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Old 10-27-2010, 07:05 AM
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Default Heroic archetypes in Avatar

I'm kind of a geek for amateur analysis, so I've been wanting to start this discussion for a while. Here's one list of hero sub-types I found (though it's by no means definitive):
Heroic characters

If you look at all the stories that have ever been told, certain kinds of heroes keep showing up over and over again. I think a good storyteller is someone who can take these old archetypes and make them fresh and exciting again, and I personally think James Cameron did a good job of this.

I might as well start us off with Jake. One of the things I find most compelling is the way he combines multiple archetypes (some of them very old) into one character, and he also changes throughout the story. From the list, I'd say "The Leader" fits him pretty well, but "Accidental hero" seems to fit him best, and there are also some hints of "Anti-hero" mixed in. This gives his brand of heroism a pretty modern "feel"... it has this sort of reluctant, conflicted, gritty edge to it.

At the same time, there are elements to his story that are 100% classic hero, drawing from themes that are old as dirt. In a lot of mythology (Greek, for instance), the hero has to have some kind of unusual and/or miraculous birth (check), he must be favored by one or more deities (check), and he has to die at the end (sort-of check). For more old themes, I've seen people point out the Christ-like parallels, the most obvious one being that he has a sort of "resurrection" at the end of the movie. There's also a shot from one of the deleted "Earth" scenes where Jake's lying spread-eagled in a classic "crucifixion" pose, so I don't think it's accidental.

I think it's cool that Avatar gives us a character who exhibits this grand, sweeping, mythological heroism without making him "feel" like that kind of old-fashioned character.

What do you guys think? Do you agree/disagree? Where do you think the other heroes of Avatar "fit?"
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Old 10-27-2010, 01:34 PM
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It's an interesting one... I've never been great at comparing similarities in characters, but I'd say Neytiri is fairly unique... Grace is one I've seen similar characters before, the person who knows it but nobody else seems to care, and who ends up helping the main character.

Also, interesting link... personally, I am a big fan of anti-heroes rather than them being someone that is 'disliked' - the point is that they have qualities that make them real, someone people can relate to, and they take actions that others may not.
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Old 10-27-2010, 05:42 PM
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Tried and true is always best...
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Old 10-27-2010, 11:40 PM
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Nice summary of hero types. I think Jake is could be a classic hero, or the saviour or even the bold adventurer. But funnily enough he is not the noble savage.

Neytiri does not fit well into any category. Although she does have aspects of wuite a few. If anything she is closest to the noble savage, but even that doesn't quite fit.
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Old 10-28-2010, 12:01 AM
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Doesn't fit at all, I' d say.
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Old 10-28-2010, 12:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neytirifanboy View Post
Neytiri does not fit well into any category. Although she does have aspects of wuite a few. If anything she is closest to the noble savage, but even that doesn't quite fit.
I agree that "noble savage" is close but not quite right for Neytiri. I think one archetype that is not on that list is "the mentor," i.e. the person who serves as the hero's guide and guardian and who acts as a font of wisdom for the audience.

I remember talking about avatar soon after watching it for the first time and saying that, in terms of her role in driving the story, Neytiri almost reminds me of Yoda. Obviously, her relationship with Jake evolves over the course of the story, but for a large portion of the movie, their dynamic is very much a straightforward mentor-mentee relationship that you see in many adventure stories across genres. We even get a trope-tacular training montage and a definitive final fight in which the hero must face a powerful enemy single-handedly while his mentor watches.

Of course, now all I can think of is Neytiri looking at Jake and saying: "Much to learn you have, young Sky Person." :-p

Last edited by Sothis; 10-28-2010 at 12:05 AM.
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Old 10-28-2010, 01:39 AM
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Jake: "I'm not afraid."

Neytiri: "You will be.

You will be."



I like this kind of story analysis. I agree that Jake is a combination of a few, but one that hasn't been mentioned yet is the Bold Adventurer. As Grace put it, he decided to go to the most hostile place known to Man just to see how it went (though having new legs was a definite bonus). I think there's enough of the Bold Adventurer in him since a lot of us here on ToS want to go out into the world and have exciting adventures in our post-Avatar states.
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Old 10-28-2010, 02:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sothis View Post
I remember talking about avatar soon after watching it for the first time and saying that, in terms of her role in driving the story, Neytiri almost reminds me of Yoda. Obviously, her relationship with Jake evolves over the course of the story, but for a large portion of the movie, their dynamic is very much a straightforward mentor-mentee relationship that you see in many adventure stories across genres. We even get a trope-tacular training montage and a definitive final fight in which the hero must face a powerful enemy single-handedly while his mentor watches.

Of course, now all I can think of is Neytiri looking at Jake and saying: "Much to learn you have, young Sky Person." :-p
To me Neytiri has several roles. She is the mentor, the protector, the lover and the the person to be protected.

You cover the mentor very well. We know she is a prtoector because of the number of times she saves Jake, The lover is obvious. But she is also the one who is protected. But in this sense it is not Neytiri herslef who needs protecting. Here she represents the Na'vi and Pandora as a whole.
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Old 10-28-2010, 02:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Empty Glass View Post
I like this kind of story analysis. I agree that Jake is a combination of a few, but one that hasn't been mentioned yet is the Bold Adventurer. As Grace put it, he decided to go to the most hostile place known to Man just to see how it went (though having new legs was a definite bonus). I think there's enough of the Bold Adventurer in him since a lot of us here on ToS want to go out into the world and have exciting adventures in our post-Avatar states.
Yes, I mentioned the bold adventurer in passing. So I agree. After all he went to the most hostile environment known to man just to see how it would go.
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Old 10-28-2010, 02:58 AM
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Yeah, I'd definitely place her as a hybrid "Noble Savage" and "Mentor". Bit o' both.
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Old 10-28-2010, 04:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neytirifanboy View Post
To me Neytiri has several roles. She is the mentor, the protector, the lover and the the person to be protected.
I think that's a very elegant, succinct summary of Neytiri's role in the story. And it touches on one of the things I like the most about Jake and Neytiri -- their relationship is dynamic and multi-dimensional. There's a sense of balance and equality that is very appealing, and it is crafted in a way that feels natural. They both act as savior to the other, they learn from each other, and they are simultaneously each other's greatest strength and greatest vulnerability.
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Old 10-28-2010, 04:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neytirifanboy View Post
Yes, I mentioned the bold adventurer in passing. So I agree. After all he went to the most hostile environment known to man just to see how it would go.
Oh, that's right you did. *Slaps forehead* Sorry I didn't catch that!
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Old 10-28-2010, 01:09 PM
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I completely disagree with 'noble savage' as the Na'vi are never anything but better, more civilised than humans.
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Old 10-28-2010, 06:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Human No More View Post
I completely disagree with 'noble savage' as the Na'vi are never anything but better, more civilised than humans.


Which is almost the exact description of the "noble savage" hero type...
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Old 10-28-2010, 08:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Human No More View Post
I completely disagree with 'noble savage' as the Na'vi are never anything but better, more civilised than humans.
Hence the word "noble."
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