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Re: [mythsoc] Types, Stereotypes and Archetypes.

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  • Alana Joli Abbott
    I also agree that archetypes are good, useful things for fiction. *However,* an archetype that does not become a fully fleshed character *as well* can often
    Message 1 of 33 , Jan 29, 2012
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      I also agree that archetypes are good, useful things for fiction. However, an archetype that does not become a fully fleshed character as well can often be read as a stereotype. Using the Wise Old Man archetype is well and good -- until the character becomes a Magic Negro, with all the problems entailed in that stereotype. And James, I think your point is very valid as well -- I've not heard people complain about these issues in narratives with that kind of voice (which is clearly intentional), but rather in narratives where a group of main characters, usually of dominant culture, are well developed, and the secondary characters of the non-dominant culture are presented as stereotypes. 

      I am very much a peripheral contributor to this sort of argument, but many of the blogs I read are very involved in discussions of diversity in literature and the problems of portrayal of minority in SF/F literature in particular. Back in 2009, there was a big explosion, largely in the livejournal community (of which I was a far more active part then), that of blog interrelated entries that you can find by searching the tag #racefail in Google. A lot of the entries are still very relevant, and I go back from time to time and read them to remind myself about the problems facing a white author who writes about characters who don't share my cultural assumptions -- as well as advice in how to manage my own thinking to help create real, deep characters.


      On Sun, Jan 29, 2012 at 10:12 PM, James Curcio <jamescurcio@...> wrote:

      Scribbler- I agree.  When I said "archetype" I mean archetype, not stereotype.  But I agree with you.

      I also think that, while there's something to be said for the initial point, I think it's creating a false dichotomy to distinguish between "real" and "unreal" character. If we're talking about the depth of a character, that often has more to do with the intention of the story and the perception of the narrative-- for instance, if you're writing a novel from a perspective of a womanizing drunk, clearly the women are going to all appear 1 or at most 2 dimensional. That doesn't mean that women are actually that way, nor do I think it is an author's job to make everything PC, or to make sure that all characters aren't stereotypes. 

      "Nothing on the face of this earth—and I do mean nothing—is half so dangerous as a children’s story that happens to be real, and you and I are wandering blindfolded through a myth devised by a maniac."
      — Master Li Kao (T’ang Dynasty)
      Cell: 484-319-7323

      On Sun, Jan 29, 2012 at 7:09 PM, <scribbler@...> wrote:

      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
      > never
      > 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 .
      > -Alana
      > 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
      >> article
      >> seems determined to make nonsense of it. If God as played by Morgan
      >> Freeman
      >> 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
      >> about
      >> color-blind casting for THE HOBBIT -- including the suggestion of Morgan
      >> Freeman for Gandalf.*
      >> Would Gandalf then be a Magic Negro?
      >> -Merlin
      >> *source:
      >> http://newboards.theonering.net/forum/gforum/perl/gforum.cgi?post=85863#85863
      >> --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, 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 (
      > http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
      > Contributor to *Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror*
      > http://tinyurl.com/haunted-aja
      > Author of *Into the Reach* and *Departure *http://tinyurl.com/aja-ebooks
      > Columnist, "The Town with Five Main Streets"
      > http://branford.patch.com/columns/the-town-with-five-main-streets
      > --
      > For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at
      > http://groups.google.com/group/alanajoliabbottfans

      Alana Joli Abbott, Freelance Writer and Editor (http://www.virgilandbeatrice.com)
      Contributor to Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror http://tinyurl.com/haunted-aja
      Author of Into the Reach and Departure http://tinyurl.com/aja-ebooks
      Columnist, "The Town with Five Main Streets" http://branford.patch.com/columns/the-town-with-five-main-streets

      For updates on my writings, join my mailing list at http://groups.google.com/group/alanajoliabbottfans

    • Margaret Dean
      I just got an email from Kent State Press saying they d shipped mine! :) It s been backordered for ... a while now. --Margaret Dean margdean56@gmail.com On
      Message 33 of 33 , Feb 13, 2012
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        I just got an email from Kent State Press saying they'd shipped mine!  :)  It's been backordered for ... a while now.
        --Margaret Dean
        On Sun, Feb 12, 2012 at 10:13 AM, Doug Kane <dougkane@...> wrote:

        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!

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