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Film and Media Studies

Film and Media


The term "archetype" has its origins in ancient Greek. The root words are archein, which means "original or old"; and typos, which means "pattern, model or type". The combined meaning is an "original pattern" of which all other similar persons, objects, or concepts are derived, copied, modeled, or emulated. 


Central figures in stories. Everyone is the hero of his or her own myth. 

The hero is the audience’s personal tour guide on the adventure that is the story. It’s critical that the audience can relate to them, because they experience the story through their eyes. During the journey, the hero will leave the world they are familiar with and enter a new one. This new world will be so different that whatever skills the hero used previously will no longer be sufficient. Together, the hero and the audience will master the rules of the new world, and save the day.

Harry Potter-Harry Potter

Star Wars- Luke Skywalker


The hero’s guide or guiding principles.

The hero has to learn how to survive in the new world incredibly fast, so the mentor appears to give them a fighting chance. This mentor will describe how the new world operates, and instruct the hero in using any innate abilities they possess. The mentor will also gift the hero with equipment, because a level one hero never has any decent weapons or armor.

Harry Potter- Albus Dumbledore 

Star Wars-Obi-Wan Kenobi


Characters who help the hero throughout the quest. 

The hero will have some great challenges ahead; too great for one person to face them alone. They’ll need someone to distract the guards, hack into the mainframe, or carry their gear. Plus, the journey could get a little dull without another character to interact with.

Harry Potter-Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger

Star Wars-C-3PO and R2-D2


The one who brings the Call to Adventure. This could be a person or an event. 

The herald appears near the beginning to announce the need for change in the hero’s life. They are the catalyst that sets the whole adventure in motion. While they often bring news of a threat in a distant land, they can also simply show a dissatisfied hero a tempting glimpse of a new life. Occasionally they single the hero out, picking them for a journey they wouldn’t otherwise take.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone 

Star War: A New Hope


 Clowns and mischief-makers. 

The trickster adds fun and humor to the story. When times are gloomy or emotionally tense, the trickster gives the audience a welcome break. Often, the trickster has another job: challenging the status quo. A good trickster offers an outside perspective and opens up important questions. They’re also great for lampshading the story or the actions of the other characters.

Harry Potter-Luna Lovegood

Star Wars-Yoda


In stories, creatures like vampires or werewolves who change shape. In life, the shapeshifter represents change.

The shapeshifter blurs the line between ally and enemy. Often they begin as an ally, then betray the hero at a critical moment. Other times, their loyalty is in question as they waver back and forth. Regardless, they provide a tantalizing combination of appeal and possible danger. Shapeshifters benefit stories by creating interesting relationships among the characters, and by adding tension to scenes filled with allies.

Harry Potter- Severus Snape

Star Wars- Lando Calrissian

Threshold Guardians

The forces that stand in the way at important turning points, including jealous enemies, professional gatekeepers, or even the hero’s own fears and doubts. 

The guardian, or threshold guardian, tests the hero before they face great challenges. They can appear at any stage of the story, but they always block an entrance or border of some kind. Their message to the hero is clear: “go home and forget your quest.” They also have a message for the audience: “this way lies danger.” Then the hero must prove their worth by answering a riddle, sneaking past, or defeating the guardian in combat.

Harry Potter- Fluffy

Star Wars- Stormtrooper


Villains, enemies, or perhaps the enemy within. This could be the repressed possibilities of the hero, his or her potential for evil.

Shadows are villains in the story. They exist to create threat and conflict, and to give the hero something to struggle against. Like many of the other archetypes, shadows do not have to be characters specifically.The shadow is especially effective if it mirrors the hero in some way. It shows the audience the twisted person the hero could become if they head down the wrong path, and highlights the hero’s internal struggle. This, in turn, makes the hero’s success more meaningful.

Harry Potter- Lord Voldemort

Star Wars-Darth Vader

Woman as Temptress

Sometimes a female character offers danger to the hero (a femme fatale).

The main reason the Temptress exists, especially in a classic Hero’s Journey story, is to be an obstacle in the Hero’s way, something they must not give into, because doing so would prove them unworthy. Getting past the temptation allows the Hero to prove they are just and worthy, and to continue on with what must be done.

Most Temptress characters are women, but they do not have to be. In general, however, a Temptress character will bring a Hero character’s downfall, whether it is purposeful or not. The Temptress character can be an echo of a Hero’s dark side, showing them what they could become if they give up their ideals. But a Temptress is not necessarily evil, or even aligned with the Villain. They exist more as an obstacle and for the character development of the Hero.

Harry Potter- Bellatrix Lestrange

Star Wars- Padmé Amidala