Friday, December 21, 2007

TV Round-up

As Cindi has mentioned previously, we gather with friends each Monday night for the ongoing project of watching the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series in its entirety. We're now about halfway through season 4. One common thread that runs through a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes is metaphor made flesh; for example, a female teacher who preys sexually on teenage male students turns into a human-size praying mantis, and a mother who pushes too hard for her daughter to succeed is portrayed as literally a witch. (Thanks to our friend Rick, both for making this observation when we were way back in Season 1 and also for organizing the Buffyfest in the first place.) Our most recent episode, Superstar, reifies the narcissism of the unhealthy 3. The split between the two parts of the personality (the idealized image and the impoverished and rejected true self within) are acted out a la The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, and Forbidden Planet. Superstar may have been my favorite episode so far; it's certainly one of my top few. And Cindi has written about the episode in detail here.

Another show I've been watching a lot of lately is Monk, and I've seen some Enneagram styles portrayed in that. In case you're not familiar, Monk is a detective with obsessive-compulsive disorder. He was thrown off the police force for psychiatric problems, but is still a great detective, maintains a warm relationship with the force, works as a consultant for them, and hopes to be reinstated one day. He's riddled with fears: of germs, heights, glaciers, spiders, and, as is often mentioned, milk, among many others. His 1-ishness is portrayed as giving him an edge because he's able to walk into a crime scene, survey it, and see what "doesn't fit," i.e., inconsistencies. At the same time, his germophobia, hand-washing, and compulsive need for order are played for laughs. It is my impression that a real-life person with as many of the unhealthy 1 traits as Monk has would in no way be as sheerly LOVABLE as Mr. Monk is. (I have very little expertise or experience with OCD, so read the last comment with a grain of salt.) I read Monk's character more as an amalgam of 1-ish obsession with order and 5-ish avoidance than as straight 1. Judith Searle discusses The Police Story as an example of a 1 narrative in this excellent essay on Story Genres and Enneagram Types. She writes: "Related One genres are ... the police story, in which the law enforcement professional is the hero who tries to restore the moral order to society. Examples of the police story include The Silence of the Lambs, The French Connection, Serpico, and Prince of the City." There's also a Great Detective archetype who's 5-ish (Sherlock Holmes) and 6-ish (Columbo): a head-type figuring things out. (Many Monk episodes even start by showing the viewer how the crime was done, borrowing a page from the Columbo playbook.) Returning to Monk: two other characters represent clear Enneagram styles: the Captain, Leland Stottlemeyer is an average-to-healthy 8 (gruff and forthright), while another homicide detective, Randy, is a phobic 6 (self-doubting, insecure, submissive) and plays a typical 6 role, the sidekick. [In one episode, Mr. Monk Goes to the Dentist, Randy drops off the force because the Captain doesn't believe he actually witnessed a murder while under sedation in the dentist's office. Randy goes back to playing in the band (The Randy Disher Project) he formed in seventh grade and makes a music video of the song Don't Need a Badge. In the video, you can see Randy acting counterphobically, singing "I don't need a gun to make me feel strong; I don't need a captain shooting me down all day long; I don't need your mustache, don't you condescend to me; I don't need a badge, cause baby, I am free." In that same episode, the Captain tells someone on the phone that Randy is the single most annoying human being he knows... then he sees Monk walk by gargling because of his fear of the dentist, and says "except, of course, for him."] The other main character, Monk's assistant Natalie, has no apparent Enneagram type. She plays an Everywoman role.

One thing I like about this time of year is the End-of-Year Best-of Lists. In the TV category of MY End-of-Year Best-of List, one show would have crushed all competition, had there been any competition to speak of. That show is Mad Men, an AMC original series that aired for 13 episodes over the summer. It's been renewed for a second season that will start next summer (or that was the plan before the writer's strike, anyway.) It's set in 1960 in a Madison Avenue ad agency. Each episode is set in a different month of 1960. (It occurs to me that that's impossible since there are 13 episodes and 12 months but... close enough.) There are two MAJOR themes in the show: one is how different life was in 1960. Everybody smokes constantly, and they drink at work, and all the married men fool around and chase women, and sex roles are very rigid, and the sexism is extremely overt, and all black characters are in subsurvient roles. The other major theme is character, and specifically, the mysteriousness of character. Our main character (both hero and villain), Don Draper, is a 3, and not just any 3, but an imposter literally pretending to be someone he's not. Another of the main characters, Pete, is also a 3, and in fact, even the characters who aren't 3s have a 3-ish feel, partially because surface traits are very valued in this world (that they're in advertising is no accident.) I don't know the Enneatypes of the two main female characters, Peggy (Don's secretary) and Betty (Don's wife), but neither is healthy and both are very internally contradictory. (Peggy is sympathetic and the viewer roots for her, but we don't feel that we understand her. There are some seriously odd behaviors there, including a huge chunk of denial. Betty is a little less sympathetic: she's a Seven Sisters grad, a former model, a beauty, and a housewife to philandering imposter Don. Personality-wise, she's in despair: a regressed little girl inside a brittle shell. She undergoes Freudian analysis, which is doing her no good whatsoever, especially since her analyst tells her husband Don what she talks about in therapy! Both characters are poised for big change as we move more deeply into the 60s: they are about to encounter Sex and the Single Girl and The Feminine Mystique, respectively.) The big boss, Bertram Cooper, is an Ayn Rand-loving 8; Roger Sterling, the other partner in the Sterling-Cooper ad agency, is another 3; Salvatore (the closeted gay creative director) is most likely a 4; Harry (my sweet, straightforward Mad Men tv boyfriend) might be a 6 (or could be 9, or 5 -- he doesn't get a lot of screen time). It's an ensemble show: episodes focus on various characters, and minor characters are developed with specific details, and great writing and costumes and set design support the whole thing. And Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good" plays in all the ads for the show. I imagine AMC is still showing it to build an audience for season 2; yes, the website says it's still being shown Thursday nights at 10 Eastern, 9 Central. Check it out!

The archetypal 3 narrative is the social climbing and imposter narrative (for example, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Vanity Fair, Gone With the Wind). I love the 3 imposter narrative (it's no wonder we root for Don Draper in Mad Men -- don't we always root for this character when he's the protagonist?), and I also love the story of the narcissistic 3 who starts to get in touch with real feeling (Groundhog Day, Tom Cruise's role in Rain Man.) To read more about enneatypes in movies and books, see Tom Condon's The Enneagram Movie and Video Guide and Judith Searle's The Literary Enneagram: Characters from the Inside Out. I highly recommend them both.

I said Mad Men had little competition for show of the year, and you'll really see what I mean when I tell you that my second favorite show of the year was VH1's The Pick-Up Artist. Even I admit that it wasn't all that good. Didn't matter; I liked it anyway. It's an imposter-by-proxy story; instead of watching a 3 acting like something he's not for personal gain and/or kicks, you're watching a 3 (Mystery) who's broken his technique down into a set of rules in order to teach it to a bunch of head types. (They weren't literally all head types; I'm speaking archetypally.) You can watch all episodes online at VH-1's site. I would also recommend the book The Game by Neil Strauss, in which our hero Neil Strauss, aka "Style," a journalist, poses as a civilian, infiltrates the pick-up community, learns to pick up girls, moves in with Mystery and a bunch of fellow pick-up artists, observes a lot of dysfunctional behavior including more than one breakdown by Mystery, becomes disenchanted with the whole thing and quits the community, then ends the book, but the story doesn't end there --because he now teaches pick-up himself here.

I have a few more tv shows to discuss, but am going to save them for another post or posts.

6 comments:

rusnash said...

I think Neil figured out that teaching "pick-up" had a much bigger pay-off (both monetarily and in terms of id gratification) than writing newspaper articles. It is interesting that you type Mystery as a 3 when I would have thought of him more as a 7(because he seems superficial and has a lot of crazy schemes. It shows what a debutant I am I guess).

Do 3s have a sense that they are performing for others or does it take place subconsciously?

Mary Beth said...

About Neil Strauss: yes, you're right. It makes sense; it was just funny given the conclusion of the book in which he was, or said he was, down on the whole thing.

About Mystery: As always, my typing might be wrong, wrong, wrong. I mean, about a real person. It couldn't have been wrong about the fictional Jonathan in that Buffy episiode! I remember at the time I watched the show, thinking Mystery was a 3. I remember reading the book and thinking there was plenty of evidence for 3. But I do not remember NOW what that evidence was.

Your question... do 3s have a sense that they are performing for others... well, I mean, they know they are performing for others in the sense that they are consciously trying so hard to be successful. I think your real question is whether a 3 thinks he is fake in his performance. I suspect the 3 believes he is the paragon, with one part of himself, and often thinks of himself that way, then other times fears that he is not -- I suppose these fears are conscious, but the kind of conscious that you would never speak out loud. Narcissistic rage is related, I think, to rage at anything or anyone who suggests or proves or makes the narcissist feel that the image is incorrect. I can imagine that one reason 3s become workaholics is that while performing they are identified with the paragon, and enjoying it. If they are good at their jobs, and usually by good I mean great, or seeming great anyway, because they work so hard, and can be so efficient, and can suck-up so well, and they will volunteer to work extra hours -- I think it makes them feel good about themselves, and while they're in that state why would they entertain doubts about themselves? I worked with a 3 who followed what I think is a not unusual pattern: worked two jobs (at a high level) and when he was at home with his family, either worked really hard on hard work and the like, or got drunk. It was all good (except maybe between him and his family) until someone actually let him rise to his level of incompetence and then all hell broke loose.

Have you read The Wisdom of the Enneagram about the 3 yet? There is a good description of the 9 levels of health in there. And there is another Riso/Hudson book called... I think it's called Personality Types, it's the yellow one... well you knew this was coming, you need to read that one also; it's great. That book has a two-page chart for each of the 9 types of what makes them go up or down the levels.

If what you were getting at with your question at the end about the 3s was that possibly Mystery is not a 3 because he is too conscious of what he is doing... you may be onto something. I even wondered about that while writing TV Roundup.

rusnash said...

Well, I trust your typing better than mine even with all the data being equal, and since I only skimmed the book and didn't see the TV show you certainly have more data to work with.

I have read through the part about type 3 in WotE but maybe not as carefully as I should. I will go through it again. I was mainly wondering whether (since 3s are "deceitful") they used performance in other contexts to obtain rewards not directly related to achievement. And whether they were consciously aware of what they were doing. I know a particular 3 (at least I think so) who displays some behaviors that border on malingering but would be very upset by the mere suggestion that they don't seem 100% authentic.

Mary Beth said...

Read about malingering under "unhealthy 2." I'd call that more unconscious than conscious.

Mary Beth said...

To Russ:

So here's what about Mystery screams 3. He's extremely focused on his image. If I'm not mistaken, he was also pretty focused on being the greatest.

rusnash said...

I guess charm and attactiveness also go along with 3 as well as the fact that he claimed his motivation was that his father made him feel worthless. And you're right about the extreme image focus. The whole "peacock" idea (Mystery's main contribution) is image manipulation pure and simple.