22 min

Archetypes vs. Stereotypes: A New Look At The Hero’s Journey Write Your Screenplay Podcast

    • TV & Film

Archetypes vs. Stereotypes: A New Look At The Hero’s Journey

Archetypes are one of the most valuable and also most challenging concepts in screenwriting. 

To understand how to use archetypes effectively, we have to go back all the way to the source, Carl Jung (famously not a screenwriter). 

We have to understand where the concept of archetypes comes from, and how it connects to a larger concept called the Collective Unconscious. 

And we have to learn how to tap into archetypes intuitively, rather than just intellectually. 

If you are trying to tap into archetypes from a purely intellectual perspective in your screenwriting, there’s a good chance that you’re not actually writing archetypes. You’re actually writing stereotypes. 



So what is an archetype? How do they work? How do you write them? How do you connect to the archetypes that live inside of you? 

That’s what we’re going to be talking about in this podcast. 

As I mentioned, archetypes begin with Carl Jung, and his idea of the Collective Unconscious. To vastly oversimplify this very complicated concept: 

The idea of the Collective Unconscious is that there’s a fabric that ties all human experience together. That even though in my waking life, I think I am Jake, and you are you, and we think that we are different and separated, in our dreams we can actually tap into a collective fabric, a shared experience, that makes us human. 

Jung believed that there were certain metaphors, certain elements, certain aspects of our dreams that actually mean the same thing to everyone who experiences them. 

And by using our subconscious mind, by using the power of our dreams, we can tap into the Collective Unconscious and step into experiences that we’ve never yet had, and parts of ourselves we have never yet met. 

In doing so, he believed that we could find the universal tie that binds us all together.



A brilliant professor named Joseph Campbell came along and took Jung’s beautiful concept of the Collective Unconscious to the next level for writers, by creating something called The Hero’s Journey

 

To vastly oversimplify Campbell in the same way we just did Jung, Campbell essentially realized that if there’s such a thing as a Collective Unconscious, there must also be such a thing as a Collective Story, a universal story. 

And if we could learn to tell that universal story, that universal story would speak to everyone. Everyone could go on that same journey together; it would mean the same thing for everyone. 

And in that way, it could move us all to a place of catharsis, of meaning, of growth, of connecting to who we are as human beings.

He called this The Hero’s Journey. 

You’ve probably heard of The Hero’s Journey if you’ve been studying screenwriting, or any kind of writing.



In fact, Campbell’s work spawned hundreds of disciples, from really incredible theorists like James Bonnet and Christopher Vogler, to more surfacy Save the Cat! kinds of approaches.

Almost every screenwriting book, and almost every screenwriting teacher, teaches archetypes in some way, and they’re all tracking back to Campbell, who’s tracking back to Jung. 

Sounds like a pretty good idea, right?

There are 21 steps of The Hero’s Journey, and a host of specific archetypal character types, and these theorists suggest that if we simply find those steps and find these characters, then we’ve got a structure and the characters of a screenplay that will have universal appeal.

In other words, if there are certain kinds of archetypal roles in every life, there must also be certain kinds of archetypal characters in every screenplay: The Terrible Father, The Emotional Mother, The Spiritual Father, The Anima or Animus, The Threshold Guardian, etc.

Archetypes vs. Stereotypes: A New Look At The Hero’s Journey

Archetypes are one of the most valuable and also most challenging concepts in screenwriting. 

To understand how to use archetypes effectively, we have to go back all the way to the source, Carl Jung (famously not a screenwriter). 

We have to understand where the concept of archetypes comes from, and how it connects to a larger concept called the Collective Unconscious. 

And we have to learn how to tap into archetypes intuitively, rather than just intellectually. 

If you are trying to tap into archetypes from a purely intellectual perspective in your screenwriting, there’s a good chance that you’re not actually writing archetypes. You’re actually writing stereotypes. 



So what is an archetype? How do they work? How do you write them? How do you connect to the archetypes that live inside of you? 

That’s what we’re going to be talking about in this podcast. 

As I mentioned, archetypes begin with Carl Jung, and his idea of the Collective Unconscious. To vastly oversimplify this very complicated concept: 

The idea of the Collective Unconscious is that there’s a fabric that ties all human experience together. That even though in my waking life, I think I am Jake, and you are you, and we think that we are different and separated, in our dreams we can actually tap into a collective fabric, a shared experience, that makes us human. 

Jung believed that there were certain metaphors, certain elements, certain aspects of our dreams that actually mean the same thing to everyone who experiences them. 

And by using our subconscious mind, by using the power of our dreams, we can tap into the Collective Unconscious and step into experiences that we’ve never yet had, and parts of ourselves we have never yet met. 

In doing so, he believed that we could find the universal tie that binds us all together.



A brilliant professor named Joseph Campbell came along and took Jung’s beautiful concept of the Collective Unconscious to the next level for writers, by creating something called The Hero’s Journey

 

To vastly oversimplify Campbell in the same way we just did Jung, Campbell essentially realized that if there’s such a thing as a Collective Unconscious, there must also be such a thing as a Collective Story, a universal story. 

And if we could learn to tell that universal story, that universal story would speak to everyone. Everyone could go on that same journey together; it would mean the same thing for everyone. 

And in that way, it could move us all to a place of catharsis, of meaning, of growth, of connecting to who we are as human beings.

He called this The Hero’s Journey. 

You’ve probably heard of The Hero’s Journey if you’ve been studying screenwriting, or any kind of writing.



In fact, Campbell’s work spawned hundreds of disciples, from really incredible theorists like James Bonnet and Christopher Vogler, to more surfacy Save the Cat! kinds of approaches.

Almost every screenwriting book, and almost every screenwriting teacher, teaches archetypes in some way, and they’re all tracking back to Campbell, who’s tracking back to Jung. 

Sounds like a pretty good idea, right?

There are 21 steps of The Hero’s Journey, and a host of specific archetypal character types, and these theorists suggest that if we simply find those steps and find these characters, then we’ve got a structure and the characters of a screenplay that will have universal appeal.

In other words, if there are certain kinds of archetypal roles in every life, there must also be certain kinds of archetypal characters in every screenplay: The Terrible Father, The Emotional Mother, The Spiritual Father, The Anima or Animus, The Threshold Guardian, etc.

22 min

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