Wile E. Coyote, carnivorous vulgaris and self-described super genius, is a notorious villain from the Looney Toons cartoon series who makes infinite attempts and fails to capture his nemesis, Road Runner. These spectacular failures happen in spite of Coyote's ultra joog from the Acme Corporation, whose reliably unreliable and absurd products--e.g. Tornado Seeds™--malfunction at theeee worst possible times.
As a yute, I was really entertained by this accident prone scavenger and his misfortune. As an adult who loves mythology, I revisit Coyote for what he can teach me about the relentless appetite and short-sighted arrogance of the male ego, but mostly because he's a prototypical trickster, one of my all-time favorite archetypes.
Lemme explain what that means real quick.
Archetypes are templates of people, behaviors or personalities that come from patterns within our shared psychic experience. Think of a hero character like Batman who gives us a model for coping with trauma (seeing his parents murdered), finding meaning in loss (becoming a crime fighter), discovering our strengths and using them for a cause (community justice). Patterns like this appear universally in stories across all cultures and historical time periods, and they reveal similarities in how we think, how we feel, what we desire and what journeys we take in life.
Trickster is a model for boundary-crossing characters who disobey normal rules and conventional behavior, love to cut up, and work against the status quo by mocking it with humor. They're often mischievous practical jokers or wise fools, and their greatest gift is using comedy (or chaos) to draw attention to things in the modern world--especially within ourselves--that need to be changed, helping us have fun with each other in the present moment and freeing our spirits.
Here are some trickster characters from popular culture.
You may notice a couple things from these examples. One is that they're all male, even though trickster energy is neutral and can show up in anybody. Modern American culture produces more male tricksters than female. This is revealing because myths communicate something fundamental about the worldview, values and beliefs of a culture. America, of course, is dominated by men. So these man-centric myths give us clues to our own unequal and unjust order.
You may have also noticed how old most of these examples are. Besides Colbert, where is evidence of trickster energy in 2014? What does it mean that there aren't more characters calling out the hypocrisies and absurdities of our country?
Well, the people who rule the American empire have a vested interest in hiding the evidence of contradiction, inequality, injustice and widespread suffering. American myths are designed to turn the world upside down, to spread belief that life is good, America is exceptional, that war is necessary, that melanin is a weapon of mass destruction, that wealth trickles down and that everything is arranged the way God intended. These are shallows lies that crumble under the most basic scrutiny and ridicule.
This is why I love tricksters so much. They use cunning creativity and jokes to take power away from swindling rulers. Our culture needs more trickster energy. And we're gonna water our Tornado Seeds™ to conjure it.
More to come...