Thursday, January 23, 2014

i met a girl

It's been over a week since I wrote about the male characters as Phil's Jungian shadow. Though I had suggested I might deal with the female character in relation to anima the next day, I got sidetracked by that big roadtrip thing.

As Benesh (2011) puts it, "the male characters represent archetypes of shadow, or disowned aspects of self; the female characters the anima, or contra sexual aspects of self" (p. 116). The female characters, Benesh tells us, "embody aspects of the anima archetype. Rita, in particular emerges as an anima figure, the anima being the bridge between consciousness and unconsciousness, and the path to one's self completion and wholeness" (ibid).

I must admit, again, I don't know much about Jungian psychology. To be fair, I'm more interested in Benesh's use of Jung than Jung himself here, but since I liked picking on Benesh I thought I'd mention something I noticed when I was looking online for the chapter on anima from Understanding Dreams—I didn't find that, but I did find the chapter on the spirit, and found its start quite interesting in that Jung writes of an old man who comes to the hero when he is at his most desperate. Specifically, he says:

The frequency with which the spirit-type appears as an old man is about the same in fairytales as in dreams. The old man always appears when the hero is in a hopeless and desperate situation from which only profound reflection or a lucky idea—in other words, a spiritual function or an endopsychic automatism of some kind—can extricate him. (p. 105)

This old man represents, according to Jung, "knowledge, reflection, insight, wisdom, cleverness, and intuition on the one hand, and on the other, moral qualities such as goodwill and readiness to help" (p. 107). Not to echo phrases from that quotation, but on the one hand, I don't know enough about Jung's concept of this spirit/old man to be sure of the link between it and O'Reilly, but on the other hand I'm surprised Benesh didn't make the connection, at least in passing, since she takes a Jungian approach.

Barbara McManus (1999) tells us of the anima as a "peer figure of the opposite sex to the ego-bearer to whom he/she has a strong and compelling tie or bond (often a lover, brother/sister, soul-mate). Jung said that the animus is more likely to be personified by multiple male figures, while the anima is frequently a single female." Benesh (2011) mentions the piano teacher, the piano student, Nancy, Mrs. Lancaster and, of course, Rita as "embody[ing] aspects of the anima archetype" (p. 116). She spends more than a page breaking down aspects of Rita in anima-related terms from Beebe (2001). But, I think it's worth mentioning how the other female characters within Groundhog Day (including but not limited to the ones Benesh mentions) all operate in relation to men... I admit this doesn't necessarily fit with the anima discussion, but I've got two pink tabs on the same page of the dissertation and the two subjects seem closely related to me even if maybe they shouldn't be.

(Some of this gender-related stuff, including the feminine- and masculine-quest stuff from Daughton (1996), has provided an angle I think could work as a master's thesis topic, especially if I deal in the mirroring and matching stuff from "date night" in relation to, say, communication accommodation theory... I don't know. I haven't even decided if I'm doing a paper on Groundhog Day this current, winter quarter yet; one of my possibilities for a rhetoric class would involve compiling a lot of the religion-related stuff I've covered in this blog, especially the Buddhist stuff, but I haven't decided yet.)

Anyway, before I get to Rita as anima for Phil, I'd like to point out that all the women in the film exist in relation to men, and not just to Phil.

  • Rita is the object of Phil's affections and, though she is supposedly really nice and generous, we learn about her from what Phil says far more than from what Rita does.
  • Nancy exists as representative of the numerous women that may have been Phil Connored within the time loop. Even when Phil has moved on, she still shows up the night of his date with Laraine, and gets sized up by Laraine as if they are in competition with one another. Even later, Nancy shows up again on the last day of the loop, no longer connected to Phil, sure, but now the object of Larry's interests instead—as Benesh puts it, "Larry has assumed the position of pre-transformation Phil Connors" (p. 118).
  • Laraine, in her french maid costume, serves only as an object, subject to Phil's whims.
  • Florence, aka Mrs. Lancaster, is relatively submissive to Phil, though there is a matronly side to her. She also, on Day 4, gets kissed by Phil (and, of course, I've theorized about the possibility that he may have Phil Connored her at some point as well).
  • Doris exists in relation to her brother-in-law Carl who owns the Tip Top, she stares (somewhere between longingly and creepily) at Phil on Day 3, and of course her bra gets mentioned, drawing attention to her secondary sex characteristics.
  • Debbie is getting married and having second thoughts about her "passion" for Fred, a fire which Phil somehow fans.
  • That one old lady mimics kissing after she calls Phil "the fastest jack in Jefferson County." And, there's certainly no innuendo in that descriptor at all.
  • Felix's wife and Buster's wife have lines but no names. They exist merely to link Phil to their respective husbands.
  • Mary, aka the piano teacher, is not sexualized. She might even be considered to embody a mothering role for Phil. On her piano there's a wedding photo, though, so she too is identified in relation to gender roles.
  • The piano student is not sexualized, of course, but Benesh suggests that her outfit of blue and pink--which, I would mention, is the same combination Rita wears in most of her scenes--"evok[es] a bridge between masculine and feminine" (p. 79).

    But, as for Rita and anima, Benesh cites

    Beebe (2001, pp. 210-212) [in] list[ing] the following as characteristics of an anima figure, in film; and I [Benesh] have commented on how these characteristics appear in Rita‘s depiction of these characteristics:

    1. "Unusual radiance" — Rita is repeatedly compared to an angel, having been shown surrounded by blue, repeatedly shown with arms (wings) extended, sculpted in glittering ice, and Phil says, "You look like an angel in the snow."

    [That quotation is, of course, incorrect as Phil says, "When you stand in the snow you look like an angel." Also, it's worth mentioning that one of Benesh's examples of Rita's extended arms is when she slaps Phil, which is hardly angelic.]

    2. Demonstrating a desire to make connection — Rita is always friendly and issuing invitations and compliments.

    3. Having come from "another place" — Rita has come from Pittsburgh, and from being a French major to television broadcasting "a long way from here."

    [While I wish people, especially scholars like Benesh, would quote correctly lines from the film, no, Rita does not say this. She refers to "here" as "about a million miles from where I started out in college" and the barely different "a million miles from where I started out in college."]

    4. Being the "feminine mirror" of the male protagonist — In her first appearance, Rita imitates Phil in front of the blue screen, her arms extended, and her extended arm becomes a motif, as she slaps Phil numerous times and eventually hands over all her money at the bachelor auction. Rita and Phil also imitate one another and Punxsutawney Phil on their way to Punxsutawney.

    5. "Unusual capacity for life" — in contrast to Phil, Rita embraces the spirit of the Groundhog Day holiday and the Punxsutawney townspeople; she even likes blood sausage and thinks groundhogs are cute.

    6. Offers "life-changing advice" and 7. "Exerts a protective and often therapeutic effect on someone else" — At the film‘s turning point, Rita tells Phil his plight is "an opportunity," changing the course of his life.

    [Rita doesn't call Phil's plight an opportunity, though that is implicit in what she does say: "Well, sometimes I wish I had a thousand lifetimes. I don’t know, Phil. Maybe it’s not a curse. It just depends on how you look at it."]

    8. "Leads another character to recognize a problem in personality that is insoluble" — Rita tells Phil she can never love him because he can only love himself; he replies that he doesn‘t even like himself.

    9. "The loss of this character is associated with the loss of purposeful aliveness itself" — Phil is bereft without Rita, referring to the moment when "Larry will take you away from me again."

    [Why must she misquote such simple lines? Phil says, "in ten seconds Larry is gonna come through that door and take you away from me." The feeling is much the same, but the wording is off.]

    Rita provides inspiration in that Phil Connors tries to be what she wants (playing an instrument) and also emulates her good character. The piano teacher represents daily effort and is also associated early on with the groundhog in that she is the first person Phil Connors comes in contact with outside the bed-and-breakfast on the first Groundhog Day, heralding the day and occasion.

    And, that's more than enough Benesh (or me) for today.

    Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to fashion a new psychology, unique from Jung, unique from Freud, unique from... whatever else people use, and then to lose it to the resumptions of time.

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