The Faithful Hound

Friday, February 16, 2007

Dynamic Duos

So I'm reading this book on Jung's take on symbolism. A lot of it covers his slightly suspect interpretation of dreams, but other bits are pleasantly interesting, if not eye-opening.
One chapter is devoted to popular archetypes in social culture - the hero, the mother, the trickster, the divine couple and the male and female animus. This chapter also includes a really interesting theory on hero pairs. The book claims that many primitive cultures have legends about hero pairs, and that most of these pairs share an important characteristic. One is usually an introvert and the other an extravert.
The extravert is the popular and public face of the duo, loud and brash, lapping up attention and often courting controversy. The introvert, on the other hand, maintains a solemn presence in the background but is usually the more potent element of the pair. The introvert is not as active as his partner, but when it is time for him to make his move he quickly reveals the extent of his powers.
Fables across various cultures have stories of similar twosomes; Achilles and Patroclus, Krishna and Arjuna, Gilgamesh and Enkidu are among the more popular. The attraction that the audience has towards these pairings, according to Jung, is that the observer has a bit of each characteristic within him; the externally motivated extravert and the internally motivated introvert, the id and the ego. That makes the duo appealing in a multi-dimensional manner to the observer, who can associate with and emulate each member of the pair.
I think that the hero pair archetype has survived pretty much intact into modern culture, not so much in the Don Quixote-Sancho Panza and the Holmes-Watson type relationships in literature, where one element completely overshadows the other, but certainly in rock and roll bands where the singer-guitarist relationship makes for a great study of partnerships.
Think about it; the prevailing rock groups of our generation have always been focused around a dynamic singer and a talented but publicity shy lead guitarist. The singer has always been an over-the-top extravert who is the public face of the group while the lead guitarist maintains a serious, almost mysterious presence off centre stage at shows, coming forward occasionally with a mind-bending solo but otherwise content to leave the singer in the limelight. Plant and Page, Axl and Slash, John and Paul, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (Ok, in that last case the only mysterious thing about Richards is the fact that he is still alive, but he is a classic introvert never the less).
There are, of course, similar examples in Hollywood. Think Thelma and Louise, The Blues Brothers, Midnight Cowboy and any number of cop-buddy movies that are based on the same personality combination. Always a cheery sociable one who makes you laugh and a complex brooding one who makes you think.
I wonder if the whole introvert-extrovert thing applies to married couples as well. While marrying someone at the diametrically opposite end of the psychological spectrum is usually a sure-fire recipe for marital disaster, it does create an exciting spectacle for the external observer as long as it lasts. Look at Charles and Diana. They were media darlings in those early years. The perpetually smiling princess who tried to put a friendly (and sexy) face on the house of Windsor as her more reserved, but much more influential husband looked on condescendingly.
When they broke up and Diana hooked up with the equally outgoing Dodi Al-Fayed they made great gossip but did not really capture the public attention until their exuberance unified them with that tunnel wall in Paris. Similarly Charles’ union with the equally retiring and intelligent Camilla did not make much news outside the regular subscribers of Horse and Hound magazine.
The same applies to the couples I know personally. The ones whose company I enjoy the most are not usually comprised of individuals whose company I would enjoy seperately. The perpetually stressed-out investment banker with the chirpy bubble-headed wife, the brooding social activist dating the hard-drinking golfaholic. I don't know how they can stand each other but when they're together I couldn't ask for better entertainment without having to pay for it.

On a side note, I don't mean to gloat or anything, but did anyone take a look at the cover of the latest Economist? It heralds the demise of cash money and I quote "cash, after millennia as one of mankind's most versatile and enduring technologies, looks set over the next 15 years or so finally to melt away into an electronic stream of ones and zeros". I am so cutting edge that I had better start carrying band-aids in my wallet.


  • At 6:19 PM, Blogger Revealed said…

    Hehehe. What about Simon and Art? They were both weirdly shy and introverted. So it doesn't perfectly hold good there. I suppose you'll say the exception proves the rule? Or that they aren't a rock band :P.

    I never liked the hero and the sidekick pairing though. I generally feel awfully sad for the sidekick and annoyed with the hero (cept for Sancho and Quixote where i felt awfully sad for Quixote AND Sancho).

    (Also I object to the chirpy, bubble-headed stereotype! You can be chirpy and NOT bubble-headed! Not that you're saying that it's not possible, but I don't like the fact that it's stereotyped that way. This has nothing to do with your post at all, I know *sigh*)

  • At 8:13 PM, Blogger km said…

    Great post!

    Jung's archetypical hero was discussed in greater detail by Joseph Campbell, of course. His Hero formed the basis for the "filmi hero" - for George Lucas et al.

    A sweeping generalization maybe, but rock bands always work on the extrovert/introvert dynamic, don't they? They form opposing pairs - the drummer and singer are usually the extroverts and the bassist and lead guitarist are the introverts. Which sadly means the keyboard player has NO place in a "true" rock band ;)

    I've often wondered what the creative dynamic of the Traveling Wilburys was.

  • At 8:09 AM, Blogger ozymandiaz said…

    It seems to me the hero duo archetypes you describe as being aspects of the self are akin to dreams. Now I haven’t read this book but it is my belief that everything in a dream is an aspect of the dreamer. Being that hero worship transcends the real and enters fantasy (ergo a dream state, or product thereof) they should be aspects of the self, recognizable to all. This would also, of course, apply to villains. This would also probably translate well to rock and roll. Milli Vanilli may actually represent the lip synching scammer in all of us…
    Or maybe not.

  • At 11:37 AM, Blogger Szerelem said…

    I am even more cutting edge than you! I wrote a paper on the impact of electronic money on monetary policy two years back! :P
    Btw, had asked your opinion on Snow and never recieved a reply :(

  • At 11:45 AM, Blogger MockTurtle said…

    @revealed: Certainly - chirpy people are not always bubble headed. No stereotype intended.
    Regarding Simon and Garfunkel, yup they were both introverted, but that's also what ensured that they never provided blazing entertainment based on the dynamics of their personalities.

    @km: Spot on about rock bands. I think that the few that did not operate on those dynamics lacked the over the top stage presence that the others shared.
    Never thought about the Wilburys. I guess their being a studio-only band prevented an alpha-male ego clash. Although with Dylan and George around I doubt that would have happened.

    @ozy: "everything in a dream is an aspect of the dreamer" is very Jungian. I guess hero adulation through dreams or fantasy is part of the process of 'Transference' wherin we assign the hero (or villain) with attributes based on our own repressed desires and fears.
    Good one about Milli Vanilli. A lot of the hate directed towards them could well have been transfered self-loathing by folks with an Imposter Complex.

  • At 11:47 AM, Blogger MockTurtle said…

    @szerlem: Damn - you beat me to it ...and I was about to write a gloating letter to the editor at the Economist.
    Sorry about being late to reply. Will do so right now on your blog.

  • At 5:53 PM, Blogger Raindrop said…

    It's the element of contrast that keeps people interested in such couples, the old 'opposites attract' cliche. It's usually the stereotypical intellectual man and hot artistic woman combination. The famous nuclear scientist and his dancer wife, or the cynical author and his model/actress wife. Probably makes sense from the perspective of producing well-rounded offspring.

    Excellent last post, by the way. I agree almost completely.

  • At 11:57 PM, Blogger Szerelem said…

    Well, it was for my monetary economics class or else I really wouldn't have pondered about the issue. But it does raise some interesting policy questions....
    Also, it's interesting what you mentioned about couples. I think my mom mentioned this...she felt that couples who are too similar tend to clash to often and that doesn't really make for a stable relationship and having different personalities that balanced each other is what makes a relationship work. It's the typical yin-yang thing I guess.

  • At 10:52 AM, Blogger Revealed said…

    I think that most couples tend to clash as they get older. The minor annoyances become major issues. And a lot of the times when you have the introvert, extravert combination in a marraige you end up with one long-suffering entity who feels extremely put-upon and martyred. Or so I think. What'd I know.

    Hurt at your pooh-poohing of SnG's entertaining abilities, but I note the 'based on the dynamics of their personalities' addendum and so am somewhat mollified :). I suppose the theory *does* make sense.

  • At 11:30 AM, Blogger MockTurtle said…

    @raindrop: Welcome and thanks!
    I'm not quite sure if opposites attract each other as much as they attract third party observers of the relationship.
    There is certainly a certain electricity about being with someone who is completely different from yourself. But does it bode well for long term stability? I have my doubts.

    @szerlem: Well, as I said to raindrop here, a few differences do make for an interesting relationship, but a deep seated psychological opposite may not be the best long term companion.
    It's one thing if your differences include preferences for different kinds of movies or food, but if one of you has an addictive personality and the other is uptight or if one is a social butterfly and the other a recluse then you are asking for trouble. You'l burn through each other in the first few years together - makes a splendid spectacle for your friends though.

    @revealed: I think you're spot on regarding introvert-extravert combinations in the long term.
    Glad you read my fine print about S and G.

  • At 9:11 PM, Blogger Tabula Rasa said…

    nice. i like the way you connected the jungian stuff to rock bands. of course, once can always find counterexamples etc., but that would just be boring.

  • At 2:39 PM, Blogger Jay said…

    I'm not sure if my husband and I are opposites - probably we are, actually. But I could not stand to live with someone like myself.

  • At 7:42 AM, Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said…

    Haven't read the book but that's a pretty interesting connection you've made with rock bands.

    You find Jung's interpretation of dreams to be "slightly suspect"...I think ALL interpretations are slightly suspect. Or, at least, not as universally applicable as we're always so eager to believe. It's more a cultural thing.

    Nice post :-)

  • At 12:48 PM, Blogger MockTurtle said…

    @TR: Thanks.. and yes, exceptions that prove etc.

    @jay: I hear you. Boring and stable pales in comparison to exciting and on the edge. But I'm sure that, beyond the evident differences, you two share a lot in common.

    @GOTJ: HEYYY!! When did you return? Welcome back to the land of the living buddy. I'm going straight to your blog to see if you have an update on your project.

  • At 3:01 AM, Blogger AakASH!!! said…

    We are also laterally, looking at the proven psychological coupling, what is more commonly known as the Good Cop -Bad Cop theory.

    But interesting take. :-)

    Tell me who out of Krishna and Arjun do you put as the extrovert though?


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