Friday, October 28, 2011

Wallace Wells: Old Man Archetype

The following is the very rough first draft of a research essay I am writing on Wallace Wells. There are several problems with it, as it is very rough and mostly unedited. Problems include: Missing transitions, not enough outside sources, and having possibly too much summary without enough analysis to balance it. This paper was written to prove that Wallace Wells is a perfect example of the literary Wise Old Man archetype and as a personal exercise in arguing from the text of a work. The fact that I've attempted to write two sort of scholarly papers on Scott Pilgrim also I hope elevates it to a little larger level of importance and relevance in the study of contemporary literature.

Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Wallace Wells: Spiritual Guide (First DRAFT)

Carl Jung was a psychologist who studied personality and the importance of symbols to human beings. In his studies, he identified archetypes, ideas and images that he thought to be a part of the collective unconscious, meaning they were present in the minds of every individual human being (“archetype def. 6). One of the most notable archetypes in literature is that of the Wise Old Man. The Wise Old Man usually appears as an older, respectable person such as a grandfather, doctor, king, or teacher. The Wise Old Man offers spiritual wisdom and guidance to the hero’s journey. Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series follows the title character’s path to and adulthood. Wallace Wells is not only Scott Pilgrim’s “cool gay roommate,” but also his guide in his path to maturity, falling perfectly into Jung’s Wise Old Man archetype.

Wallace Wells is introduced in the short and humorous second scene of Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life in which he teases Scott about his new girlfriend with clever one liners such as “Is he cute?” and “Does this mean we have to stop sleeping together?” (12-13). This establishes him as a likable supporting character in the narrative. Only a few pages later, Wallace warns the 23 year old Scott about dating a 17 year old girl, Knives Chau. He then tells Knives that she is “too good for him,” indicating that he knows Scott well enough to know that due to his level of maturity and desire for an easy relationship, he will not take the relationship seriously (27-29). These two scenes capture the essence of Wallace: He is clever, insightful, wise, and Scott’s moral guide. According to the list of archetypal characters on the Attleboro Public Schools’ website, these are the exact qualities of the Wise Old Man (6). Wallace is usually absent living his own life for most of the action in the series, appearing when Scott needs guidance. This is also true of other examples of the Wise Old Man archetype in literature and film, such as Star Wars’ Yoda or The Hobbit’s Gandalf.

Wallace appears again later in the first novel to guide Scott after Scott has his first date with Ramona Flowers, the girl of his dreams that he has recently met. He has, however, neglected to break up with Knives. Wallace knows that this is a very serious problem, and encourages Scott multiple times to do it. Scott knows that Wallace is right to tell him so. This is shown to be true when Wallace says “You should break up with your fake high school girlfriend, Scott,” because when Scott tries to argue against him, Wallace simply repeats exactly his previous statement once and Scott replies with “Yeah... I know” (Precious Little Life 107). Scott continues to date both Knives and Ramona into the second book, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Wallace appears once again in a scene on a bus with Scott. Wallace decides to give Scott an ultimatum in this scene: If Scott does not break up with Knives that night, Wallace will tell her about Ramona. After giving Scott this ultimatum, Wallace kicks him out, saying that he is “having a friend over tonight” and telling Scott to go home (40-41). This is another moment in which Wallace is guiding Scott. He knows that Scott must break up with Knives in order to move further in his journey to adulthood, and so he continues to push Scott to do what he needs to do. Wallace then steps off the bus and disappears again. Only six pages after Wallace departs, Scott takes his advice.

Scott must defeat Ramona’s seven evil ex-boyfriends on his path to maturity and true love. Wallace is present at the first three fights and has been Scott’s roommate the entire time, always there to give him support and guidance and information when his band plays or when he gets into a fight, and always there to guide him when he’s timid about doing what he must. One of the things that Scott must do eventually is tell Ramona that he loves her, and Wallace is of course the one to suggest that he does (Gets It Together 20). This is a shift in the narrative and a turning point for Scott, with Wallace as a driving force behind this change. Wallace begins to push Scott away from his dependence on him and further along in his developing relationship with Ramona. About halfway through Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together, Wallace suggests that Scott consider his “options” concerning his living arrangements. The lease on their apartment is about to run out, and Wallace wants Scott to consider moving in with Ramona, since he cannot yet support himself completely on his own (101). The next fight is with Roxie Richter, the fourth opponent Scott must face, and he faces her with the help of Ramona. This is the halfway point for the amount of fights Scott must win and roughly the halfway point of the series. This is significant because this is when the shift is happening. Wallace is guiding Scott into the second half of his journey, which requires him to begin to support himself and begin to be a responsible and supportive boyfriend. Wallace vanishes for the most part after the fight with Roxie Richter. Ramona takes his place as Scott’s loving friend and partner. Wallace only appears in the fifth book, Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe, when Scott is unable to stay at Ramona’s apartment. This happens once in the beginning of the novel when Ramona decides she needs space (60), and when he is locked out after Ramona evanesces (146). 

Scott has already hit rock bottom in the opening scene of the final book, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, and Wallace visits him one final time to offer guidance. Scott is living on a friend’s couch, playing video games all day. Wallace knows that in order to move on, Scott must pick himself up and realize that he must fight Gideon eventually. Even though Ramona has left Scott, Wallace knows that he needs to finish his fight. Wallace tells Scott to go out and have fun and forget about Ramona for the moment, because it is what he needs to get his spirits up and move into the final stage of his journey (9-13). When Scott has finally proven himself able to go outside and talk about his problems, Wallace literally pushes him onto a bus that will take him to what Wallace calls a “wilderness sabatical” with Kim Pine, Scott’s caring friend and ex-girlfriend. This is very significant to Scott’s journey, because this is Wallace guiding Scott to the most important part of his journey and proving that Wallace is truly the source of wisdom and guidance that allows Scott to succeed. The wilderness is where Scott resolves tension between himself and Kim and most importantly fights the Negascott, a physical manifestation of his own inner demons. Scott comes out of this fight as a responsible adult, ready to defeat his final opponent.

Every single scene in which Wallace takes a significant speaking role portrays him as a wise, clever, and humorous guide. He gives Scott information about his opponents and trains him to fight them (vs. The World 76), gives him instructions regarding what he needs to do next, and provides the right environment Scott needs at the exact times he needs them. When Wallace has set the stage for the hero’s success, he steps back and allows him to grow, appearing again when more guidance is required to grow further. Wallace completely embodies Jung’s Wise Old Man archetype. He may not have grey hair, but Wallace Wells is two years older than Scott (Precious Little Life 12), and he undoubtedly fits the archetype. He is a perfect example of why graphic literature and more specifically Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series is worth studying and analyzing.

Works Cited

“archetype.” The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.
Third Edition, 2005. Web. 27 October 2011.

“Archetypes.” Attleboro Public Schools, n.d. Web. 27 October 2011.
O’Malley, Bryan Lee. Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life. Portland, OR: Oni Press, 2004. Print.
    Vol. 1 of Scott Pilgrim.

O’Malley, Bryan Lee. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Portland, OR: Oni Press, 2005. Print.
    Vol. 2 of Scott Pilgrim.

O’Malley, Bryan Lee. Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness. Portland, OR: Oni Press, 2006. Print.
    Vol. 3 of Scott Pilgrim.

O’Malley, Bryan Lee. Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together. Portland, OR: Oni Press, 2007. Print.
    Vol. 4 of Scott Pilgrim.

O’Malley, Bryan Lee. Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe. Portland, OR: Oni Press, 2009. Print.
    Vol. 5 of Scott Pilgrim.

O’Malley, Bryan Lee. Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour. Portland, OR: Oni Press, 2010. Print.
    Vol. 6 of Scott Pilgrim.

The World Literature class that spawned this blog also inspired this paper, along with a Creative and Critical Writing class I took at the same time. Last year I wrote my research papers on comic books as literature and video games as storytellers. I feel it is important to view everything, including television, comics, and video games critically, as it adds depth to the works and gives them a sense of immediate relevance and importance to our growth as human beings.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"It's Never Too Late To Be What You May Have Become."

Mary Anne Evans (from Wikipedia)
This is something George N. Parks taught me. It comes from the quote "It is never too late to be who you might have been," which is a George Eliot quote. It was also my quote in the senior yearbook. "George Eliot" is the pseudonym (pen name) of novelist Mary Anne Evans. Fun fact for you all.

This quote and the man I first heard it from are some of the most important inspirations I have ever had in my life. ("In My Life" being one of my favorite things about UD Marching Band. Another fun fact.) Attending the Drum Major Academy under the leadership of George N. Parks made me into who I am, who I begun to forget I am. The drum major who once showed up an hour earlier than the rest of the band now struggles to make it to rehearsal on time, often forgetting things. The drum major who received comments such as "great intensity," "marching technique was awesome," "does not project" and "listening skills are awesome" is now the newly-not-rookie freshman bando struggling to be on the level of the vets.

I'm done with it.

I found my folder tonight. My green marbled folder from the first half of my senior year of high school. I opened it to find "If Ye Love Me" staring me in the face, along with a cluster of notes all in different handwriting, music scores, drill charts, and long lists with "DRUM MAJOR ACADEMY" printed at the top. Reading the notes, my evaluations from drum majors leading different squads at the academy (which I quoted above,) reminded me that I need to get out of the mindset that I am so inferior to everyone, that myself is not good enough. I am good at marching. Last night I attended a St. Mark's football game and was invited to co-conduct with the drum majors for a song. Will Broelmann, another past drum major, was also invited to conduct. He pointed out that it wouldn't be appropriate. That he wrote their drill. And I agreed. I handed the glove back to Megan Feick, one of drum major Kim Anguish and my successors. I gave them tips on conducting. I conveyed messages to the band. I reminded them to pay attention to the drum majors.

So there I was, falling naturally into the position of teacher.
It is all I could be to them now as a band.

St. Mark's Drum Majors, Eyes With Pride. (Kim Anguish, John Young, Will Broelmann, Carissa Carlson.)

I love band. It's all about fun, music, having pride.
DMA, UDMB, and all the people who have helped and inspired me, especially the Alto Staff members this year, have made me a better person and a better band member. I'm better than I was before. And it makes me feel so happy to realize that. I want to improve. I need to get on the Alto vets' level. Not for me, but for the band, and for my band. I need to be an example, a cog in the machine, a piece of the perfect puzzle, and a self-confident team player like I was only a few months ago.

It's one of my biggest dreams to instruct for a marching band. I'm little more than average with playing music in my own opinion, but I can definitely help others achieve their musical and marching potential, and that makes me very happy. I want so badly to assist a high school band director one day during the marching season. In order to do that, I need to be a lot better than I have been. It's never too late to be.

I can only dream of becoming a teacher like George N. Parks, Heidi I. Sarver, Arthur Bookout, Mrs. Healey, Mrs. Reilly, or any of the other truly inspiring teachers I've had. Far too many to count. That's not true, though... I can't only dream of it. I can be it. I didn't march at all my freshman year of high school. I had nothing to do with band. Sophomore year I joined as a band manager, the guy who pushed things around for the pit and sets things up for the dance team with Patrick Kilgore, one of my best friends. I only marched tenor sax for one year, and figured I wasn't good enough to dare lead anyone. But I did it anyway. It was truly an honor to serve as a drum major, and it was an honor to work with Kim Anguish, literally one of the most applauded drum majors at the academy. It wasn't too late to go for it. And I'm not beyond being able to carry my own weight now.

It's flat out impossible for me to list and write about each person who has inspired me. Sometimes I just want to geek out to the current UD drum majors asking about how excited they must be to get to do what they do. I wish I could write an entire post on Bookout or Sarv or even the current two drum majors at SMH, Megan Feick and Kara Barbes. Those two especially have a lot of energy and from what I hear, really stuck their neck out during band camp to put some energy into the band. I could write a book on these people.

Kara and Megan, from Facebook.

Keeping in mind the last post I made, I know this is a lot about me. But I needed to write this. I've been very hard on myself this year when it comes to my self esteem, and uncharacteristically lazy when it comes to everything else in band, but it's time I told myself to stop projecting, to remember that I am a certified drum major who is one of the very last to have learned from the very best. It's awesome and very preferable to be humble and not let your ego swell, but allowing your ego to disappear is something a drum major can't do.

Starred Thoughts,
straight from the notes I took at DMA, from the mouth of the man I don't want to let down:

* Make moms happy.
* Inspire musicians to do well.
* Expand your circle
* Make a good first impression
* When teaching, you must do the right things and the things right.
*You must have a plan with a schedule for a successful rehearsal.
* Positive thinking is everything
* You are not judged on your attitude...
* ...You are judged on what they think your attitude is.
* Develop your personality.
* Avoid confrontation on the field.
* Do not take yourself too seriously.
* Never let your ego destroy you.
* When things get tough, don't give up.
* Judge people for who they are, not who you want them to be.
* You have no control of anyone.
* Be a great teacher. Have skill.
**** Get a RESPONSE to know if they're paying attention. ****
* Be a teacher who cares.

I will make band special.