Holding Modern Archetypes

After my blog post yesterday, I was thinking more about celebrities and the roles they play in our culture. It occurs to me that our modern day temples are movie theaters, concert halls, and sports stadiums. Actors, athletes and musicians hold the archetypal space in our culture. Thinking about Seth Rogen yesterday, I realized that, when he replied to the criticism of his movies he was replying from his human self. You know, the guy who pays his mortgage and picks up after his dog. The guy who is like any other human being on the planet. However, when Ann Hornaday made her criticism, she wasn’t talking about that Seth Rogen. She was talking about the image who shows up ten feet tall on our movie screens. That image holds a certain archetypal image for our culture, and it’s this image that influences culture.

In ancient times, these archetypal images were held by the gods. In ancient Greece, Aphrodite held the image for the part of life occupied with sex, pleasure and beauty. Now, we don’t worship Aphrodite anymore. For us, an actress usually carries that archetype, and sometimes the weight of that can break the fragile human who holds it. Marilyn Monroe comes to mind, of course. She was the embodiment of Aphrodite and everything that she represents, and it was too much for her. Other actresses have occupied that space, both before and since Marilyn.

That archetypal energy has to go somewhere. Without a pantheon of gods to carry it for us, we turn to other alternatives.

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