Learning To Work with Masculine Archetypes

The Gilligans and the Skippers

Gilligan and Skipper

Before my Jordan Peterson fan days, you would have heard me talk a lot—and I mean a lot about the old television show ‘Gilligan’s Island’. To my family this level of obsession is seen as normal, but this would probably seem odd to most people who know that I’m a millennial who never grew up with this show, and who don’t know how my brain works. Why did I enjoy this show so much? It was the archetypes.

Although the female characters were basic according to today’s standards, (and even a little too creepy at times), the male characters have laid out a variety of personalities that we have all seen before and has remained standing for decades without falling. We have probably all seen comedies or cartoons that incorporate the idea of the cowardly man, the bold hero, the millionaire, and the genius in one way or another. ‘Gilligan’s Island’ lays these archetypes out clearly and doesn’t hold one archetype above the other.

Gilligan keeps looking up to the Skipper as a higher standard of courage and strength to strive for even if his efforts to reach them seem to be in vain, and the Skipper never gives up on his little buddy. There’s an immense amount of patience that these two characters need to devote to each other throughout every episode because they are so different and unchanging. There is little to no character development in this show, but the characters’ obliviousness to the fact that they will never change keeps them patient with themselves, and each other.

If patience was lost, and if one character completely lost respect for the other, and the writer, Sherwood Schwartz took the side of one character in their arguments as he was writing the scripts, this show would have turned into a form of propaganda that closely resembles what we see today, and it would have not been fun anymore.

The Cultural Backlash

What seems to be happening now that we hold one male archetype above the other? Here is what I think is going on: The Skippers are being blamed for ‘toxic masculinity’ by third-wave feminists, and the Gilligans are being taught by them that looking up to the Skipper is evil. The Gilligans are afraid to question the feminists because they know that questioning will mean being kicked while they are already down so that they can’t fight back. Some Skippers give up on the Gilligans’ potential, and some Gilligans give up on learning from the Skippers, and even start to believe along with the feminists that the big guys really are evil.

This is the simplest way that I know of how to explain the masculinity crisis in my girly, biased perspective. In reality it appears to be more complex than that. You can’t simply define the Gilligans and the Skippers. Jordan Peterson himself seems to be a combination of both characters, and naturally, there seems to be some Professer in him because he is one. Characters can also interchange as they manifest themselves socially around other men. A dad is a Skipper to his own son, but that son’s father is a Gilligan to his own father.

If I am wrong about my interpretation of the masculinity crisis let me know. But on the chances that I am right I want to urge you–if you are an author like me please do your best to avoid taking one of your characters’ sides within the main conflict. Your mission is to try to look outside of yourself to see the perspectives of the characters who are not you so that they can compromise with each other. You and I will never be able to do this perfectly, but our efforts and intentions to explore beyond our own personalities, and genders are enough. For me, as a female author, this means that I need to figure out how to work with the Gilligans and the Skippers within, and around my male characters, and also how my female characters will interact, and negotiate with them.

The Journey Away from Self

Recently I have read a great blog post about C.S. Lewis’s struggles while writing female characters as a man (link here).  Aware of his own uncertainties about the female mind in a world unadulterated by today’s political landscape he has created female characters who I remember finding very relatable as a little girl. His efforts to work with feminine archetypes while also trying to diversify his character’s individual personalities were not in vain.

Naturally, it is hard for a male author to know how I see the world, and it’s also hard for me as a female author to know how a man sees the world. We should never regard this reality as a reason to tear each other down, but instead as a call to the adventure of trying to understand the other’s virtues, and to be creative with them.

Every day I feel blessed with the privilege to write short stories. I get to ask myself questions like “How can I take the archetype of the shy, child-like man, and develop him into a courageous hero in a believable way? What words can my female protagonist use to give him this courage that can move him from the inside out to act heroic?”  The world can never provide, or supress the questions that move an author to explore the unknown no matter what the political landscape is like.  Our freedom comes from our God-given free will.

Both of my protagonists have obstacles to overcome.  For my male character it’s fear, and for my female character it’s a communication disorder that comes with autism.  Courage is deeply important to a man, and communication is deeply important to a woman, so naturally both characters feel a need to grow beyond their challenges even if fear, and communication challenges will always exist in the background.  To the best of my ability I want to avoid shallow, self-assuring words like ‘you don’t need to change’, or unearned words of affirmation towards any of my characters because male or female, false affirmation can block them from the freedom that comes from organically opening up their minds to learn when to stand up in objection against others, and when to be softened, and molded by others–this is an on-going journey that I have been taking myself.

When I first started writing I had no idea that I was going to discover a new-found respect for the freedom that comes from working with masculine archetypes to create something that I have never seen before. Nothing is new under the sun, but what has always been here is right at my fingertips to be reincorporated into the world in a way that is hopefully fresh enough to make timeless ideas come alive again.

Finger Food for Thought

Here are a few summaries on the things that I have discussed on this blog so far. I am trying to capture what I’ve been saying in my philosophy posts into less words, and to also roughly illustrate a new direction that the topics might be heading into. I’ve been trying to think of something Christmas-related to write about, but I’m struggling to come up with something.  (I feel kind of bad about that because Christmas is my favourite time of year 😦 ).  However, I have written a fable that I am planning on publishing here soon.  It will be extremely different from the Macaroni and Cheese story that I wrote for Canada day.  My family says that it’s pretty creepy and dark.  (For the record, I usually don’t write scary stories.  It’s just that I find it hard to stay within one genre).  As the motto says under my title, here are some ideas that I have tried to ‘contain, and secure in a knot’.  I hope that I have succeeded:three christmas themed glass snow globes–Intentions matter more than words.

–Chaos doesn’t exist outside of ourselves, but it does exist as an illusion that we can escape by trying to communicate, and looking for the truth. The unknown is order, but what appears to be a communication disorder needs to be acknowledged in order to break out of it. (This is two blog posts put together as one idea—the fourth post, and the thirteenth.)

–If there is anything that terrifies me to no end, it’s the possibility of remaining stuck with my own opinions about other people without any help to figure out if I’m wrong about my beliefs about them, and to learn about what I have in common with them.

–If people criticize others more than themselves, it’s best not to implement their advice into your own life. These people don’t seem to have enough self-awareness to understand you at a human level. You will know that you are around them if they dig their heels into you whenever you are trying to implement healthy self-critical skills. You will know that you are around them if their words grind you in the gut, and cut you off from ever questioning them, or even conversing. They might try to transform your self-criticism into a false sense of self-love, but it’s more likely that they will try to transform your self-criticism into self-hate.  They might make you believe that your best intentions, or efforts are never good enough.  Do not let them interfere with the balance that allows you to connect with others.

–Earlier this month, I believed that pride and shame is a rocking scale that we need to get away from. I also believed that If we looked at this scale from a bird’s-eye view, we would see that pride and shame are both the same thing, and that they are both bad. However, it was brought to my attention that there is another form of pride that I have neglected to mention—the pride we earn. When I first wrote about this, I was originally thinking about self-assigned pride. Self-assigned pride is most likely a self-made illusion to conceal shame, and earned pride is the sense of fulfillment that comes after personal success or doing a good deed. It’s a reward that keeps us from giving up on ourselves. Whenever people reach this form of pride, they provide a standard for other people to strive for. What are the prose and cons to earned pride? I don’t know yet.  All I know is that writing makes me feel more stable than I was before, so I suspect that I’ve been gradually earning this kind of pride.  I am still learning about the cons, so hopefully in the future I will have the experience I need to go into more depth about these two forms of pride.

The World’s Communication Disorder

Communication Elephant From the time I was a kid I was told that I have a communication disorder. This means that I have trouble putting my thoughts into words, and comprehending what other people are saying. I knew about this even before I was diagnosed with autism. I used to believe that a communication disorder was a condition that I possessed, or even part of who I was, but seriously–how can I be or have a concept that isn’t tangible?

I am not talking to anyone right now. I am sitting in front of a computer typing out my thoughts, but I’m experiencing the occasional blocks in my communication that cause me to erase certain sets of words, and rewrite them so that they make a little more sense. In this case, I don’t have a communication disorder, I’m just experiencing it while I’m trying to figure out how to make my writing more digestible for other people.

If someone who understands my perspective helps me to make my writing clearer than it was before, I don’t have a communication disorder, but there are still the occasional obstacles that need to be crossed. We will eventually manage to cross these obstacles successfully. If I decided to turn my computer off right now, and stay in my room without anyone to talk to, a communication disorder is not even existing within this moment.

On the other hand, if someone genuinely doesn’t understand what I’m writing or saying, It’s not just me who’s crippled in the area of communication, but it’s also the person who I’m talking to. This is nobody’s fault, this is just the way that the world works. These are the consequences of two or more diversely wired brains trying to find unity with one another. The weight of a communication disorder can bog down any conversation—we all feel it. Whenever this weight is felt, saying that one person in the conversation is the source of miscommunication might be the wrong thing to do. I don’t believe that people can be the source of a communication disorder. A communication disorder is something that manifests itself within a conversation where unity hasn’t been reached yet—this is just part of the natural process towards social integration.

I believe that whenever we feel the weight of a communication disorder, we should all be allowed to empathise about it. We all know that it’s hard, so why not just admit this to each other? Is it just because it’s not socially acceptable to bring up this elephant in the room? This elephant isn’t a bad guy. It has the potential to reveal one small glimpse of unity amongst the diversity. It keeps us from judging words and actions, and judgement of other people’s words and actions seems to be caused by pride and shame. I have developed this belief after I realized that the world around me effects my level of humility. Another person’s pride can cause me to feel ashamed, and my own pride can cause other people to feel ashamed. This is the teeter-totter effect that’s been on my mind a lot, and it’s going to come up many times again in this blog. I believe that this scale is something that needs to be escaped.

This also ties into my belief that I should treat others the way I want to be treated. I usually invite other people to take my words with a grain of salt because I want to take other people’s words with a grain of salt. This doesn’t mean being dismissive of what I, or other people are saying, but this does mean acknowledging that there is an unknown intention behind our words. Show me where I am right or wrong, and I will show you where you are right or wrong, but please don’t jump to conclusions before you know the root to what I’m saying.

This belief can make things hard for me. What if I’m around someone who doesn’t want their words to be taken with a grain of salt? If I treat someone like this the way I want to be treated, I get hit with a boomerang of shame. I throw the boomerang of information at them, but then the meaning gets twisted around because instead of catching it, and trying to figure it out, they let it come back to me as something that shouldn’t have been said in the first place. This is how people leave me trapped in a state of claustrophobia within my own body and mind. It’s like telling me that I’m not allowed to act or speak because I’m not genetically equipped to understand how to act around them. Thankfully this rarely happens, but this happens often enough to cause some damage. I should stress that I don’t believe that this behavior is ableism in the same way that the world sees it today. Or in other words, if this is ableism, it’s the kind of intolerance that hurts the entire fabric of humanity. It’s the belief that if people are flawed, (which we all are in morals, abilities, or… you name it), they should not be forgiven. This attitude is hard on the vast majority of people, and this even includes the person who exercises this attitude against others. We are actually hurting ourselves whenever we see ourselves as being completely right when we’re not. Maybe people who continuously torture themselves with this perspective are afraid to acknowledge the communication disorder, and to find unity within it because this means finding something in common with the people whom they didn’t like the words and actions of.

So, what should we do? Whenever we struggle to understand another person, should we try to find empathy through this small window called the communication disorder? This is as simple as saying that you are having some trouble understanding me, and me saying that I am having some trouble understanding you. Acknowledging this challenge as a similarity that unifies us might help us to open up the door to better understanding.