I was watching Orangutan Island and the Incredibles today and had a N-gasm. When good battles evil in stories* like the Incredibles, good is never making peace with evil, but battling it. The roles are pretty consistent across stories: The bad guy is a person who wreaks havoc and exploits on subordinates and acts out of regard for themselves, only. The good guy is often an underdog, a normal/middle class person who stands up against injustice and topples the central figure.
The good guys aren't necessarily looking for peace, though. They use violence to overthrow their opponents. Freud interpeted the struggle between good and evil as a struggle between superego and id. But watching orangutans battle for dominance raised another possibility.
Could the "evil" character really represents the dominant figure in the community? The battle between good and evil could be one of overthrowing and replacing the dominant figure, reclaiming that position for the subordinate. The plethora of the "Toppling Archetype" (if you have a better name, lets hear it) across culture, therefore, can be seen as the expression of a wish, not to conquer the id, but to conquer the dominant figure and claim supremacy. It's popularity could be explained by the fact that statistically, there are more subordinates than dominants in any society.
One problem with this idea is that the contender, once he topples the dominant figure, usually restores order, not chaos. Why is that? Perhaps it's because the story has maximum value/appeal/fitness** when the subordinates are pampered and elevated, rather than trashed. There is no shortage of stories where the contender mistreats and punishes the dominant figure and their own group. Another "problem" that could be addressed the same way is the theme of sacrifice -- bad for the individual, but good for the group. The dominant figure still gets toppled, the subordinates are saved. Jesus dying for people's sins and restoring order would be a good example (but who would be the dominant figure that gets toppled?).
What do you think?
I would love some help in collecting some stories like these. The basic framework seems to be: disorder, disorder pinned to central figure, figure is villified, figure is battles, figure is toppled, order is restored, new central figure is crowned. Some examples: Biblical wars?, Shrek I, tabloids!, Spiderman, Star Wars.
What are some other stories that have this pattern embedded? (More places to look: most popular books, most popular songs, popular folk tales and myths, heroes (the reluctant hero is the perfect set up))
**I'm using fitness in the evolutionary sense, to mean that a story/meme with the most appeal will be the most popular and survive and "reproduce" in future generations and across various groups.
cross-posted at INTPc