Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Which Desperate Housewife Are You?

What do the movies Bridget Jones' Diary and When Harry Met Sally have in common?

Both feature heroines based on one of the Eight Female Archetypes. In this case, The Spunky Kid.

Carl Jung referred to archetypes as a "preconscious psychic disposition". Basically, this suggests that on an unconscious level we recognize these character types, and this recognition resonates within to a great degree. We are drawn to these characters and feel a kinship with them.

Tami Cowden wrote a book geared to writers, focusing on how these images generating from our collective unconscious continually occur in our myths, legends and stories, transcending time and space.

For readers and writers alike, tuning into these archetypes lends richness to our lives, helps us to get in touch with our own personality inclinations and provides a thoroughly entertaining escape through books, television and movies. For the most part, we rarely realize why it is certain characters stand out or quickly become our favorites. Utilizing archetypes is one canny method for engaging a reader or cultivating an audience of fans.

In an ongoing television show, a single archetype can quickly turn to stereotype. We lose interest because the character no longer seems real. One way to avoid this is to add layers. Think of it as a spice. One may not be enough but too many and you overwhelm your dish! Most 'layered archetypes' stick with blending two or at the most three vibrant personalities. Usually one archetype will dominate with the other providing an inner core. Like a yummy cake with a delicious filling.

Even our two movie heroines blend archetypes.

Sally's Spunky Kid is strongly supported by The Librarian, while Bridget Jones is not just Spunky, she's a classic Free Spirit. Want to know more?

Let's sneak a peek at two popular television shows and their female characters! I'm utilizing T.J.'s descriptions from her own post The Harrowing Heroine.

In Grey's Anatomy, we see some nicely layered archetypes, sure to appeal to our collective unconscious! *grin*

Miranda Bailey is a nice blend of The Boss (the "Take Charge" woman: outspoken and persuasive, confident and competitive) and The Crusader (a woman on a mission: tenacious, headstrong, courageous). She never holds back, refuses to back down, and goes head to head with the Chief of Medicine. Yet her fervent desire to create a clinic reveals her own 'woman on a mission' inner side.

Kristina Yang is a classic Librarian (conscientious, orderly, bright; she leads with her brain, not her looks) yet she's driven by her inner core, The Boss. Not only does she dare to speak her mind to anyone, she's driven to be number one in her field. Intellectual and competitive.

Isobel "Izzie" Stevens blends three archetypes. Most noticeable is The Free Spirit (genuine and fun-loving, impulsive, an "original"). However it's her inner Crusader that drives her to rally her interns to save a deer. She also displays a strong Nurturer (altruistic to a fault; calm, optimistic, a listener, pleasant, takes care of everyone) who cooks cupcakes and makes breakfast. Note that her altruism led to her funding the free clinic, dream project of fellow Crusader, Miranda Bailey.

Meredith Grey started off simply as The Waif ("damsel in distress": child-like innocence, naive and docile, she endures). However, this is not a strong enough archetype to carry a show! Slowly we began to see another side emerge. The Nurturer archetype is revealed in her compassion (even for a serial killer!) and her need to collect 'strays' in the form of roommates.

Lexie Grey, now known as "Little Grey" is our Spunky Kid (spirited and loyal, reliable and supportive, more of a "tomboy"). No matter how the storm clouds rage, this ray of sunshine also sees a bright side. No wonder McSteamy couldn’t resist!

Callie Torres is less defined in that she has reflected different archetypes throughout the show's run! When married to George she definitely 'endured' although it was clear to all that Callie is much too strong to be a Waif. For now the creators are leaning towards a Free Spirit with a strong streak of Spunky Kid.

On the show, Desperate Housewives the characters practically leap off the screen!

In Bree Van de Kamp we have a classic Boss. Is there anyone more outspoken, confident, persuasive or competitive? When someone needs to take charge, either at a formal brunch or at her good friend's pizza parlor, Bree is a human bulldozer ready to roll over any and all objections. Bree has a touch of The Librarian too—orderly and conscientious. Her cups are numbered and her keys are labeled. Organization is her middle name. Another layer that pops up at times is The Crusader. She is fierce in defense of her family and will fight to the death to keep them safe.

Lynette Scavo has a strong core of The Crusader as well. She's tenacious, headstrong and courageous when she's 'on a mission' which is just about every week! Her arguments were powerful but when her husband begged for her to help him fulfill his dream—opening a pizza parlor—she threw herself into it with a passion. When hard times forced them to sell, persuading her husband to accept the inevitable became her new mission. Lynette also has a strong Nurturer in her nature. She strives to take care of everyone, often putting her own needs in peril. She'll pop ADD drugs to be the perfect mother or go broke paying lawyer fees for her son. Always ready to listen to her friends and provide comfort, this Nurturer is always available.

Susan Mayer is the ultimate "Damsel in Distress" and so represents The Waif. The show's creators even added a nice touch making her an author of children's books. Right from the beginning, in a hilarious episode where a naked Susan falls in a bush while getting locked out of her home, she needed to be rescued. Her inner core though adds some sunshine to the mix, as Susan can be quite the Spunky Kid.

Edie Britt portrays an archetype that fits right into Wisteria Lane: The Seductress (the "I Will Survive" woman: mysterious and manipulative, distrusting and cynical). Not only did she seduce Mike (Susan's boyfriend) she also landed Carlos, Gabby's estranged husband! They keep the shades drawn on her mysterious background but it's clear she's seen enough hard times to be out for herself. Although friendly with the others, the Seductress tends to keep female companions at arm's length. Trust involves a certain amount of vulnerability and Edie is tough as nails and determined to stay that way!

Gabrielle Solis has shades of The Seductress (she did seduce her underage gardener and plant a whopper kiss on Lynette's hubby!) yet she's not quite as hardened as Edie. There's a touch of both The Boss (don't even THINK of competing in the fashion world) and a hint of The Free Spirit (she does what she pleases and is as impulsive as they come). It's not easy to blend these archetypes, which makes Gabby harder to define, yet like Callie in Grey's Anatomy, this character goes through a range of archetypes as her character grows.

Now here's your 'Just For Fun' quiz. Which Desperate Housewife are you? *wink*

Which archetype do you most relate to? Which one do you enjoy in books, movies or television? The Spunky Kid remains one of my favorites and I personally relate to the Free Spirit. How about you? I welcome your comments!


Chiron O'Keefe


Misty Evans said...

(enters singing, "the sun will come out tomorrow"...)

Hi Chiron. I had a hard time deciding exactly which archetype I am, but I think I'm a spunky kid with a dash of nurturer, a pinch of boss, and a sprinkle of free spirit.

...Bake at 85 degrees in Florida sun and after an hour, I turn into a tan and relaxed seductress. hehehe...

Great post!!!

Tessy said...

Great post, Chiron. I would have to say I'm a Nurturing, crusading, seductress in librarian's clothing!

Chiron said...


Okay, you two knuckleheads, now I'm going to be giggling all morning!

Thanks Misty and Tessy so much for stopping by and adding such hilarious comments!

Still chuckling,
Chiron (the spunky librarian nurturer whose favorite crusading mission is to rescue lost waif seductresses)

Ree said...

Nice blog, Chiron! I love Tami Cowden's book and refer to it often.

As for myself I would say I'm a nurturer with some Librarian (not so much of the orderly) and a bit of the Boss--though I'm sure my dh would agrue that I have more than a bit! Oh, to be a Seductress...


Sandy said...

What am I? That's a good question. I'm head strong, bossy, tempermental and way too outspoken. Smile.

Great post, Chiron.


Captain Hook said...

According to the Desperate Housewives quiz, I'm Bree, the Boss.

I don't buy that. I hate being in charge.

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Hey Chiron!

What a coup with that first post! Congrats n way to go!!

Loved how you broke things up in a language that is easy to understand and in a setup everyone can grasp.

Personally, I veer through archetypes, depending on the situation at hand. My husband would say I am definitely The Boss (lol) but I'm also the Waif, the Free Spirit, the Spunky Kid and the Nurturer. Shades of the Librarian too where work and studies are concerned.

I think that's the beauty of women - we are many personas in one single person. Depending on the situation and the setting, a facet of us comes to the forefront while the others take a step backstage.

If we can give our heroines this ability to switch between facets too, then I think as writers we would've created the perfect heroine.



J Hali said...

Chiron, CHIRON! I took the quiz and I'm Edie... no way, isn't she being killed? Something's wrong with my computer--it simply MUST be broken. Oh hell, this is probably why I'll never have a heroine stronger than the hero. I'm too much of a biatch to let them out to play. ROFLMAO

Love your post.

Carol Ericson said...

Great post, Chiron! I took Tami Cowden's workshop in Reno, and I still refer to my notes when creating characters. Which type am I? Well, I'm strongly Librarian, but can be a Free Spirit, little bit of The Boss, and The Crusader. LOL I guess most of us have several types going on at the same time.

Chiron said...

Hi Sandy!

Thanks for jumping in! Hmm, sounds like you relate to the Boss. I usually end up second in command. *laughs*


Chiron said...

Hello Captain!

Those quizzes are pretty silly, aren't they? Just for fun though. I'm not sure I'd be Any of the housewives! *laughs*

I do the think the archetypes are intriguing though, in life as well as fiction. I notice that I'm drawn to The Spunky Kid quite a bit, based on my movie choices.

Thanks so much for visiting!!

Smiles and hugs,

Chiron said...

Hey Z!

Yes, we do flip through archetypes as multi-faceted humans. Intriguing, eh?

It's rather like astrology. Through the natal chart, which is comprised of twelve houses, we all have every sign somewhere in our make-up. Everyone has the same planets too.

Yet each chart will show predispositions in one focus or another. While we may all relate to each characteristic, our own personal story will often show a common theme as well. I like to utilize archetypes as much as I do astrology to perceive how each character can be markedly different. Fascinating stuff, all in all!

Thanks so much for your wonderful comment, Z!!

Smiles and hugs,

Chiron said...

Hello J!

Oh, no!! Edie?? Well, I'll bring flowers and maybe you can then seduce those on The Other Side. *laughs*

Thanks for stopping by, I really appreciate it!!

Smiles to you!!

Chiron said...

Hello Carol!!

Isn't Tami's info wonderful? I utilize her book frequently.

Hmm, it's funny, I probably am a bizarre mix. I'm very much the Librarian, but also a crazy Free Spirit. Anytime the clouds roll, the Spunky Kid comes out to spread sunshine, and I'm the one who'll stock your favorite flavor of tea as I focus on Nurturing one and all. Sometimes I've been the Boss (especially when I was the Stage Manager) but even then the Nurturer comes into play.

Fascinating stuff!!

Thanks for visiting Carol and adding your comment, I really appreciate it!!

Smiles and hugs,

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

I'd have to say I'm most like Lynette. Although I wouldn't be so nice to my bratty kids. LOL

Great post, Chiron!

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Again, well done, Chiron!