Here’s The Formula For Every Group Of Characters In Pop Culture

Once you know about this pattern, you’ll see it everywhere.

1. Mitchell Hurwitz, the creator of Arrested Development, has said in many interviews that he created the Bluth siblings based on the paradigm of “matriarch, patriarch, craftsman, and clown.”

20th Century Fox

“At one point I remember learning that there was this classic archetype of matriarch, patriarch, craftsman, and clown,” Hurwitz explained on a recent episode of Julie Klausner’s podcast How Was Your Week. “I just thought it was the coolest thing, and started seeing it everywhere there were successful quartets.”

2. Hurwitz explained the meaning of the archetypes in terms of the characters on The Golden Girls, a show he wrote for early in his career.

Touchstone

“Rose is the matriarch because she has the maternal instinct, and Dorothy is the patriarch,” Hurwitz says. “I think the clown is Blanche, because of all her sexual sort of clowning, and the craftsman, the serious one who sees things as they are, is Sophia.” These archetypes come from Commedia dell’arte, a form of theater based on a wider range of stock characters and narrative tropes that originated in Italy in the 16th century.

3. You can see the same pattern in many other stories focused on a central quartet. Sex and the City has pretty much the same dynamic as Golden Girls.

HBO

4. And so does Girls, though the more sexual character Jessa plays the role of the craftsman, and the naïf, Shoshanna, is played as the clown.

HBO

5. Seinfeld follows the pattern too, though Hurwitz notes that the craftsman isn’t quite who you’d expect. “Kramer’s the craftsman because he’s on a track,” he says. “He’s serious and focused on things.”

Columbia/Sony

6. Similarly, Jenna on 30 Rock is the clown and Tracy is the craftsman, as he is often the unlikely voice of reason on the show and has more dignity than Jenna.

NBC Universal

7. Some casts have multiple characters filling the same role. Friends has two sets of craftsmen and clowns.

NBC/Warner Bros.

8. And It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia has two clowns.

20th Century Fox

9. Many family sitcoms, like The Simpsons, follow this pattern in a fairly literal way, with one serious child and one silly child.

20th Century Fox

(Maggie, as a mostly non-speaking character, doesn’t fit into the pattern.)

10. Once you know the set of archetypes, you start seeing it everywhere. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer

20th Century Fox

11. The Plastics in Mean Girls

Paramount

12. Clueless

Paramount

Paul Rudd’s character Josh would be the patriarch of the cast.

13. Mad Men

AMC

Roger Sterling sometimes plays the role of the clown, and when Don Draper and Roger are together, Don usually becomes the craftsman.

14. Family Ties

Paramount

15. Dawson’s Creek

Sony

16. Adventure Time

Cartoon Network

17. Supernatural

Warner Bros.

18. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Fred Wolf Films

19. …and the original version of Star Trek.

Paramount

20. The Breakfast Club is a good example of a story in which a lot of the tension comes from a rivalry over the patriarch role.

Universal

21. Superhero teams are usually built around this pattern too, most obviously with the Fantastic Four…

Marvel

22. …and the core group of The Avengers.

Marvel

23. The classic ’70s version of the X-Men followed this pattern, with Wolverine and Cyclops competing for the patriarch role.

Marvel

Jean Grey would be the second matriarch, and Beast would be another craftsman.

24. The core group of the Justice League has another dual patriarch rivalry between Superman and Batman.

DC Comics

25. The cast of Star Wars allows some characters to play different roles. Luke is usually a craftsman, though sometimes he’s the second patriarch.

Lucasfilm

C-3P0, R2-D2, and Chewbacca all can fit into the clown role, though the latter two can also be considered craftsmen.

26. The crew of the Millennium Falcon through most of The Empire Strikes Back follows the paradigm perfectly, though.

Lucasfilm

27. The pattern emerges in real life too, and very often in bands. The Beatles are a perfect example.

Hulton Archive

28. And so is Led Zeppelin…

Hulton Archive

29. …and Metallica.

Getty

30. It’s also the dynamic of the original American Idol.

Getty

31. So if this pattern emerges in regular life, which role do you think you play in your friends groups?

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