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Archetypes in Horror Films

Essay by review  •  November 26, 2010  •  Essay  •  870 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,543 Views

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In his essay, "The Personal and the Collective Unconscious," Carl Jung interprets the unconscious mind through the analyzing of dreams. Jung agrees with Freud that a certain part of the unconscious is reserved for forgotten or repressed memories, which he refers to as the "personal unconscious" (494). All contents of the personal unconscious derive from personal experience in the conscious mind. However, Jung suggests that the personal unconscious is not the deepest (or most important) layer. There is another layer to our unconscious, which Jung calls the collective unconscious. This form of the unconscious does not derive from personal experience; rather, it contains impersonal, collective components in the form of inherited categories or archetypes that are manifested and recognized by all people in all cultures (496). The contents of the collective unconscious are referred to as archetypes, since they are primordial images that have persisted since our earliest human history (495). Archetypal characters are extremely common in mythology, religion, and even horror films. For example, certain characters from the film "Night of the Living Dead", including Ben, Barbara, the Cooper family, and even the zombies themselves, all can be classified as archetypical figures commonly used in myth and folklore.

The first character to examine is the character of Barbara. The film starts out with Barbara and her brother, Johnny, visiting their father's grave. Barbara's repressed childhood memories become apparent when Johnny starts terrorizing his sister; she spots a creepy looking man, and Johnny jumps at her, saying, "They're coming to get you Barbara!" Unbeknownst to Johnny, "they" really are coming to get Barbara. Out of nowhere, that same, creepy man lunges at Johnny, bashing his head on a rock. Barbara instinctually runs for her life, and, eventually, she finds refuge in an abandoned house; soon thereafter, she is joined by Ben. The two soon discover that they aren't alone in the house - hiding in the basement has been the Cooper family and a young couple. For the entirety of the film, Barbara is in a state of shock and barely says one comprehensible word. She has been completely overrun by emotion and fear to the point of paralyzation. Her character is crucial to the film, however, for she personifies the fear and horror that everyone trapped in that house is feeling. Barbara is a classic damsel in distress; however, she is far beyond the point of being rescued. It's safe to say that Barbara represents the archetype of the Anima - the female side of the unconscious mind.

Next is the character of Ben. Ben seems to represent multiple archetypes, those being the Animus - the male side of the unconscious mind - and the Superman. Almost immediately, Ben is introduced as the leader among the group. He is the one with the plans, the gun, and the smarts necessary for survival in such an outstanding situation. However, not everyone agrees with how Ben is trying to run things. Mr. Cooper questions Ben's authority, suggesting that the basement

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