Month: November 2014

Who is the Bad Guy?

This, lovely lurkers, is the first lecturette from now-defunct graduate-level writing and lit course from DU called “Villains, Monsters, and Foes.” In it, I describe the overarching study of the villain character and introduce the three-pronged approach I made for the course: the Monster, Fair-Faiced Villain, and Villain Within. I’d like to hear your comments here in response to the discussion board prompt. I also want to go more into Marina Weber’s concept of the Beast-as-Cyborg, in a post of its own soon.

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Who Are You?                                   

Archetypes are forms, symbols, or images that have universal meaning and inspire an original model, or prototype.[1]

He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them. He does little himself. He only plans. But his agents are numerous and splendidly organized.[2]

villian

A classic villain with a classic design.

Okay, numerous and well-organized agents, 🙂 this is the idea for the quarter: to explore many samples of the villain archetype, hopefully to inspire your own villain prototype to emerge.

Who is the villain? The antithesis of the hero? Someone with a physical or psychological defect? The hero’s best friend? That sinister bald guy petting his cat? Why does the villain hate the hero so much, and why does he make it a point to get in the hero’s way? What does the villain want?

That’s really the question, isn’t it—as realistic villains normally are after the same goals the heroes are. A non-stereotypical antagonist may not even understand his actions as being necessarily bad, or if so, may feel that his selfish or wicked actions are a means to an end.  When discussing the villain Sauron from The Lord of the Rings, Paul Kocher asserts that evil is self-centered; that the essence of the villain is that domination-lust, the desire to be “king of other wills,” the intense (and often paranoid) protection of ego to subordination of all else, and the “lack of imaginative sympathy” is what the hero has that he lacks, which often leads to his downfall.[3]

Think about the overall theme of hubris, or overweening pride, as we explore the three types of villain this quarter:

  1. The Monster:  ugly, deformed, alien, artificial, the “other” in any way
  2. The Fair-Faced Villain:  the one whose villainy is hidden under an attractive façade
  3. The Villain Within:  split-personalities, either literal or figurative
  4. we’ll also speak briefly about the anti-hero and tragic hero—not quite goodies, not quite baddies?

Who are the already-written characters you love to hate? Why do you think they are effective as characters? Let’s talk about this on our first DB.

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[1] Floyd Rumohr, from Movement for Actors, Nicole Potter, ed. NY: Allworth Press, 2002 (emphasis mine)

[2] Sherlock Holmes, from Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem

[3] Paul H. Kocher, from Master of Middle Earth, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1972.

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The More You Holmes

From: Elementary ep. 3.2

Event/Object: A man is found dead shortly after his attorney is also–one of the first images we see in this episode is the dead lawyer with a torn open envelope with five orange beads spilled out of it. We later find out that they are from a recalled children’s toy called Pipz, that they were recalled because they were poison, but not before it comes out that the manufacturer knew they were poisonous and allowed them to be sold anyway, until he got nabbed for having done so. There are many conspiracies and cover-ups in the rest of the ep, along with some head-butting between Watson and Holmes’ new protege, Kitty Winter (remember that name is from “The Illustrious Client,” though the character is way different).

Reference: In “The Five Orange Pips” the person who is about to be murdered receives an envelope with dried orange pips (seeds) in it–and it’s the terrifying herald of death just like in this ep. In Doyle, however, it’s the KKK behind it all, while in Elementary…well, I won’t give the whole thing away.

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On Yoga and Warriorship

Look, I’m not an expert, really–though I do have several pieces of paper which some might say would make me somewhat so. This is a personal (albeit educated) musing on the pairing of yoga practice with many other movement arts, martial arts included.

If you’ve never had a movement class with me, here’s the nutshell of my style: I like to call the style “bird’s nest.” Basically I do a mix of a few to several techniques and arts that I’ve learned over the years, based on what’s most appropriate for the class goals at hand. Once when I was offered an Intro to Film course to teach at Metro, I mused that anyone would assume I

Me and Mary at the Boulder Quest Center dojo, "combat yoga," as she called it.

Me and Mary at the Boulder Quest Center dojo, “combat yoga,” as she called it.

were qualified to do so. I muse about this every time I teach World Visual and Performing Arts at DU: do I know lots about visual art, and know what I’m talking about? Heck yes. Could I show you my expertise on paper? Mm, not so much, unless junior high and high school drawing classes count. My Mom was listening to my musings and replied, “Well, you’ve had a lot of good education, and you remember everything you’ve learned.”  I wonder how many of my students will retain how much of their education once they find themselves having to educate someone else (whether they become teachers or not), but I digress…

So in any given movement class you’ll get a yoga-based warm up, probably some Pilates to get your core strong, then any number of activities from the martial arts and/or acting vocal-physical prep I deem most appropriate for the class. A Pi-Yo course (already mixed yoga & Pilates) may do some ninja fascia exercises or dragon walks, but a stage combat class might actually do 100 sword cuts. Actually when I did Pi-Yo at the martial arts studio, I had them do 100 sword cuts too. A martial arts class might get a lesson in actor breathing and projection to help with ki-ai, a stage combat class might have a day where we hit and kick an actual punching bag so as to feel what a real punch feels like. A yoga class might get Lessac, Alexander, or Linklater technique for spine alignment and posture.

I happened to muse about this today because I wonder if that experience is a good way to focus on the lesson of the day (many directions to one end), or if it starts to feel like jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none. Any former students, weigh in and let me know your take on this bird’s-nest education idea. The reason I ask is that I think much education could benefit from this bird’s-nest approach, especially in writing, use of webtools, etc. Why wouldn’t yoga and warriorship intermingle (in ancient times, they did). Today in the information age methinks a mixed, postmodern approach might just be the way to go.   ~Jenn

The More You Holmes

From: ep. 3.1~3.3

Character: Mary Morstan

Reference: Anyone who knows anything at all about the Sherlock Holmes stories knows that in the very second Sherlock Holmes novel, The Sign of Four (only the second story that was ever published), Holmes’ client is a Miss Mary Morstan, with whom Watson proceeds to fall in love and to whom he becomes engaged at the end. In ep. 3.2 and 3.3 especially there are many little nods to Sign, not the least of which is ep. 3.2’s title: “The Sign of Three.” Character names like Major Sholto, and references in 3.3 to A.G.R.A. (the treasure that Miss Morstan inherited and Holmes and Watson investigated in Sign was called the Agra treasure), all point to this novel. Even Mary’s appearance is something of an echo of Watson’s description in the book (though in the show, she’s significantly more of a bad-ass):

Miss Morstan entered the room with a firm step and an outward composure of manner. She was a blonde young lady, small, dainty, well gloved, and dressed in the most perfect taste. There was, however, a plainness and simplicity about her costume which bore with it a suggestion of limited means. The dress was a sombre grayish beige, untrimmed and unbraided, and she wore a small turban of the same dull hue, relieved only by a suspicion of white feather in the side. Her face had neither regularity of feature nor beauty of complexion, but her expression was sweet and amiable, and her large blue eyes were singularly spiritual and sympathetic. In an experience of women which extends over many nations and three separate continents, I have never looked upon a face which gave a clearer promise of a refined and sensitive nature. I could not but observe that as she took the seat which Sherlock Holmes placed for her, her lip trembled, her hand quivered, and she showed every sign of intense inward agitation.

Sherlock’s best man speech also echoes Holmes’ reaction to Watson’s news of his engagement, at the very end of Sign, when he says “I cannot congratulate you.” Here is what Holmes says to Watson in the original:

He gave a most dismal groan. “I feared as much,” said he. “I really cannot congratulate you.”

I was a little hurt. “Have you any reason to be dissatisfied with my choice?” I asked.

“NoIMG_0004-0t at all. I think she is one of the most charming young ladies I ever met, and might have been most useful in such work as we have been doing. She had a decided genius that way: witness the way in which she preserved that Agra plan from all the other papers of her father. But love is an emotional thing, and whatever is emotional is opposed to that true cold reason which I place above all things. I should never marry myself, lest I bias my judgment.”

(all quotes are retrieved from the Project Gutenberg online edition of Sign of Four.)

Love in War

More from the defunct course lecturette series, this from Hobbits and Heroes at DU: “Love in War.” I believe at that point we had read through The Return of the King and of course various and sundry essays and influential works and things.   ~Jenn

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Love in War

“I would not see a thing that is high and excellent cast away needlessly.”

“Nor would I…therefore I say to you, lady: Stay!  For you have no errand to the South.”

“Neither have those others who go with thee.  They go only because they would not be parted from thee—because they love thee.”

 The cliché “love makes the world go ‘round” is absolutely true in LOTR.  More than being mythologically posing representatives, the “good-guys” in the epic act out of passion and love, which is inevitably how they win the War of the Ring.  Friends, servants, and lovers stick together through the intensely harsh circumstances in the last book, and the many love-ties are the foundations for victory and the basis for the New Age of Middle-earth.

Romantic Love

Arwen and Aragorn:  Though we get to know Aragorn pretty well since his appearance as Strider way back in Bree, we barely see Arwen at all until their story appears in the Appendices.  She is described in detail, her beauty (and apparent wisdom) a beacon to Aragorn through all he endures.  Arwen’s presence is in his mind, particularly before he takes off to the Paths of the Dead:  mainly because he may never exit said place of terror, but also because he has to let Eowyn down gently before he does so.  Arwen’s Galadriel-like bestowing of gifts at the end make her even more what she really is through the epic: a prize that Aragorn (and everybody, since she is now Queen) wins by his victory.  Even earlier in Lothlorien, when Galadriel discusses what Aragorn’s gift is to be: he (and she) speak of Arwen.  She, indeed, is the gift that Galadriel (and Elrond) give, to be collected as long as Aragorn survives to be King.

Eowyn’s Match

Of course we realize that Eowyn is in love with Aragorn (some of us wish he’d end up with her instead of Arwen, but oh well), and it is just before Aragorn leaves for the Paths of the Dead that he actually turns her down, much to everyone’s chagrin:

“Few other griefs amid the ill chances of this world have more bitterness and shame for a man’s heart than to behold the love of a lady so fair and brave that cannot be returned.”

 In Return of the King, it is made plain that Eowyn really loves Aragorn because of his title and valor—more of a love of glory than a true personal love.  When in the House of Healing in Gondor, she meets and chills out with Faramir, who awakes in her warmth and real love.  Remember, everyone describes Eowyn throughout as the “cold maiden of the Rohirrim,” or something similar, always describing her as cold, aloof.  When Faramir confesses his love, she is transformed:

Then the heart of Eowyn changed, or else at last she understood it.  And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her.    

Talk about “warm and fuzzy.”faramir-and-Eowyn-faramir-and-eowyn-29599448-1000-571

Friendship

Legolas and Gimli

Two races, both alike in dignity, when put into an adventure, learn love and understanding.  Gimli’s transformation happens in Lorien, when the love of the Lady Galadriel moves him to most un-Dwarf-like behavior.  Legolas and Gimli both have a friendly contest of how many orc-heads each has hewed, which is so endearing it’s some of the best (and necessary) bits of comic relief we get in the series of epic battles  in RoTK.  They both make each other a promise: that if both survive and Suron is indeed destroyed, then Gimli will show Legolas through the great caves behind Helm’s Deep, and Legolas will in turn lead Gimli through Fangorn.  They are both still of their own kind, yet when confronted with the unknown, each is a comfort to the other.  We also find out in the Appendices that Gimli eventually follows Legolas into the eternal Elfhome lands.  Like Pippin and Merry in Elrond’s Council, or Sam trailing Frodo, Gimli and Legolas are so attached that Legolas won’t go into eternity without Gimli still at his side.

Frodo and Sam

I have been calling Sam Frodo’s “caddie” through the past couple of weeks.  It is in this “master/servant” relationship that the love between Frodo and Sam develops.  A combination of the Victorian era’s ideal of “romantic friendship” and the relationship between an officer and attendant in early war shows these two with arguably the strongest love-bond in the story.  Contemporary readers (and film-watchers) have been mystified by this relationship, as Sam continues to call Frodo “master” yet the physical tenderness between them (lying with head in lap, holding hands, even a chaste forehead-kiss) adds up to apparent homosexuality.  But what contemporary folks forget (especially Americans with our Puritanical morals) is that there is such a thing as deep love without sexuality.  Back “in the day,” when men went to school and women didn’t (or went to different schools), the close friendships one made in “high school” and at University would be of one’s own sex.  Holmes and Watson are another famous pair of this “romantic friendship” ideal, also jeered at by modern folks.  But marriage, even as late as the turn of the last century (and even later, let’s be honest), was purely an economical arrangement, not having much to do with mutual partnership and love. Women were not really in society (witness the females in LOTR as per Week 7’s discussions), and so close bonds between young people of mutual interests would nearly always be between men.  When these men would decide to marry, they were lucky to find a woman of good quality who they also loved.  You go, Faramir!

When it comes to the love bonds between the LOTR characters, we have to remember the time periods involved, not only the pseudo-medieval setting of the story itself, but also of the times in which Tolkien wrote.  The troubadour-sung Chivalric Romance is the epitome of Arwen and Aragorn, the eons-long battle between different peoples is given hope in the undying friendship of Legolas and Gimli, and Frodo and Sam represent utter loyalty, even to the depths of Orodruin.  What about Faramir and Eowyn?  There’s nothing like a happy ending for two heroic types who really deserve it!

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