Types, Stereotypes and Archetypes.
- I understand the point Alana is making here, but as a specialist in mythic
motifs and structures, I REALLY wish people would stop using the word
"archetypes" when they really do mean "stereotype".
An archetype is a template fo deep meaning. How well the archetype is
manifested is dependant on the writer's ability. But the use of an
archetype is neither good nor bad, neither shallow nor deep. An archetype
carries a particular meaning.
A stereotype, on the other hand, is a flattened out version of anything,
generalized, conforming to some easy pattern, and most often lacking in
depth of any sort. A stereotype feels like cardboard.
Just because a character is a mentor, for instance, that does not make him
a stereotype. The archetype - functioning as a mentor - has significance
to the story overall. An pseudo-Gandalf who only does whizbang in the
immediate story, THAT is a stereotype. Or if you want to be specific - a
stereotype OF the archetype.
Archetypes are things you WANT in your story -- especially if they are
well written. Sometimes you even NEED them. Stereotypes, on the other
hand, nobody wants.
Here endeth the lesson from the crazed mythographer. :D
> Merlin: the answer to that question tends to be that if the character
> develops any depth -- beyond the static role of helping the heroes -- then
> the character may be a stereotype or trope rather than a fully developed
> character. Does the character have relationships that are his own, not
> dependent on the heroes? Does he take a great stand against the enemies on
> his own? Even the film version of Gandalf has qualities and relationships
> outside guiding Frodo -- especially as Frodo isn't even with Gandalf for
> most of the trilogy -- and serving as a mentor for Aragorn. Gandalf's
> relationship to Saruman, for example, shows that he's got more character
> background than *just* an archetype. That background doesn't have to be
> explored, but it should be, in some way, revealed, or he's a stock
> character -- an archetype.
> That's particularly dangerous when it's used about people of minorities,
> because it means the (usually white) writer is using stereotype and
> archetype to create a character, rather than creating real characters.
> My editor friend Stacy Whitman wrote a really solid blog entry about the
> problem here: http://slwhitman.livejournal.com/184554.html .
> On Sun, Jan 29, 2012 at 12:07 AM, not_thou <emptyD@...> wrote:
>> If the "Magic Negro" concept ever had any value, the list of such
>> characters in film and literature that is linked from the wikipedia
>> seems determined to make nonsense of it. If God as played by Morgan
>> in BRUCE ALMIGHTY and EVAN ALMIGHTY qualifies, I can't see why God as
>> played by George Burns in the three OH, GOD! movies should not -- apart
>> from his race. What's is God's race, anyway?
>> To keep this on topic: a few years ago I read some online discussion
>> color-blind casting for THE HOBBIT -- including the suggestion of Morgan
>> Freeman for Gandalf.*
>> Would Gandalf then be a Magic Negro?
>> --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, WendellWag@... wrote:
>> > The Magical Negro (or Magic Negro) is another annoying trope:
>> > _http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_Negro_
>> > (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_Negro)
>> > Wendell Wagner
> Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (
> Contributor to *Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror*
> Author of *Into the Reach* and *Departure *http://tinyurl.com/aja-ebooks
> Columnist, "The Town with Five Main Streets"
> For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at
- I just got an email from Kent State Press saying they'd shipped mine! :) It's been backordered for ... a while now.--Margaret DeanOn Sun, Feb 12, 2012 at 10:13 AM, Doug Kane <dougkane@...> wrote:All,It has come to my attention that Verlyn Flieger's new book, Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien is now available for purchase, both directly from the publisher, Kent State University Press, and from Amazon and other retailers. This book was originally due to be published last August, but was delayed by the publisher. It doesn't seem to have been well publicized that the book is now available, so I thought I would spread the word. I obviously don't need to emphasize how perceptive Verlyn's observations about Tolkien are. Most of you are well aware of that fact!Doug