The Literary Stick No. 7: Damsel in Distress?
So two things are happening in today’s comic. One: I’m telling you about the character archetype of the damsel in distress. And B: I’m also giving you an example of an allusion.
Let’s start with the damsel in distress. In old old literature, she’s essentially a girl who hangs out and waits for the guy to save her. Think about any of those old Disney movies. Snow White. Sleeping Beauty. There’s a lot of inaction on the part of the woman. So either she’s just hanging out and waiting or she’s been kidnapped by the antagonist who figures that the protagonist will give him what he wants in exchange for the girl.
I love it when authors take an archetype and turn it on its head. Fiona from Shrek, anyone?
And now, the allusion. This comic is a play on the poem The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. This is one of my favorite poems from the Victorian era partially because the meter is fabulous and partially because as an adolescent, I had an obsession with all things Arthurian in nature. (I might still. You may have seen a sword in a stone in one of my previous comics.) The Lady of Shalott in a nut shell: woman is stuck in a tower. If she so much as looks out the window, she’ll die. But she has this mirror and she watches Lancelot ride past every day. No one knows she’s there until she ventures out of the tower and dies.
I decided to use that story as my foundation for talking about a damsel in distress because it becomes an inside joke for anyone who knows about The Lady of Shalott. That’s what allusions are, essentially, and it’s probably why I love them so much. I mean, how much more entertaining are my bad Star Wars drawings because you KNOW they’re Star Wars?
Thoughts on the Damsel in Distress archetype? Examples? Leave it in the comments.