“Girls Underground is the name I chose to describe a certain archetype I’ve identified, primarily in modern stories but also originating in fairytales and even myths, which focuses on a female protagonist’s initiatory journey.” Ms. Winter describes it further here.
The archetype derives its name from myths such as those of Persephone, of course Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories, and movies such as Labyrinth.
I’ve recommended the site to people before, but only today thought to look at it with an eye towards seeing how Kelly’s story resonates with the archetype. It really fits (phrases in italics are from Ms. Winter’s descriptions from the page linked above.)
A young girl, who … has distant parents… Check.
…enters the Otherworld/Underworld. Cotesville High is certainly an Otherworld, and Kelly literally descends to the Underworld/basement in pursuit of Hannah.
She is initially aided or guided by a creature from that world. Rikki–! Rikki is of course named in honor of Rikki Tikki Tavi, Rudyard Kipling’s valiant mongoose who battles fiercely with cobras.
She usually acquires (or brings along) more than one companion, often otherworldly beings or animals… Mouse, Bee, Woodchuck…
…and together they navigate a strange path of labyrinthine nature. “Mouse in a Maze” of course.
They are thwarted along the way by an adversary and the adversary’s minions (a sort of complement to her companions). Hannah and her nest of cobras. The cobras are really the classic examples of “minions.” I love the word “minions.”
She interacts with people or things that are somehow connected to her ‘normal’ life at home, or briefly returns home in the middle of the journey. Her scenes at home with her brother Shinn accomplish this, I think.
There is often an issue of time running out, or time behaves strangely. If you notice, the show takes place in a very compressed amount of time. It begins on a Saturday during “mandatory test review day”; that night, Kelly and Rikki investigate the basement for the first time. They tell Marsh of their suspicions on Monday; the race at the track is that afternoon, and the dance is that night. Everything else takes place late into Monday night.
When she nears her goal… she is separated from her companions for awhile, culminating in a one-on-one showdown with the adversary, which frequently involves exposing a fraud. Check. Check. Check.
In the end, she is changed irrevocably. We hope so – and everyone around Kelly is changed, too.
It’s interesting to compare “Girls Underground” with the classic Joseph Campbell mythological archetype The Hero’s Journey. We’ve used elements from that structure, as well. Our other source of inspiration has been two classic paranoid-conspiracy thrillers of the 1970s, The Stepford Wives (the 1975 original) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the 1978 remake.) More about those in posts to come…