Updated: Jul 15, 2019
Before I give you some more theory, let me tell you that when I decided to write a blog about Intuitive Screenwriting, I also decided to write about it intuitively, and I never anticipated I would discover anything new in storytelling. But surprisingly now you are witnessing some new discoveries about archetypes in real time and I can tell you only this: The Intuitive Screenwriting wheel is full of polarities but also full of new surprises.
Let me start with polarities. Do you remember why polarities are so important? This time I will use some quotes from The Writers Journey, in which Christopher Vogler wrote a whole section on polarity:
“A persistent feature of the Hero's Journey is that its stories tend to be polarized like two essential forces of nature, electricity, and magnetism. Like them, stories create energy or exert force through polarities that organize the elements present into opposing camps with contrasting properties and orientations. Polarity is an essential principle of storytelling, governed by a few simple rules but capable of generating infinite conflict, complexity, and audience involvement.”
“As soon as you choose a single thought or character to unite your story, you have automatically generated its polar opposite.”
“When a situation is extremely polarized, when the two sides have been driven out to their most extreme positions, there is a tendency for the polarity to reverse itself. According to the ancient Chinese philosophy of the I Ching, the doctrine of changes, things are always in the process of flowing into their opposites.”
“Sometimes the two big ideas or life-ways that have been polarized throughout a story will seek resolution by converting into something else, a third way that resolves the contradiction between the two elements.”
“Polarity is a meta-pattern, a system that operates at all levels in stories, from large-scale clashes of cultures to intimate human relationships, all the way down to polarities within individuals.”
All of this: duality, movement, a tendency for the polarity to reverse itself and find resolution are extremely important for our genres, as well, so let’s go back to them.
After last week’s post about genres, I said to myself, ‘Ok, obviously the polarities on the wheel work and they work because I put the wheel together by considering all levels of categorization in astrology, but still, why does it work?
What are the exact qualities of those polarities?
And I finally realized that all of those oppositions on my wheel are actually sextiles in the classic zodiac wheel.
In astrology, a sextile is an astrological aspect that is made when two planets or other celestial bodies are 60 degrees apart.
So, what does that mean for us? I wanted to know if I am missing something since there are 12 sextiles and I wrote about 6 genres? And this is what I discovered:
The Zodiac signs that form a sextile are in the same yin/yang polarity, also known as masculine and feminine. They are NOT in the same element or modality (cardinal, fixed, mutable). For us, this is Ego, Soul, and Self.
The masculine archetypes are Warrior, Fool, Creator, Orphan, Explorer, and Magician.
The feminine archetypes are Lover, Caregiver, Sage, Destroyer, Ruler, and Innocent.
And what I discovered next about sextiles I really like:
Sextiles seem to have some common traits in a major sphere of life, but those traits have to be activated since the energies between sextiles don’t flow automatically. Astrologers say that once those energies are triggered, they carry a huge potential for freedom in themselves.
As we know, feature films are always a combination of two storylines, and what the wheel suggests is that these storylines are actually not entirely opposing or opposite. If they were entirely opposing, they would not even “recognize” each other. They need to work well together when triggered – in order to be able to lead each other to “enlightenment.” They have to speak the same language and here this language is having the same yin/yang polarity. At the same time, they carry different archetypal qualities and this is where they have to work through their differences, if they want to grow together.
So, this is my conclusion: Film or Film Genre is a Polarity in a Sextile way.
And this is how we can use this notion to read our genre puzzle:
From every Defining Archetype (element) I can go to the Opposing archetype (element) as long as it has a different psychological quality associated with itself.
For example, the EGO-archetype can transform into the SELF-archetype and SOUL-archetype, but not into another EGO-archetype. See the wheel to visualize what am I talking about, it is actually quite easy.
If we take ONE into consideration, we have 12 archetypal genres, more precisely, six but every genre has a second variation of itself.
The defining quality uses its opposing quality to transform itself.
We can group genres two by two… Two in the Warrior family, two in the Explorer family, two in the Creator family, two in the Lover, two in the Sage and two in the Ruler.
We have six masculine genres and six feminine genres. And it’s important to understand that the masculine archetypes only work with masculine, and the feminine archetypes only with the feminine. This is the sextile quality that connects them.
If we want to have all possible combinations of the psychological change within genres, it is essential to understand that the direction from one archetype to another has to be precise. In other words, it is really important to know which archetype we are starting with, and which archetype we are ending with (one can only lead to another, and not the other way around).
We can’t have a Warrior - Fool genre, or Fool – Warrior genre, we have Warrior --> Fool genre. Which leads us to something really important:
The movement or the change, the precise flow of energy within the story is woven into the definition of the genre itself.
So, now let me show you how all the standard genres or divisions can be precisely understood, described and seen through an archetypal lens.
I decided to put planets next to archetypes so that you can possibly connect the dots from an astrological point of view as well.
MASCULINE (YANG) GROUP:
The Defining Archetype is triggered by the Opposing archetype
WARRIOR (MARS) --> FOOL (MERCURY) GENRE
BOTH NEED NEWNESS TO FIRE UP
OBSESSION/MANTRA: Instinctive action, adrenaline or death.
SACRIFICE: The protagonist defends his own lost or sacrificed playfulness or childhood. This is the energy of puberty where one’s ego can go in all sorts of different directions to prove itself.
LESSON: Power and curiosity together can be great fun, but by harming others you can also harm yourself. The more powerful you are, the gentler (and childlike) you have to be.
WARRIOR (MARS) --> MAGICIAN (URANUS) GENRE
Genre: SUPERHERO, FANTASY
OBSESSION: With a fantasy world.
SACRIFICE: The protagonist sacrifices reality for fantasy or fantasy for reality.
LESSON: We can live parallel realities, magic comes from the other side, but we can control it here. Anything is possible.
EXPLORER (JUPITER) --> ORPHAN (VENUS) GENRES
SELF --> EGO
BOTH SOCIAL CHARMERS
OBSESSION: With knowledge about the origin of the world or the meaning of life – “a holy grail type of story.”
SACRIFICE: The protagonist sacrifices a relationship for new insights.
LESSON: The path to the unknown opens a path to oneself.
EXPLORER (JUPITER) --> MAGICIAN (URANUS) GENRE
BOTH FUTURE ORIENTED
Genre: SCIENCE FICTION OBSESSION: With what is beyond the boundaries of this world. The further, the better. SACRIFICE: The Protagonist has to sacrifice his time here and now for a better future. When he or she comes back from the future - usually their life here is over.
LESSON: The future is just a reflection of the past.
CREATOR (SUN) --> ORPHAN (VENUS) GENRE
SOUL --> EGO
BOTH NEED CREATIVITY
OBSESSED: With the (narcissistic) way they appear in the world.
SACRIFICE: The protagonist sacrifices an authentic self, a dream for a relationship, or a relationship for a dream.
LESSON: No one is more important and nothing is more important than balance. If you don’t have yourself, you cannot “shine” on anyone else.
CREATOR (SUN) --> FOOL (MERCURY) GENRE
BOTH LOVE POPULARITY
OBSESSION: With playfulness.
SACRIFICE: The protagonist sacrifices his dreams of being popular for the sake of playfulness.
LESSON: We are here on this Earth to enjoy life, life doesn’t always have to be so hard.
FEMININE (YIN) GROUP: The Defining archetype triggers the Opposing archetype
CAREGIVER (MOON) --> LOVER (VENUS) GENRE
BOTH COMFORT LOVERS
OBSESSION: With love for a partner or love for children.
SACRIFICE: The protagonist sacrifices himself for love. Usually emotions are overwhelming.
LESSON: My boundaries, my space and time, and my needs come first.
INNOCENT (NEPTUNE) --> LOVER (VENUS)
BOTH NEED ABUNDANCE
Genre: ROMANCE, SPACE OUT LOVE
OBSESSION: Love as fate.
SACRIFICE: The protagonist must sacrifice love to gain eternity, and vice versa.
LESSON: Surrender to love, believe it is possible.
DESTROYER (PLUTO) --> SAGE (CHIRON) GENRE
BOTH INVESTIGATIVE MINDS
Genre: NOIR, THRILLER
OBSESSION: Crime – something from the past needs to be solved so that protagonist can live.
SACRIFICE: Pain is as destructive and as present as real danger.
LESSON: Don’t hold on to pain – you are not special because of it.
CAREGIVER (MOON) --> SAGE (CHIRON) GENRE
EGO --> SELF
BOTH CARRY DISEASE BUT ALSO HEALING POWERS
OBSESSION: Blood/family relations.
SACRIFICE: The wounds from a relationship with a mother or family member are difficult to heal and the protagonist is in danger.
LESSON: Accept that which we cannot control or choose – our parents. Forgiveness leads to great wisdom.
INNOCENT (NEPTUNE) --> RULER (SATURN)
SELF --> EGO
BOTH TRADITION KEEPERS
Genre: WAR, WESTERN, GANGSTER
OBSESSION: Ruler of heaven and Earth.
SACRIFICE: The protagonist must sacrifice his or others' innocence for the good of all, usually for a better society - in the name of the flag, family or God. Could be religious stories.
LESSON: Hierarchy wins: above any great ruler, there is an even greater one – or in front of God everyone is the same. The real ruler is time; death awaits both kings and beggars.
DESTROYER (PLUTO) --> RULER (SATURN)
BOTH AMBITIOUS, AGGRESSIVE, NEED TO FEEL IN CONTROL
OBSESSION: Blood, death and the scary underground world where dark entities live.
SACRIFICE: The protagonist has to be brave to pull himself/herself out of depression.
LESSON: The same thing in the dark is scarier than in the light.
As above so below. Crime lives on after death. Karma fights back – that’s why zombies can live here.
P.S. Why am I calling upon astrology while meditating on archetypes? Because it’s an obvious connection that C.G. Jung recognized as well.
“Jung was drawn to symbol systems like astrology and alchemy because they were
oriented toward a synthetic understanding of matter and psyche. He under-
stood them as projections of humankind’s inner psychological processes,
fantasies about the biological and physical world and symbolic representations of
movements of collective consciousness. In alchemical thinking, for example,
matter and psyche are not separated, and this is what appealed to Jung as a
paradigm for understanding the human psyche in its relation to the world.”
The astrological horoscope, Carl Jung observed in a letter of 1954, “corresponds to a definite moment in the colloquy of the gods, that is to say the psychic archetypes."
Jung to André Barbault, 26 May 1954, in Letters II, pp. 175–177.
This is an extract from Carl Gustav Jung, Jung on Astrology, selected and introduced by Safron Rossi and Keiron Le Grice (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2017).
Next on Intuitive Screenwriting: Four act structure and a little bit of wheel, but no astrology :) Stay tuned!