Well, summer has arrived, and that can mean only two things: the launch of PIC 2.0, bringing joy to the comedy-starved widows of Tajikistan, and the start of blockbuster movie season. As I write this article, The Incredible Hulk is smashing, Carrie Bradshaw is dating despite her horse face, and Indiana Jones is searching for lost treasure on a Burger King wrapper, at participating franchises near you, limit one per customer.

In the past, I've written about movie sequels, prequels, and other crimes against celluloid, but today, I want to examine the characters themselves. Certain kinds of characters, or archetypes, are used over and over, and I often wonder where they come from. I mean, the Wayans Brothers (White Chicks) and Martin Lawrence (Big Momma's House) didn't come up with “FBI-agent-who-hilariously-poses-as-a-woman” independently, did they?

The Sidekick can expect to be disrespected, patronized, and kidnapped repeatedly.Archetypes are, according to Carl Jung, the innate universal psychic dispositions that form the substrate from which the basic themes of human life emerge. But because that sentence is incredibly boring, let me put it another way: If you think about it, Luke Skywalker and Frodo Baggins are really the same character. They are both orphans, and unexpected heroes who must face great evil to save the universe, etc etc.

I realize there are differences, but I don't really want to get into a whole nerd argument about who had access to a lightsaber, or who was more flamboyantly homosexual. The point is, The Unexpected Hero is apparently something that exists in our brains, and George Lucas just gave it a different, slightly whiner form than Tolkien.

So, maybe archetypes populate our films because of the subconscious mind, or maybe scriptwriters are just lazy bastards. After seeing trailers for The Love Guru, I'm not sure what to think anymore. I often wonder if movie archetypes have any authenticity or if Jung can suck my collective unconscious' balls.

So join me as I examine some of the most famous archetypes in order to determine if they have any basis in reality. Of course, the only way I can do this is to mentally catalogue everyone I know, but that's probably going to be easy. Thanks to Facebook, I have access to a comprehensive, alphabetized list of every single person I've ever met.

1. The Mad Scientist

Doctor FrankensteinWhether benign, evil, insane, eccentric, or simply bumbling, mad scientists are a staple of cinema and an inspiration to every kid with a chemistry set. If a character appears on screen in a lab coat, chances are he'll deliver a monologue in which he swears revenge against the community that mocked him, and refers to all standard, garden-variety scientists as “the fools.”

This archetype can often be found in sci-fi movies, working away in a laboratory filled with test tubes, Bunsen burners, and sometimes, bodies of shrivelled creatures in glass jars. Also: those cool metal balls on a stick that make your hair stand up if you volunteer to be part of the live show at the science museum. Van de Graaf generators, I think they're called, after bon vivant and fledgling scientist Nate DeGraaf.

Best movie example:

There are plenty of examples from classic literature-turned-film, like Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll. But if this article goes the cerebral route, I'm going to lose the part of the audience who come here to read about strippers and beer pong. No one would call The Nutty Professor too cerebral, but I also don't care to be reminded how Eddie Murphy went from “subversive comic genius” to “capering retard in a fat suit.” And that was years before Norbit.

Instead, I'm going to go with Doc Brown, from Back to the Future. He's got everything a mad scientist archetype should have: careless grooming, absent-mindedness, and regular unsupervised visits from a teenage heartthrob. Hmmm, Catholicism and modern science may have more in common then they realize. Doc also invented a time machine, but for some reason, couldn't figure out how to pronounce “gigawatt.”

Best real life example:

Normally, I try to stay away from anything to do with science, because it's boring and difficult. But in junior high school, it's not like you have a choice. That's how I met my seventh grade science teacher. He was tall, bug-eyed, and kinda spastic. His classroom always had a funny smell, so I guess he was less interested in crazy experiments, and more interested in growing pot with the school's hydroponic equipment.

2. The Loose Cannon

Dirty HarryLots of movies feature cops, but if all movie cops followed procedure to the letter, action films would contain approximately 2 hours of paperwork, and another hour of eating lunch. That's why we love the loose cannon, also known as “cop-on-the-edge.” It doesn't matter how much property damage they cause, they're always ready to battle German terrorists with a witty quip and a grenade launcher.

I like to think this is how I would behave if I were a cop, but the truth is, like most people, I'm too fat, stupid, and morally bankrupt for that gig. But if they ever gave me a badge, you can be damn sure I would find at least one occasion to rip if off my shirt and hurl it at my captain's feet, firmly indicating that I would not be playing by his rules anymore.

Best movie example:

There is a wealth of choices in this category. Shaft, Dirty Harry, and Axel Foley are all strong contenders. But for my money, no one growls “loose cannon” through a cigarette better than John McClane, of the Die Hard series. McClane has an estranged ex-wife, an alcohol dependency, and an affinity for ventilation shafts. Throw in a twinkie-loving sidekick, and it's the perfect rogue cop archetype.

Best real life example:

Unlike most of the PIC staff, I haven't had too many encounters with the police. When I was 8, a cop came to my school and gave a lecture on drugs. When he started listing the effects, it was like the greatest advertisement I ever heard. But I guess the closest thing to a loose cannon I know personally is one of my coworkers. He may not be a cop, but he knows how to ignore office protocol like the president's kidnapped daughter depends on it.

3. The Wise Old Man

Mr. MiyagiSometime, sheer brawn isn't enough to save the day. You need advice or training, and who better to provide it than a wise old mentor; someone who's seen and done it all, and now has an entire goddamn philosophy to pass on. This archetype is there to train the hero, maybe provide some light comic relief in the form of loud snoring, and die a tragic but inspirational death.

Whether we're talking about a wizard or a martial arts master, a long white beard is the norm. Who knew that Fidel Castro had anything in common with Dumbledore, apart from being a gay wizard? But don't let the wise old man's appearance fool you. If he had to, he could kick your ass, and he probably will, at least until you have some kind of epiphany.

Best movie example:

Forget about Gandalf or Yoda. The best wise old man in movie history is Mr. Miyagi, of The Karate Kid. Not only did kindly old Miyagi-san dispatch the members of the merciless Cobra Kai dojo, he also kind of tricked Ralph Macchio into fixing up his house. That crane kicks all kinds of ass.

Best real life example:

When I lived in Japan, I took some karate classes. It was good exercise and let's face it: when you're punching kids half your size who are too polite to foreigners to punch back, it's easy to feel macho. But my instructor was the local chief of police, and I have to think Mr. Miyagi was written with him in mind. He was tough, philosophical, and I swear to god I once saw him catch a fly with chopsticks.

4. The Nerd Girl

Aldys MartinImagine you're a teenage girl (this might be alarmingly easy for some of you). Your whole life is a constant struggle for acceptance, played out in the merciless social battlefield that is high school. Obviously, your appearance is everything, and your only salvation, apart from clinical bulimia, is making fun of those less attractive than you.

That's probably why the nerd girl resonates throughout so many movies. Most nerd girls are the main character's best friend from next door, and as you will see, are actually beautiful under the glasses and frumpy clothes. Most characters are too dumb to realize that sex with desperate chicks is actually more rewarding than with cheerleaders.

Some nerd girls just need a boost of self-esteem (maybe some attention from the captain of the football team) to find their inner beauty. Of course, these same girls will inevitably learn that the hunk's attention was part of some elaborate wager, like, totally ruining the prom and stuff. Stupid wagers. I don't know why these kids don't just bet on sports.

Best movie example:

Have you ever spent an afternoon researching the plots of schmaltzy teenage romantic comedies? If you ever do, I highly recommend you get mashed beforehand. That said, my notes had too many hummus stains to read, so I'm just choosing Aldys Martin from Never Been Kissed. She's Drew Barrymore's geeky pal, and whoever thought to cast Leelee Sobieski, my libido thanks you.

Best real life example:

I have known a few plain girls who were one or two makeover montages away from being attractive, but one particular university classmate stands out. I'm not saying she could take off her glasses, let down her hair, and suddenly be a supermodel-that's for reality TV to decide-but you could definitely see the hottie inside her yearning to get out. Actually, I spent most of my education trying to cram it back in.

5. The Obstructive Bureaucrat

Walter PeckAny hero in a hurry stands a good chance of running into a pencil pusher determined to create more red tape than a mummy on the rag. This archetype's only joy lies in making you wait in lines and fill out forms. Predictably, the audience appreciates it when he's finally eaten by a rampaging dinosaur.

Best movie example:

No doubt about it – Walter Peck, the smug EPA agent who arrested the Ghostbusters and ordered the containment grid to be shut down. He almost single-handedly put an end to ghostbusting as we know it. I was actually rooting for Gozer the Gozerian, and I still wanted to see Peck's head clamped in a vice.

Best real life example:

Every single person at the DMV. I realize it's a cliché, but those assholes could at least try not to enjoy tormenting you during the 3 hours you'll spend there.

6. The Femme Fatale

Elsa SchneiderShe's beautiful, manipulative, and who knows what her agenda might be? Accordingly, she inspires equal parts lust and suspicion, or what I like to call “lustspicion.” So, movie heroes, beware these evil temptresses with their raven tresses, icy stares, and umlaut-ridden names! You never know who they're working for.

Best movie example:

You can pick just about any Bond girl, but I would suggest the Femme Fatale is better exemplified by Dr. Elsa Schneider from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Not only did she ensnare Indy, but also his father, James Bond himself. Oh yeah, and she was secretly a Nazi, so I hope the Joneses thought her Holy Grail was worth it.

Best real life example:

Well, my girlfriend has long black hair, a mysterious Argentinean past, and a password-protected computer. I guess it's entirely possible she's an agent of some evil organization. But as long as she continues to put out and make me empanadas, I'm not going to worry about that possibility.

7. The Sidekick

Robin - Boy WonderSidekicks fulfill an important role in narrative structure. This archetype is the protagonist's best friend, ready to devote time and energy to whatever stupid task is asked of him. And in return, he can expect to be disrespected, patronized, and kidnapped repeatedly. But it's all in a day's work. There are alien sidekicks, corporate lackeys, junior deputies, and other variations of this humiliating lifestyle.

Best movie example:

Obviously, it's gotta be the Boy Wonder. Long before Batman thought to dress an underage boy in panties to fight crime, I'm pretty sure Robin was hired by Bruce Wayne to help Alfred with the laundry. Let's face it, he got a raw deal. He didn't even get to carry around gear named after himself, like the Robin-Grappling-Hook or the Robin-Grenade.

Best real life example:

I kind of think of my friends as my sidekicks. Together we battle the twin evils of boredom and responsible drinking! Then again, I'm sure each of them thinks of me as their sidekick. That's OK. Our conversations are probably helping some alien race of observers follow the plot.

So, can we conclude anything? I think movie audiences get the characters they deserve. Sure, there are original ideas out there, and they reside in things called “independent” films, that no one, including me, will ever see because they probably suck. But as long as people are willing to shell out fifteen bucks to see yet another Sassy Grandma, or Teenage Superspy, or Magical Negro, Hollywood will keep churning them out.

Essential New Word of the Week:

Laundry eelsnoun ‘londri ‘il

Lots of bachelors do laundry as infrequently as possible. Sometimes they'll let it pile up until they're forced to wear something from the bottom of the pile. They will justify this by reasoning the weight of the laundry on top of it must have somehow squeezed this pair of stained boxer shorts into an acceptable level of cleanliness. But this neglect has a sinister price.

Like Bigfoot, unicorns, and public lice, nobody is quite sure where laundry eels come from because they're elusive and migratory. But if you let your laundry pile up for too long, you may get a nasty surprise the next time you reach for the least-soiled t-shirt you can spot. I've seen it happen. So take my advice, and don't let the laundry eels find a home in your hamper.

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