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.”
“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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
7. Some casts have multiple characters filling the same role. Friends has two sets of craftsmen and clowns.
8. And It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia has two clowns.
9. Many family sitcoms, like The Simpsons, follow this pattern in a fairly literal way, with one serious child and one silly child.
(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…
11. The Plastics in Mean Girls…
Paul Rudd’s character Josh would be the patriarch of the cast.
13. Mad Men…
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…
15. Dawson’s Creek…
16. Adventure Time…
18. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…
19. …and the original version of Star Trek.
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.
21. Superhero teams are usually built around this pattern too, most obviously with the Fantastic Four…
22. …and the core group of The Avengers.
23. The classic ’70s version of the X-Men followed this pattern, with Wolverine and Cyclops competing for the patriarch role.
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.
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.
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.
27. The pattern emerges in real life too, and very often in bands. The Beatles are a perfect example.
28. And so is Led Zeppelin…
29. …and Metallica.
30. It’s also the dynamic of the original American Idol.
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