To our enemies, we are perceived as the shadow of our true selves, a pale silhouette that lacks depths and substance, the merest outline of a human being creating void spaces to challenge the light.
In similar fashion, every stereotype is but the shadow of an archetype. Each grotesque caricature, mocking and gibbering, reflects the distortion of dimensional devolution–the magnification of the grossest aspects, the narrowing of the finest–to the point of insult, so that the archetype which projects the lower form is lost in the instance, invisible though ever-present in its deformed, twisted offspring.
The stupid scientist who doesn’t fully understand his own work. The powerful lawyer who tries to scam the court and is thwarted by the befuddled bumpkin. The sword master bested by some fat kid obsessed with Darth Maul. The astronaut who is more tavern brawler than engineer. The battle-scarred veteran of many wars who does not find war horrific (or, if he doesn’t find war horrific, isn’t horrified by himself.) The psychoanalyst out of touch with her own feelings.
These aren’t real. They’re the shadows of greater things. They’re the distant offspring of the shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave.
Reason, the source of illumination, casts a single image as it passes about the object of its fixation creating the illusion of motion, of growth. The brighter the intellect, the starker the contrast, the clearer the path, the clearer the arc–or so it seems. Evolving stereotypes are still only stereotypes.
Two methods suggest themselves for contending with the troublesome cartoon produced by our endeavors to depict true forms in art. The first is the least daring, and so the least worthy: Do nothing, take no risks, cast no shadows at all. “Grow up and get a ‘real’ job.” Give up on your dreams.
The second method requires additional sources of light, additional minds. They must be allowed to view the pieces you’ve placed on the board and study the motions in their own right–and this all at once, rather than one at a time–so that the best possible result is the projection of multiple images from multiple angles, creating not a single caricature on the floor of the mind, but a dynamic shadow, all-pervasive and over-lapping, constant yet ever-changing, so that whatever your characters do, they seem caught within a web of karma (or fate, if the artist suffers mediocrity.)
Hence, the value of the critique group.
If every reader-viewer sees the same thing in your work, you’ve got problems.
NOTE: What’s the purpose of being in an MFA program if you can’t wax pedantic at times?