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Hi, I'm Michael.
This is Lessons from the Screenplay.
Good Will Hunting has some classic, great moments.
“How do you like them apples?”
But the one I remember, the one that gets me every time,
is the final scene between Will and his therapist, Sean Maguire.
“It's not your fault.”
“It's not your fault.”
Why is this scene so effective?
Its power is certainly amplified by the great direction and performances,
but from a story standpoint, the scene is emotional
because we understand the walls Will has built up around him,
and we witness Sean finally tear them down.
In his book “Into the Woods,” John Yorke writes:
“Story matches psychological theory:
characters are taken on a journey to acknowledge and assimilate the traumas in their past.
By confronting and coming to terms with the cause of their traumas
they can finally move on.”
"Good Will Hunting" is a film that puts the psychological aspects of story structure
right on the surface.
So today, I'd like to examine how characters use defense mechanisms to protect themselves…
To demonstrate how the supporting characters in a story can
be designed to weaken these defenses…
And to show how these elements work together to create a powerful catharsis
for both the characters and the audience.
Let's take a look at Good Will Hunting.
In stories with a positive change arc, the protagonist begins with a weakness—
a lie they believe about themselves or the world that they will have to overcome.
Often, this weakness is rooted in some past trauma,
sometimes referred to as the wound.
In "Good Will Hunting," Will's wound is his awful childhood—
growing up an orphan who suffered terrible abuse at the hands of his foster father.
This wound spawned Will's weakness:
the belief that stepping outside his comfort zone will lead to emotional pain.
As a writer, sometimes thinking of characters in this way can feel abstract,
but one way to turn weakness into behavior is with defense mechanisms.
In “Into the Woods,” John Yorke takes the psychoanalytical concept
of ego defense mechanisms and reframes it in story terms:
“Ego defence mechanisms are the masks characters wear to hide their inner selves;
they are the part of the character we meet when we first join the story,
the part that will - if the archetype is correct - slough away.”
In his first session with Sean,
we see how Will's fear of exposing his wound in therapy
expresses itself through defense mechanisms.
“Let's let the healing begin.”
Will begins by mocking the entire notion of what they're here to do,
and as soon as the session begins he refuses to engage.
“Will doesn't look at Sean for more than a second.
He seems more interested in the room.
There is a long silence as Sean watches Will.”
"Where are you from in Southie?"
When Sean tries to connect with him on a personal level,
Will changes the subject.
“Did you buy all these books retail,
or do you send away for like a 'shrink kit' that comes with all these volumes included?”
In doing so, he flexes his intellect,
trying to intimidate Sean into feeling small.
But none of these actions are having an effect on Sean,
who can keep up with Will and even parry his quips.
Will: “What, you lift?”
Sean: “Yeah.”
Will: “Nautilus?” Sean: “Nah, free weights.”
Will: “Oh really? Free weights?”
Sean: “Yeah, big time.”
Will: “What do you bench?”
Sean: “285. What do you bench?”
So Will looks for a new tactic, one that will hurt Sean directly.
“Maybe you married the wrong woman.”
“Maybe you should watch your mouth.”
“That's it isn't it? You married the wrong woman.
What happened?
She leave you?
Was she bangin' some other guy?”
“In a flash, Sean has Will by the throat.
Will is helpless.”
"Time's up."
This scene paints a clear picture of how Will uses his defense mechanisms
to avoid dealing with uncomfortable situations.
But in this interaction Will is knowingly trying to upset Sean.
In the book “Psychology for Screenwriters” by William Indick, he writes:
“The key to writing a defense mechanism is that the characters themselves
are completely unaware that they are exhibiting defensive behaviors…
the other characters in the film and the viewers in the audience
watch the heroes and become frustrated with their obliviousness to their own glaring problems.”
Will's bigger problem is the defense mechanisms he doesn't even know he has,
which is why it's going to take a small army of characters
to wear down the protagonist's defenses.
In “Good Will Hunting,” Will has amazing opportunities before him.
Professor Lambeau recognizes Will's genius
and tries to set up him with prestigious job offers.
“I'll give you a job myself, I just wanted you to see what was out there.”
And Skylar is unlike any girl he's ever met.
“This girl is like fuckin' perfect right now.
I don't want to ruin that.”
But to pursue these opportunities requires leaving his comfort zone and taking risks—
which is the thing he is most terrified of doing.
So Will unconsciously uses defense mechanisms to justify his inaction.
“The question isn't 'why should you work for N.S.A.'
The question is 'why shouldn't you?'”
After turning down a job offer from the NSA,
Will lets loose with a worst case scenario of what could happen if he accepted.
“Now the politicians are sayin' 'send in the Marines to secure the area'
'cause they don't give a shit.
It won't be their kid over there, gettin' shot.
Just like it wasn't them when their number got called.”
Here, Will is using rationalization—
explaining his decision in a seemingly logical manner to avoid the emotion behind it.
But Sean calls him out.
“You're always afraid to take the first step because all you see is every negative
thing ten miles down the road.”
“Look at me.
What do you want to do?
You and your bullshit.
You got a bullshit answer for everybody.
But I ask you a very simple question and you can't give me a straight answer.
Because you don't know.”
Sean forces Will to see the truth that he's hiding from.
Once Will's relationship with Skylar gets serious…
“I want you to come to California with me.”
…Will again jumps to the worst case scenario.
“We could be in California next week
and you might find out somethin' about me that you don't like.
And, you know, maybe wish you hadn't said that.”
Rather than let him get away with rationalizing his refusal…
“I can't go to California.”
“Why not?”
“One, because I got a job here and two because I live here.”
…Skylar calls him out on the real issue.
“You're afraid that I won't love you back.
You know what? I'm afraid too.
Fuck it, I want to give it a shot.
At least I'm honest with you.”
Skylar forces Will to see the truth he's hiding from.
But Will isn't ready to change yet,
so an even harsher mix of defense mechanisms are triggered.
“Will looks Skylar dead in the eye.“
“I don't love you.”
This is a small scale form of regression— returning to an earlier safe state
before he was in an emotionally challenging relationship with Skylar.
In fact, regression is one of the biggest ways Will avoids leaving his comfort zone,
expressed by his group of friends.
They're immature and fiercely loyal,
providing a place where Will never has to grow up or be challenged.
And he tells himself that it's ok to have sacrificed his job opportunities and relationship
because he'll always have a home with his friends.
“What do I want a way outta here for?
I gonna live here the rest of my life.
You know, be neighbors.
You know, we'll have little kids, can take out kids to little league together up Foley Field.“
But Will is in denial about what he really wants.
And Chuckie, his closest friend in the world, calls him out.
“Look, you're my best friend, so don't take this the wrong way,
but in 20 years, if you're still livin' here, comin' over to my house
to watch the Patriots' game, still workin' construction,
I'll fuckin' kill you.
I mean, you're sittin' on a winning lottery ticket
and you're too much of a pussy to cash it in.
It'd be an insult to us if you're still here in twenty years.”
Chuckie forces Will to see the truth he's hiding from.
This moment is a turning point,
one where Will realizes the only person keeping him from moving forward is himself.
Through the conversations with the characters around him,
Will's defenses are lowered.
But it's not enough.
Because this story isn't about getting close to changing
and then reverting to previous behavior,
it's a story about meaningful change…and that requires catharsis.
The word “catharsis” derives its meaning
from its use is Aristotle's Poetics,
where he used it to describe how a play can provide the audience
with a purification and purgation of emotions.
Later, the physician Josef Breuer applied the term “catharsis” to psychotherapy,
describing the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from,
strong or repressed emotions.
Because of the dents made in Will's emotional armor throughout the film,
in this climactic therapy scene he will finally release his repressed emotions.
Upon realizing Sean has his file,
which contains images of the physical abuse he suffered, Will asks:
“Have you had any experience with that?”
“Twenty years of counseling, yeah I've seen some pretty awful shit.”
“I mean, have you had any experience with that?”
“Yeah, I have.”
As they commiserate about their painful childhoods,
Sean looks for a way to get through to Will.
“You see this?”
“This is not your fault.”
“Yeah, I know that.”
“Look at me, son.
It's not your fault.”
As Sean repeats this phrase, Will starts to go through his arsenal of defenses,
starting with making light of it.
“It's not your fault.”
“I know.”
Then, Will claims to have gotten the message, hoping Sean will stop.
“It's not your fault.”
“I know.”
“It's not your fault.”
Finally, Will turns to aggression.
“It's not your fault.”
“Don't fuck with me, alright?
Don't fuck with me Sean. Not you.”
“It's not your fault.”
Through their time together, Sean has learned all of Will's defense mechanisms
and refuses to let him escape the situation,
until finally…
“It's not your fault.”
…all of Will's walls are torn down.
“Sean takes Will in his arms and holds him like a child.
Will sobs like a baby.
After a moment, he wraps his arms around Sean and holds him, even tighter.
We pull back from this image.
Two lonely souls being father and son together.”
The events of the plot have brought Will to a place where he experiences
a psychological catharsis,
and because we've gone on the journey with him,
the audience experiences a dramatic catharsis.
Good stories draw us into the world and make us empathize with the struggles of the characters.
We witness their inner conflict as they avoid the very thing that will make them whole,
often recognizing that same behavior in ourselves.
We root for the cast of characters around them,
hoping they can help show our hero the truth they're hiding from.
And if the story is executed just right,
we share in a much-needed catharsis.
My personality type is one that can get obsessed with ideas very easily.
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and then decide “I want to do that.”
It's how I taught myself how to DJ for a friend's wedding…
it's how I made this YouTube channel…
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Thanks to Skillshare for sponsoring this video.
Hey guys, hope you enjoyed the video!
As I was looking at those screenshots from the first few months of the channel
I was reminded of how crazy a ride this has been so far.
So I just want to thank you to everyone that's subscribed to the channel,
who has shared and liked the videos,
to all my patrons on Patreon and supporters here on YouTube,
to all of you guys:
thank you for making this channel possible.
Thanks for watching.
And I'll see you next time.


心靈捕手-關於角色的心理學 (Good Will Hunting -The Psychology of Character)

536 分類 收藏
于凱安 發佈於 2019 年 8 月 24 日
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