Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Whedon Archetypes

by Megan S.

One of the biggest hurdles I had to enjoying Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was how much I disliked Agent Grant Ward for most of the season and it took me a while to put my finger on the reason why. His character was just so one-dimensional or, as Sara put it, “a blandly handsome loner badass.” He looked and acted so much like every other hero in a Whedon show, but without the depth or individual character quirks. Which is why the reveal in the season’s final episodes was a relief as much as it was an eye-opener. Thank goodness Ward wasn’t so dull after all!

The interesting thing about Ward’s storyline is that it intentionally took advantage of the archetypes running throughout the Whedonverse. We would assume he was the good guy because he was a cookie cutter version of all the other men that came before him. I, for one, didn’t see the twist coming.

Of course, heroes aren’t the only Joss-y archetype in the showrunner’s previous stories. There are startling similarities amongst the different types of main characters and I’ve broken them down into a handy dandy list for your reading pleasure.

The Hero

Just who are we talking about: Mal (Firefly), Paul (Dollhouse), Angel (Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Wesley (Angel)

Characteristics: The hero is tall, dark haired, and ruggedly handsome with chiseled features and a gruff manner.  He doesn't have much time for joking around nor social niceties, but he can be counted on to do the right thing.  The hero very rarely has preternatural abilities or a destiny; his accomplishments are usually due to tenacity and skill.

The Special

Just who are we talking about: Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Echo (Dollhouse), River (Firefly),  Skye (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

Characteristics: Where the Hero has no destiny, the Special's storyline is dominated by fate.  She is small, delicate, and appears to be nonthreatening, but is deadly.  The future is dependent on her success or failure, and she overcomes insurmountable odds to win. She is usually treated as an outsider in the greater community and has problems with authority.

The Guide

Just who are we talking about: Coulson (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Book (Firefly), Giles (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Boyd (Dollhouse)

Characteristics:  The Guide is a warm and likeable older man with a just a hint of jowl. The Guide serves as a shepherd to his team filled with youngsters. He views the group more like a family than a collection of subordinates and he will bend the rules (or throw the rule book out the window) to protect his own.  The man most likely has a dark past despite his affable demeanor.

The Second-In-Command

Just who are we talking about: Zoe (Firefly), May (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Lilah (Angel), Adelle (Dollhouse), Victoria Hand (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

Characteristics: The female equivalent of the Guide, the Second-In-Command is the older woman on the team.  She is beautiful, sexually confident, pragmatic, and usually serious.  The woman is in a position of power, but answers to someone else.  Curiously, the Second-In-Command is the only archetype that contains both on villains and heroines. Her role is much less prominent in the group than the Guide’s.

The Ingénue

Just who are we talking about: Kaylee (Firefly), Willow and Dawn (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Simmons (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Mellie (Dollhouse), Fred (Angel)

Characteristics:  The Ingénue is innocent and trusting, sweet and soft, inspiring feelings of protection in those around her.  She's not a fighter nor the classically beautiful one of the group. The ingénue is still, however, a crucial member and is usually extremely intelligent.  Her innocence is often used as a contrast in particularly dark storylines. The ingénue often evolves to into a character resembling a Special.

The Bumbling Beta

Just who are we talking about: Fitz (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Xander and Andrew (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Topher (Dollhouse), Wash (Firefly), Doyle (Angel)

Characteristics: Like the Ingénue, the Bumbling Beta’s personality and characteristics are used to add humanness to a storyline.  Though he may be talented, he's still portrayed as a failure on some level.  The Bumbling Beta is ill-adept at social interaction.  He is physical features are much softer than the Hero's and is usually short in stature.

The Idealized Everyman

Just who are we talking about: Triplett (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Gunn (Angel), Oz and Tara (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Simon Tam and Inara (Firefly)

Characteristics: The only archetype that contains both male and female characters, the Idealized Everyman is the most relatable in the group. The Everyman rarely has more than a supporting role and is often the love interest of one of the core group members. They usually are well liked and socially adept. They are likely average when it comes to attractiveness (for a TV show, anyway) and power. The Everyman does not have a destiny.

The Lovable Antagonist

Just who are we talking about: Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Jayne (Firefly)

Characteristics: The Loveable Antagonist is both a source of humor and of chaos. He is only bad enough to cause minor upsets within a group without alienting himself completely.
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