Monday, February 18, 2013

Ving Rhames: The Bad Ass and the Daddy Archetype

Irving "Ving" Rhames: Total Bad Ass
"Motherfucker!" - From Pulp Fiction

  1. I've been writing about how entertainment matters more than we know and how our whole lives are stories we construct using the tools of narratives we absorb through the media we consume. Like everything this idea is browned. I gleamed this insight from Joseph Campbell (The Hero with a Thousand Faces) who borrowed heavily from Carl Jung and his idea of the collective unconscious  It's something I haven't studied that extensively, but that might be why I can so easily butcher his idea. 

  2. I'll study and write more about Jung and Campbell as their ideas about the mind and life are the core of my understanding about archetypes in storytelling. For now I'm identifying the archetypes I've passively absorbed in my own life through the media I've consumed. I don't presume them to be universal in the way Campbell and Jung do, rather I know these are archetypes from my own life. 

The Bad Ass

This is the guy you don't want to fuck with. It's not that he's evil, but he's used to getting his way. He's not always ambitious, but he gets what he wants for one good reason, no one likes to get an ass whopping. He's not always mean, in fact he can be a really nice guy. But beneath his friendly exterior lives monster who wants to come out and play. Unless you're his bitch you wouldn't want to see him angry. His very being commands respect. One look says "I don't want to beat your ass, but if you make me I will enjoy it". Sometimes he's a villain, often he's not, it really just depends on what he wants and how well it conforms to the norms of society. 

  1. Ving Rhames has been on my radar since I first saw him in Pulp Fiction. He was one scary looking dude. When Bruce Willis was in his prime Ving had the screen presence to make his terror palpable. If a dude who looks and acts like Ving is coming for you how do you not shit your pants? He played that role of the scary black guy many times, but it wasn't until I started looking for clips to make a video of him that I saw what a cult following he's had. His character in Pulp Fiction, Marsellus Wallace, was unforgettable and even nearly two decades later tributes are made to his character.

Even in his role as Melvin in a shitty little movie called Baby Boy, few have been able to capture the imagination the way Rhames can. He has a few scenes that are memorialized in clips on YouTube. The movie as a whole is so bad, mainly due to melodramatic performances, that I almost wonder why Tyrese Gibson still has an acting career. I almost wonder, because I know the power of attraction will get people to see movies even when they're shitty. Tyrese isn't a bad looking dude, not by a long shot. Still the movie has its moments and most of them are due to Ving and his ability to really scare this shit out of people and still seem cool while doing it. It also didn't hurt that he shows off his body and has sex appeal that defies mainstream conventions. Which brings me to the other archetype he plays so well.

The Daddy

The Daddy doesn't necessarily have to have any children, but he probably does. He exsudes masculine sexual energy to spare and he likes to fuck. The Daddy and The Bad Ass can be embodied in the same man, the big difference is the Daddy doesn't have to be physically intimidating. His sexual energy comes mostly from his confidence in himself and the life experience which gives him wisdom he is eager to share with his children. He's beyond the need for external validation of his physical or social power. The Daddy knows what he wants and how to get it. If he can't get it himself he knows how to manipulate people. Not usually a looker, his sexual attraction stems from a deep sense of security he provides to his lovers.

The Daddy has been at the core of my sexual imagination for some time now. For most of my life I've sought after the Daddy. Now find myself becoming him. It's exciting and a little scary trying to live up to this ideal, but at the same time I know myself better by analyzing the stories I consume. We are what we think we are. Our thoughts are not all our own. I'm almost to the end of The Philosophy of Mind by Edward Feser  and it's probably having a big influence on my ideas about forms and the concept of archetypes. I can't claim it to be something I fully understand, but from the parts I've read do understand I've come to respect the craft of storytelling even more than I used to.

Melvin is both a Daddy and Bad ass. There are parodies and imitations that are known as Melvinisms all over YouTube. Fans try to recreate lines and scenes in the movie and some even try to come up with their own. When you see these people trying to be Melvin you realize just how bad ass Ving Rhames really is. It's not always about the writing. Some actors just have the ability to take something average and really bring it to life. Other actors can use the same lines and it's just silly. Baby Boy might have been a bad movie, but it's pretty good evidence into which category of actor Ving falls into.

Not being typecast must have been difficult for him considering how obviously intimidating his physique and swagger can be. So I was delighted to see that he'd landed a role in a new show on TNT playing against his type as a trama surgen. Monday Mornings just came out a few weeks ago and I've not had a chance to catch the first few episodes, but it's clear from the clips that his performance will be worth watching. He's certainly not the first actor you go to when you think to cast a doctor, but why not? Even when he does his scary guy thing it's much more than a one note performance. Kojak was the last series I've seen him in and his performance was incredible. I'm routing for him and I hope his fan following on YouTube will translate into ratings.

Ving Rhames Biography from Rotten Tomatos

A burly, bald black actor of stage, screen, and television, Ving Rhames specializes in playing villains and, indeed, having grown up on Harlem's meanest streets, is no stranger to violence. His onscreen persona, however, is no match for his real-life reputation as a deeply compassionate man, seriously dedicated to his profession. The actor ably demonstrated his capacity for abundant generosity during the 1998 Golden Globes ceremony when he handed over the award he had just won for portraying the title character of the cable film Don King: Only in America to fellow nominee Jack Lemmon, simply because he felt Lemmon's contributions to film exceeded his own.Though his upbringing in Harlem was rife with many temptations to engage in easy money criminal ventures, the deeply religious Rhames separated himself from street riffraff at a young age and focused his energies on school. It was his ninth grade English teacher who steered the sensitive young man toward acting, in large part because Rhames was unusually well spoken, frequently earning praise for his clear elocution. Inspired by a poetry reading he had attended with schoolmates, Rhames successfully auditioned for entrance into New York's prestigious High School for the Performing Arts. Once enrolled, he immersed himself in his studies and fell in love with acting. Following graduation in 1978, he attended the Juilliard School of Drama on a scholarship and focused his studies there on classical theater. After graduating from Juilliard in 1983, he went on to perform in Shakespeare in the Park productions. In 1984, Rhames made his television debut in Go Tell It on the Mountain and, the following year, landed his first Broadway role starring opposite Matt Dillon in The Winter Boys. Thus began a steady, fruitful theater career augmented by recurring roles on such daily soap operas as Another World and Guiding Light, and guest-starring parts on such primetime series as Miami Vice. He entered films in Native Son (1986), following that up with appearances in a series of modest films and television movies. Rather than getting a single big break into stardom, he made a gradual ascent that began with his appearance in Brian De Palma's grim Vietnam War saga Casualties of War (1989). Rhames again worked with Matt Dillon in 1993 on The Saint of Fort Washington. While filming on location in New York, Dillon introduced him to a man who had approached him, asking about the actor's involvement with Rhames on Broadway. It turned out that the stranger was Rhames' long-estranged older brother, Junior, who had lost contact with the family while serving in Vietnam. Troubled and unable to reintegrate into mainstream society, he had been living in a nearby homeless shelter. The compassionate Rhames was thrilled to see his big brother and promptly moved him into his apartment, helped him get a job, and later bought a home for his brother and parents to share. In 1994, Rhames gained considerable acclaim for his disturbingly convincing portrayal of the sadistic Marsellus Wallace in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. His performance paved the way for supporting roles opposite some of Hollywood's most popular stars in such big budget features as Mission Impossible (1996) (as well as John Woo's 2000 sequel to the film), Con Air (1997), Out of Sight (1998), and Entrapment (1999). In addition to his film credits, Rhames has also continued to appear frequently on such television shows as E.R. Rhames' performance as a former gangster turned honest, hardworking man proved a highlight of Boyz N the Hood director John Singleton's 2001 drama Baby Boy, and after lending his distinctive voice to the computer animated box-office disaster Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within the actor returned to the small screen for a pair of made-for-television features. If subsequent efforts such as Undisputed failed to make a sizable dent at the box office, Rhames continued to impress with contributions to such features as Lilo and Stitch (again providing vocals for the animated film) and as a conscientious cop in the 2002 police drama Dark Blue. A role opposite Gary Oldman in the 2003 crime drama Sin flew under the radar of most mainstream film audiences, and in early 2004 Rhames took up arms against the hungry legions of the undead in the eagerly anticipated remake Dawn of the Dead. Subsequently reprising his role as Luther Stickell in Mission Impossible III, the imposing Rhames flexed his comedy muscles with a role in 2007's I Now Pronounce you Chuck and Larry before hitting what could be considered a career low-point in Steve Miner's embarassing Day of the Dead remake. An outrageous performance in 2009's The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard garnered some big laughs, and the following year Rhames did over-the-top horror the right way in Alexandre Aja's outrageous remake Piranha. In the next few years, however, Rhames' film output seemed to grow increasingly erratic, with roles in such Z-grade fare as Death Race 2 and Zombie Apocalypse earning the Emmy-winning veteran steady paychecks but precious little artistic integrity. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

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