. They’ve always pulled the carriages. Don’t worry. You’re just as sane as I am.”

Each type of wizard looks at the role of magic through very different personal lens of Character Type. Resorting to an archetypal “wizard” too often leads to stereotypical behavior that is cliched. There is no one way to be a wizard just as there is no one way to be a cop, a nurse, a priest, a mother, or a fool. Each Character Type makes the role, the job, the archetype entirely his or her own.

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#TypesTuesday – Power of Conscience at the Oscars

There were several compelling Power of Conscience character who figured prominently in the 2013 crop of Oscar films. Power of Conscience characters typically wrestle with a specific set of key issues in a story. These include:

How much bad am I willing to do in the cause of good?

In Lincoln, written by Tony Kushner and directed by Steven Spielberg, President Lincoln so firmly believes in the necessity of Emancipation that he is willing to authorize all manner of arm-twising, dirty deals, and political bribery to get the bill passed.  At the time, Thaddeus Stevens, played in the movie by Tommy Lee Jones, said, “”The greatest measure in the nineteenth century was passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America.”

 

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. She is involved in morally reprehensible torture in order to help track down her quarry.  She is driven and relentless, so much so that when she is successful she has no idea what to do next.

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.”

Can I find the flexibility, the forgiveness, or the mercy to make reasonable compromises?

In Lincoln, the person that has a real protagonist’s journey is Tommy Lee Jones in the role of Thaddeus Stevens. Stevens spent his political life advocating for total Negro emancipation, including the right to vote and own property. He was adamant and uncompromising. In the final, down-to-the-wire vote-taking, Stevens must turn his back on everything he has always stood for in order to assure that Lincoln’s lesser bill passes. Steven’s struggles mightily with his conscience but finally allows practicality to win.

At the time Stevens said: “Believing then, that this is the best proposition that can be made effectual, I accept it. I shall not be driven by clamor or denunciation to throw away a great good because it is not perfect. I will take all I can get in the cause of humanity and leave it to be perfected by better men in better times.”

Steven’s leap of faith was being flexible enough to allow an imperfect bill to pass because that served the greater good.

In the film, Les Miserables, written by William Nicholson and directed by Tom Hopper, prison guard Javert, played by Russell Crowe, cannot compromise his strict moral standards.  He finds it impossible to have mercy and not enforce the strict letter of the law.  What is legal is not always just.  And what is just is not always legal.  This is a great dilemma for Power of Conscience characters.  Javert is in such conflict that he would rather kill himself rather than compromise his precise and rigid sense of duty in favor of what is just and merciful.

 

In the animated film, Brave, written by Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, and Irene Mecchi, and directed by Andrews and Chapman and co-directed by Purcell, Queen Elinor is a Power of Conscience character. She is a strict and demanding taskmaster, a perfectionist, and is driven by a strong sense of tradition and royal responsibility. Over the course of the story she finds the flexibility to recognize her daughter’s uniqueness and she learns to fully appreciate Merida for who she is.

What is the higher duty?

Power of Conscience character universally wrestle with the question of what their inherent morality and sense of duty asks of them.  These  characters fear not living up to their own internal standards or sense of propriety and decency.  They are afraid of being or becoming unworthy and must continually prove their own “goodness”  or “righteousness”. These characters don’t fear failure in the eyes of the world; they fear not living up to their own (often impossibly high) moral or ethical standards.

As I said before: What is just is not always legal or proper. And what is legal or proper is not always just.  What is more important?  Is the spirit of the law or the letter of the law more important?  When is it right to be pragmatic and flexible rather than unbending and unyielding in your standards? When is being flexible and pragmatic being lax and immoral? Power of Conscience characters provide a fascinating glimpse into one set of humanity’s great dilemmas.