This one also incorporates various earlier posts such as this one, this one, and this one.
Together, they covered
most movies, but there are additional character arcs within those movies that
we can examine. The point of this
series is that most large self-contained stories are focused on one character’s
problem, and human nature dictates that people tend to go through a similar set
of steps to solve those problems.
it’s not just storytelling gurus who try to figure out these steps. Psychologists have been figuring out
the steps of problem solving on their end for centuries. Within each genres, you’ll find heroes
whose individual journeys resemble the journeys described by certain
with the two biggies: Freud and Jung. Freud focused his work on mental
illness and believed that the job of the psychologist was to help the patient
solve problems and get out of therapy.
The first precept of Freudian therapists is that, for therapy to be
effective, patients “must want to change.” The Freudian arc is a transformation arc: the hero
realizes that he’s self-destructive and transforms himself.
Overconfident Re-Doubling of Bad Habits / Even Worse Failure Causes Beginnings
of Self-Awareness / Success Through Transformation
student Jung decided that his mentor was too focused on mental illness as
opposed to mental health. Jung studied healthier patients and became convinced
that the goal of the psychologist should be to help patients understand and
accept themselves, rather than change.
The Jungian arc is an Individuation arc: The hero realizes that he
needs to stop trying to change, and rediscover his inborn wisdom.
False Success through Denial of Self / Failure Exposes Alienation from Self /
Success through Acceptance of Self
referred to these two arcs as the Han arc and the Luke arc: Han is a rotten guy
who thinks he’s great, but he comes to realize that he needs to change. He finally succeeds by doing something
he never would have done before.
Luke is a good person who thinks he’s a failure. He craves the validation that would
come with leaving farm life for flight school, but when he finally becomes a
pilot, he finds that it was the skills he learned at home, both practically and
spiritually, that allow him to succeed where all the other pilots fail.
psychologists have described self-help journeys that also show up in movies. Abraham Maslow described the way in
which we tend to satisfy our hierarchy of needs one by one. Characters who have been totally
devastated and/or exiled are sometimes forced to follow this arc, such as Jason
Bourne or the title characters in The Ballad of Cable Hogue or The Brother From
Material Accomplishment / Social Accomplishment / Justice and Peace
Kubler-Ross focused her studies on those experiencing severe grief and found
that they tended to follow the same basic steps. These steps tend to form the arc of movies about grief, in
movies like Swayze in Ghost, Carrell
in Little Miss Sunshine, or Hutton Ordinary
People. Also seen on death-filled
TV shows like “Lost” and “Battlestar: Galactica”:
Denial / Anger
and Bargaining / Depression / Acceptance
Okay, no more delay: Let’s start our big structure walkthrough tommorrow...