The Victim archetype as a very powerful onscreen presence which made me wonder, what is the secret to writing a victim character?
The Archetypical Victim is the shadow side of the Virgin. She/he is the character who has lost touch with her intrinsic worth. To put it another way, she lives in a culture that fails to see her value for being herself and she accepts this opinion in order to belong. I see a continuum between the Victim and the completion of the Virgin’s journey.
Fight Club and Black Swan have Victim leading characters. In Fight Club the narrator follows his journey and becomes a Virgin (a person who knows he is of value and gets his definition of what is of value from his inner guidance). Precious follows this journey as well. Black Swan and Virgin Suicides don’t successfully navigate their journeys making them tragic stories.
A Victim is shown to be devalued by some part of her society and to internalize that message. She may become depressed, deny herself joy, practice addictive behavior to numb the pain, or even self-mutilate.
The key is not to confuse Cowards with Victims. If fear is making his/her world smaller he needs to go on the journey of the Hero to overcome the fear (don’t judge the word Coward – it is a recognition of being controlled by fear and allowing it to justify your actions or inaction. We all operate as a Coward sometimes).
Virgins don’t need to take martial arts classes to overcome their hardship. They need to practice self care. To explore their creative, spiritual, and sensual nature in order to reconnect with their self and reclaim a healthy sense of self-worth and entitlement. We need scenes of dancing, eating well, diving into a bucket of her favorite ice cream, asking for help, or exploring her fashion delights. This is not frivolous. It is playful and essential to the journey towards the Virgin archetype.
Another word for the Victim archetype is the Whore archetype which describes a particular type of Victim. She has had the sins of her culture dumped on her and then run out of town. She is Scapegoated in order for the society to elevate itself – some people feel better about themselves when they can degrade another person. Easy A and Mean Girls have this kind of archetypal energy at play.