Trickster Narrative as a Genre: Persona, Disruption and Recovery
Dr Helena Bassil-Morozow
Dr. Helena Bassil-Morozow is a cultural philosopher, media and film scholar, and academic writer whose many publications include ‘Tim Burton: The Monster and the Crowd’ (Routledge, 2010), ‘The Trickster in Contemporary Film’ (Routledge, 2011), ‘The Trickster and the System: Identity and Agency in Contemporary Society’ (Routledge, 2014) and ‘Jungian Film Studies: the Essential Guide’ (Routledge, 2016; co-authored with Luke Hockley).
Trickster narratives can be found in different media, from myth and folk tales to literature, film and TV. They typically depict a protagonist losing or dropping their social mask, entering a period of turmoil, and emerging out of it with a changed status. Alternatively, the protagonist is a marginalized individual or creature (The Tramp in Charlie Chaplin’s A Dog’s Life, 1918) learning to accept social rules and rituals. In essence, these narratives explore the relationship between individual agency and the system, as well as the tension between authentic identity and persona. The trickster as a metaphor for this relationship can take a variety of guises: a person (The Mask (1994)), an animal, an accident or a decision (such as the decision to go travelling inHector and the Search for Happiness (2014) or to say ‘yes’ to all experiences (Yes Man (2008)).
These stories also have a range of common attributes: the trickster feels trapped, does not respect boundaries and ends up breaking them, has no respect for social structures, rituals or powers, is unsure of its name, is boundlessly creative, a shapeshifter who transform into animals and objects as well as change gender and sex; it is also shameless, cannot control its body and makes others lose control of theirs; and has to disappear at the end of the story.
Importantly, trickster narratives explore how human beings manage the unending interplay between the external image and the internal identity, and discuss the ways in which individuals deal with social status, persona, shame, and the need to be in control.