It’s the penultimate Monday for 2014 so that means we have to bring you the penultimate feature for the year! Today our Norwegian superstar Ferdinand Joppe sits down and brings you a topic very close to his heart: a look closer at the ‘evil mum’ archetype. Are they really that bad? Why do so many do well but never win the game? And do they need more respect in the world of Survivor? Click below to find out and don’t forget to have your say in the comments section below!
Survivor like any storytelling medium relies on characters to carry the story, in Survivor the story is of course the journey for a million bucks. Some of the 16 to 20 contestants are turned into protagonists for the viewers to cheer on while others are turned into antagonists, while most fall somewhere in-between.
Most seasons of Survivor has a diverse cast when it comes to gender, age, ethnicity and different personalities. However the personality of a contestant is probably only around 1/3 of what in the end will be the ‘character’ we see on our screens. The other two thirds are editing and audience perception.
In the end there are these three parts that combined creates a character archetype in Survivor. Over the years these archetypes have changed alongside what the audience wishes to see on their screen and what the producers have deemed successful. Season 20 Heroes Vs Villains was a season that strongly revolved around the idea of archetypes and of course included the epic battles between the two oldest and most well-known archetypes Hero/Good vs Villain/Evil. Since Heroes Vs Villains Survivor has arguably been more focused on including certain archetypes in every season which often includes more recruiting (not saying there was a lot of recruiting in older seasons, just look at Fiji). The archetypes in newer seasons are however probably easier to identify even before the season airs than in the older seasons based solely on the players appearance.
In this feature I will look at one archetype which usually causes a lot of discussion between the fans of the show – The Older Female, or “The Evil Mum”.
Kass didn’t make FTC, but she still got slammed at it.
To classify as “The Evil Mum” archetype you have to fit certain criterions. First of all you have to be a woman over the age of 40 and secondly she must make it far into the game. The reason for this is to make them easier to classify. There are six women who fit this since season 21: Dawn and Sherri from Caramoan, Monica from Blood Vs. Water, Trish and Kassandra from Cagayan and Missy from San Juan Del Sur.
To clarify, saying that they fit into “The Evil Mum” archetype does not mean that I view them as bad people or that I disliked them as players. Personally I usually find my favourite player within this archetype which is the reason I find them so fascinating and wanted to take a closer look at how they are portrayed and perceived.
Sherri is just over it.
The mum archetype is not something that is new in Survivor as it has certainly been present since the earliest seasons. However lately there has been a lot of negativity around them. Negativity which I would argue is often unjustified. Not liking a certain player or archetype is of course something we should be all allowed to do, however there seem to be a certain stigma towards these women such as being bitches, not getting credit for their moves or being unfairly seen as weak physical players.
First lets look at these women’s strategic game. All of them managed to make the finale in their respective season except for Trish. Dawn, Sherri, Monica and Missy all made it to the final tribal council. They also have in common that none of them won. They basically had no chance of winning even if they had made it (Trish might have been an exception). They are also usually viewed as goats because of the way the jury views them. Most of these women were also leaders of their alliance. Sherri controlled the fans in Caramoan while Dawn was one of the top-dogs amongst the favourites. Monica started out on the bottom of her alliance, but when she realised this she cut the ties to her former alliance and became one of the leaders within her new alliance. Even if these women make “big moves” they are often under-credited/ignored or outright hated for them, not always, but often. Examples of this includes the infamous Brenda vote-off in Caramoan by Dawn, the Kass flip in Cagayan and Missy’s vote-offs this season. A lot of their strategy doesn’t even make the air and one can only find out about it from interviews and Ponderosa videos. From interviews this season Missy was apparently one of the main reasons Drew was voted out, but in the actual episode Missy didn’t even get one confessional about it. The reason for this was probably to make Natalie an even bigger character as she received the credit for it instead of Missy. Another way to discredit the move’s these women make is by making the storyline about them just being “emotional” and suddenly their story-arch turns from “how to win the game” to “who am I? Why am I such a mess?”. Examples of this is Missy’s one million husbands, Dawn’s teeth or “It’s Monica’s time to shine”.
One of many teary Dawn moments
Screen-time allocated to this archetype is rather varied, but most of them has landed somewhere around 30 confessionals. This is not a bad amount, however since most of these players make the finale it is not very high either. The big exception to this of course the one and only Kass from Cagayan. She managed to get over 60 confessionals which is extremely high for a female player and she even beats out most female winners. However other players such as Sherri, Trish and Missy only received very situational screen-time. This means that most of their confessionals were something that had to be shown for the season to make sense. Also the screen-time they receive is closely connected to another player’s storyline instead of their own. The Evil Mum’s are often have a symbiotic relationship to a more popular archetype, “The Golden Boy”, which I will come back to another time.
Their personalities or life stories are often an important aspect of the season they are in, like the ones mentioned above. However these personality traits or stories are often so repeated to the extreme. This causes these women to become flat or one dimensional, who instead of being an interesting contestant turns into a hyper symbolised object. Editing 16 to 20 contestants is not an easy job, and you often only have a minute or two per character each episode for character development so this is not something that only happens with this archetype. Unfortunately they often come off as much worse than many of the other archetypes because the audience is slammed in the face with the same often unflattering backstory. This is what I believe is one of the main reason for the backlash these characters often receive. It is the same in any storytelling medium, nobody likes flat characters as they become predictable and one dimensional.
Albeit dominating much of the strategy in SJDS, Missy still ended up with the short end of the stick.
Although it is a controversial archetype in Survivor the Evil Mum has truly cemented itself as on of the key type of players we see go far in the last couple of years. If this trend will continue only time will tell. If I had to make a guess I think we will see many more fascinating Evil Mum’s in the years to come, love them or hate them, I bet they are here to stay.
Next time I will look at an archetype closely related to the Evil Mum; The Golden Boy.
*So while I am writing this article Reed pops up with the most obnoxious jury speech of all time, bless his soul, and manages to call Missy an “Evil Step Mum”. Perfect timing Reed, thank you! Once again we see how this archetype gets a lot of hate from audience and players alike!
What do you think of the ‘evil mum’ archetype? Do you feel they need more respect or it’s fine the way it is? Let us know below!
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