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PRIMAL ASSETS

but she is always the outrageous Rebel. Offscreen and on, Jack Nicholson is the bad-boy Outlaw. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks imbue every role they play with the spirit of the wide-eyed Innocent. These identities are not only consistent—they are compelling. Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t help but notice ’em. In fact, we can’t help but be mesmerized by who they are and what they implicitly stand for. In an era of declining network viewership and 300 cable channels, the trial of O. J. Simpson commanded record viewership on a continuous basis. Was it the sensationalism of the crime? The glamour of Beverly Hills? The racial subtext? Although each of these played a part in getting people’s attention, it was the deeper archetypal meaning that kept them tuning back in, day after day. Regardless of the reality of his personality or his life, Simpson, as a brand, was seen as the fierce warrior, able to defeat any competitor. The revelations of abuse and violence that emerged during his trial led many to conclude, despite his formal acquittal, that he had murdered his wife. Instead of a popular figure, he became an object of scorn and contempt. Thus, O. J.’s story fits the classic mold of Shakespeare’s Othello—the warrior undone by the destructive power of his own jealous rage. In her life and in her death, Diana Spencer held sway over the world. The power of her tale may remind you of the magnetic appeal of the Cinderella story—the beautiful, but vulnerable, girl who gets the prince, but must live under the ever-watchful eye of the withholding stepmother. Even in the aftermath of her divorce, Diana’s story evolves in Romeo-and-Juliet style: She breaks social convention to find love and meets with an untimely death. The case of Princess Di also shows how compelling people find the evolution of an archetypal story. What happens if the girl marries Prince Charming, but does not live happily ever after? She divorces, adjusts, and becomes a great lover of humanity, motivating humankind to show its love for her. Even though Diana’s life story has many chapters, styles, and reifications, it always dances around the archetypal theme of the princess lover. Absent this essential archetypal unity, she would not have captured our attention so profoundly. The story of Elián González, the young Cuban boy who became the object of an international tug of war, made headlines for weeks.

Profile for Lewis Lafontaine

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype  

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype  

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