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Archetypes: the basis

Published by Caroline Lamarque on

Far from being useless or pejorative, the archetype is an interesting tool in the construction of a fictional work. If the parallel with the stereotype or the cliché seems to be an easy shortcut, we will see together that the archetype has nothing to do with these terms.

~ Meaning of words ~

  • The stereotype is a ready-made expression or opinion without any originality. It is also the symbolic and schematic characterization of a group based on routine expectations and judgments.
  • The cliché is a commonplace, a banality that is repeated often and in the same terms.
  • The archetype is a universal structure from the collective unconscious that appears in myths, tales and all imaginary productions.

To summarize, the stereotype is pejorative because it is based on false judgments without foundation. It is a received idea.
The cliché, on which the stereotype is sometimes based, is pejorative, but in another register. It symbolizes a form of truth which is tiresome by its infinite reproduction.
The archetype, on the other hand, is a model, a pattern that is familiar and that evokes several references.

~ Examples of application of the archetype ~

  • The monomyth is a concept developed by Joseph Campbell in the late 1940s. It is an idea according to which all existing myths are variations of a single narrative pattern divided into different archetypal stages.
    Typically, a young person will meet an older mentor who will take him or her on a great adventure.
    You have several examples in mind here, normally. Literary sagas, cinematographic works… But yes! A young man sees an old man come into his life who explains to him that he is able to use a special power which, as if by chance, will allow him to defeat the big bad of the story… And so, the young man will have to accomplish a great quest against the evil, often accompanied by one or several acolytes. Ah, the examples are plentiful, aren’t they?
  • The archetypal characters are specific to the universe they belong to and respond to a determined lexical field. These archetypes emphasize emotional characteristics, but also physical ones.
    The roles assigned in the construction of the monomyth are character archetypes (the hero or heroine is often young, the mentor very old and wise, there are often one or more comic characters, etc.). And if you are familiar with the universe of manga, you have in mind “moe” or “tsundere” characters for example in another register.

~ Operation of the archetype ~

The archetype allows us to enter more easily into the universe that uses it and to create a link between the characters and us.
When we are in front of an archetype, the codes transmitted by all our personal references come back to us. These codes, which seem obvious to us, become part of the fictional work that we are discovering, and this will accelerate our understanding of its functioning and the knowledge of its characters.

The use of the archetype is done intentionally or not.
An artist or author who creates will be unconsciously influenced by his personal culture. A designer will look for references to make a moodboard (a collection of images that is used to express the direction taken in a creative work).

Anyway, there is no such thing as uninfluenced creation (unless you just appear out of nowhere and are able to write, draw or paint immediately. If this is the case, congratulations to you, you are probably the only being in the world in this case).

Le créateur n’improvise pas.

BERGER, Laurent, “L’enseignant et le créateur”. In : DEVILLERS, Virginie (under the dir. of), L’arrière-pays des créateurs. Revue de l’Université de Bruxelles. Bruxelles : Éditions Complexe, 2003, p. 210.

~ The case of Revenge Story ~

The visual novel Revenge Story plays with this notion of codes.

From the very beginning, the game breaks the cliché of the hero (we speak here of cliché and not archetype because it is not the hero specific to a particular universe but the crystallization of all the banalities of the Hero with a capital H: this being absolutely “perfect” from a behavioral and physical point of view). This makes us feel closer to our avatar, who seems more real in his actions and words.

The characters in the game are archetypes from Japanese animation. References have been researched so that the characters we meet are familiar to us. Moreover, the game plays with this by naming these protagonists according to their archetype.

Let’s take the example of Amy.

  • She is the childhood friend of the hero. In many manga and anime, this kind of character has a rather romantic but jealous character and an overflowing love for the main character who doesn’t realize it (although it is terribly obvious!).
  • She has a graphic treatment, especially in the haircut and the color code, that evokes other childhood friends.
  • The icing on the cake: her name is Amy! (in French, “ami” is “friend”). By the way, if this etymological anecdote amuses you, you can try to unravel the proper names of the other main characters in the game!

See you soon for a new article !

To discover or rediscover Revenge Story, it’s HERE.

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Categories: Culture