Women Plot interviews TV critic, writer, and art director Marina Pierri
Marina Pierri (instagram.com/marinapierri), writer, journalist and television critic, in her book Eroine intertwines fiction and reality in order to recount a journey that conduct to self-discovery and to one’s calling. She is co-founder and art director of FeST – The Festival of tv Series.
- Although the hero's journey is often described as "ambiguous," in reality it is not equal to the heroine's: how do they differ and why?
They differ because men and women do not have the same social and cultural experience in the world. I don't deny their biological difference, but it's not the point; the point is privilege and socialization. Masculinity is assigned characteristics such as courage, adventure, exploration, strength, and the Journey itself. Women, on the other hand, are assigned qualities that have to do with permanence and caretaking. As a result, if one is - for example - a courageous woman, who explores and takes up space, one is perceived as an exception and can be questioned or doubted about their behavior. After all, men and women themselves experience space differently, and space is the tangible manifestation of the psychic or material Journey. A man rarely walks alone down the street at one in the morning clutching a set of keys because he is afraid of being raped. The Hero's Journey is not ambiguous, it is simply that for so long (as Joseph Campbell argued) women were considered destinations and not travelers. If she was a traveler, she was a "strong female character", that is, a woman with - precisely - male characteristics. This is a false equivalence.
- What are narrative archetypes? And - for those who are passionate about tarot - could you explain the incredible similarity between the narrative archetypes and the Major Arcana?
This is a very complex question. Carl Gustav Jung himself answered this question with dozens of books. There is no simple answer. Narrative archetypes are permanent structures of the collective unconscious. According to Jung himself, they come to consciousness in the form of symbols, therefore of images. For this reason, the characters of the TV series immediately seemed to me a very fertile ground for investigation for “Eroine” (Heroines). As for Tarot: it is said that the journey from the Fool to the World is a real one. Again, these figures live in the individual and collective unconscious, and represent a condensation of instances. Almost always, of stories too.
- Let's talk about the fatal flaw, often described as a psychological obstacle or an obsession and considered the real driving force of the story, apart from the plot (example: Crazy ex-girlfriend). Can you explain how this characteristic of the hero/heroine can represent on the one hand a force that moves the story, but on the other hand also a limitation?
Fiction has its own mechanisms and responds first and foremost to an urge: to be accessible. The so-called fatal flaw works to the extent that it offers those who are enjoying a given story a clear map of the psychological territory explored. It certainly is a very useful tool, and will continue to be so, also because the first concern of anyone who writes is that what he or she is writing be understandable and universal. A fatal flaw is universal, but representation is not reality. It does not lie in a one-to-one relationship with reality. In a sense, a fatal flaw is nothing more than a simplification of some baggage of flaws that each person carries with them, made chewable for an audience that has to read or watch a complicated story. On the other hand, it is also true that - like all archetypes - an archetypal fatal flaw is prone to becoming a stereotypical fatal flaw. In other words, what could be a source of learning for the character turns into a little box to exist in. There is little to be done, however: the first imperative of narratology is that each narrative exists within a simultaneously closed and open grid. A toolbox must be there, and fatal flaw is a good Allen key.
- In the publishing industry, there is still a strong perception that men are the "basic model of humanity" and women are the exception, the niche, which means that men can write about any subject, while women can only write about what strictly concerns them (i.e., in publishing, romance and children's books, which are considered inferior genres). This also has repercussions on the rate of published authors, the former are in fact many more (64% vs 36% in 2017), and often if a book is written by a woman, or if the protagonist is a woman, men perceive that content as something that does not concern them in the least. Given that representation is a crucial tool for interpreting the world, and that thankfully the media landscape in general is changing, is it possible that sooner or later even men (straight, white, cis...) will be able to empathize and feel represented by female characters and the stories of female authors, finally listening and valuing what our experience of the world is? (Because let's remember that men and women do not have the same experience of life, both for a trivial biological and socio-cultural discourse).
A friend of mine who was going to go to the movies with her boyfriend once wondered if Greta Gerwig's Little Women was "repelling" to a man. The issue, I suppose, was and continues to be the title of this great narrative as well. When I think about it, though, we as women have rarely faced this problem of identification with another gender. Most of the women I know grew up identifying with male characters, especially if they were into themes such as adventure and action. It's always a matter of numbers: men aren't socialized to identify with female characters because they've never needed to; male characters are many and mostly present, in this multiplicity, very different qualities that are interesting to equally different niches of the public. For women, the roles have historically been more stereotypical, on a spectrum ranging from Mother Courage to Eternal Girlfriend. The choice has been narrower. As the proportions of audiovisual power change, I think we will see a greater plurality develop. At that point we will be free to identify with whomever we like. We already are, at least in part.
We'll have the pleasure of speaking with Marina on Tuesday, June 22, 2021 at 6 pm (CEST) in an Instagram Live on our profile (instagram.com/womenplot) where we'll explore the heroine’s journey, the journey of female characters in tv series whose target is self-discovery.