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The Full Monty. masculinity in crisis

Guerrilla Jung 2

The Full Monty

Men, Animus and Anima.
When I first looked for a piece of popular culture to illustrate what James Hollis entitles the ‘shadow of Saturn’, I was surprised that what came to my mind was not a movie from the vast range of men as heroes’ movies, but a slight piece of a British film comedy. (also, now a stage production).
I remember seeing it in the 1990’s as a social statement about the plight of the skilled blue-collar workers in the period of deindustrialisation. A socio- political work defined by humour.
It was only later that I began to see the subtleties at work, the fine balance of the complexities of gender. I looked deeper and there it was. A filmic commentary on the complicated ideas expressed in C Jung’s work on the importance of understanding and being aware of the unconscious at play.
The complications of the hidden shadow and the Anima (feminine principle) and Animus (male principle) are hidden beneath the screenplay.
Yet the illustration of the problems of the Masculine archetype and lack of balance without the compensatory Feminine quality are there at the beginning, played with in the plotline and finally resolved enough.
All this in 90 minutes.

The Full Monty

A brief overview.
This is a male film; the main characters are men. the female roles in this movie are few and far between. They act as judge and jury throughout.
The gender roles here are comedically reversed subtlety throughout. This is the main route for the set piece scenes, the hidden premise for the plot.
There is also a child, here representing the ‘puer eternis’ the innocent boy who does not yet know the rules of the masculine, a counterfoil to the adult men and their attempts to regain their lost sense of self.
The lead role ‘Gaz’ is the trickster, the conflicted character and motor for the plot.
Here we can clearly see in him the Saturnine burden of men. Worry and work.
If work is removed the central pivot of male self-worth has dissolved into recklessness and apathy.
He has mates, who act as his foils in this world play. They will all undergo their own journey in this tale of the redemptive animus spirit.
He has also an opposite ‘Gerald’ his former boss, also now workless.
Gerald is in many ways the shadow self in denial. He would rather dress in a suit and pretend to go to the office than admit his current job loss and failure to provide.
The trickster and the diminished emperor need to team up to go on this journey.
Each will find in the other the missing qualities of maleness that they need to possess in order to grow and develop a new sense of ego-self.
The others must also learn that teaming up as a group, rather than being in a distorted sense of competition with each other can lead them further into their own conscious awareness.
And still, it is a movie about men learning to dance.
This is the foundations of a story, a story that has become popular over the years. I suggest that as with all things that rise out of the rubble of popular culture and survive or are readapted, that there is something that speaks to our archetypal unconscious through the medium of the arts.
The rites of initiation.
As is normal in movies we are presented with parentless characters with no ties to anyone in their larger family. No big deal, however, it does provide a platform here for the plotline to include an analogy for the missing rites on initiation that can describe the coming of manhood.

These rites of passage involve a quest, a difficult task, the ordeal and finally the acceptance into (or applause) of the tribe into adult membership.
This undercurrent story exposes us to the archetypal realm, a relatable compelling narrative that has been told across the millennia many times before.
In our modern society these missing stages in our own development from child to adult are hidden away in odd milestone events (how many times have I heard a thirty-something claim that they only realised they were adult when they had to buy their life insurance!).
This film can be read as an initiation journey, from child adults to adult in the form of a (self-inflicted here) ordeal.
When we as men cannot follow in the footsteps of our fathers, we must invent a new path to establish the same journey of development. This is an act of the unconscious, something done without us being aware of the significance of the act.
The Full Monty is a rite of passage movie, a celebration of the need of a rite of passage to become a version of the adult masculine.
This is the outer journey.
The Inner Journey
This rite of passage demands an inner journey, a reassessment of who we are, a loving on from the imago or ideal stereotype of ourselves, based on our perceptions and feedback from others, to find our inner distortions of our gender type and correct the imbalance of having only one, tyrannical version of whom we ought to be.
There is an absence of personal nuance that prevents us from accessing our deeper inner world, the unconscious (or psyche).

Syzygy (or learning to dance).
Syzygy. The union of opposites, the male and female principles that are yoked together in the psyche
The pivotal plot in the Full Monty is a comedic play on gender role reversal. A traditional plot for many plays and dramas over the century. The exception her is that the men must behave in a less trapped masculine way to achieve their transformation and win back the lost respect of the community.
Jung’s psychology was much influenced by the Chinese idea of our Yin and Yang capabilities. The coming together in a harmonious way of the opposite polarities of our personalities. In the western tradition this has been the opposition of Logos (male attributes) and Eros (female attributes).
The resonant suggestion from these polar opposites is that we cannot ignore that our unconscious psyche retains these parts. Individual growth necessitates that we accept the shadow parts of ourselves (Jung defines the unknown unconscious as the Shadow, including the Personal Shadow (parts of us that we reject and project commonly onto others, the Animus (our male traits, the world of the rational, logos orientated psyche, and Anima (the free spirited, sensual, creative self).
As we progress through our life journey, the ability to better dance with these aspects of our psyche can increase the depth of our being. we become the adults we had the potential to be.
The unfolding psychodrama of the Full Monty.
Enough theory! Back to the film.
The 2 main characters Gaz and Gerald start from opposite ends of their dilemmas. Gaz aided by his less confident mates can get away with his child adult life. Gerald (the former manager) has become isolated and trapped in his glories of his past career.
Only by coming together in a hare-brained scheme can they both find something they did not know they were looking for. One word. Respect.
But here is the thing. This development path requires not only getting the team together to do something meaningful, to dance without shame; It requires that they see each other as people, not competitors, and they start to behave with greater empathy towards each other’s plight in life.
For brevity I will mostly omit the other male players in this, but they all have a part in this journey of personal development. They all somehow grow before us.
And how is this achieved? Voila! they learn to dance, to respond to each other’s moves on the stage.
The standout scenes for me (there are a few of these) the clues I suppose that we are watching a story that has a deeper meaning are in the middle and towards the end. Story telling has a progression from initial tension towards a comfortable resolution after all).
Pivotal scenes from the movie (my choices)
As a subplot there is a death. This does not seem to have much to do with the central theme of the movie, however symbolically in the notion of initiation rites, it marks a place where the child-men develop into their adult forms.
This is a reminder that we are involved in a deeper archetypal tale.

The dole queue step and twirl. An obvious scene to pick, though the beginning of their inner joy appears in the direst of circumstances.
The trial by ordeal 1.

What could be more humiliating than to perform a sexy dance in front of older ladies knitting in front of you. A disaster that toughens our heroes up.
The trial by ordeal 2
The police arrest and watch the practice video. The secret is now out. The troupe are now fully exposed to the ridicule of others.
The scene in Gerald’s wife’s beauty room. The realisation that seen from the other side they had been all trapped in a unidimensional understanding of the notion of their female opposites.
Also later here is the best scene where the Emotional centre of the Group (Dave aka the ‘fat bastard’) has a serious conversation with his wife Jean.
Here the internal trap of what a man should be is exposed to the reality that freedom is possible. Just talk. If we can move on from the person we believe we ought to be, to the person we can become, personal transformation appears as if by magic.

The Finale.

And so, we reach the end. The scene is set, their secret scheme has now been broadcast across the whole community. Their friends, male and female (even the Police) have taken over the role of audience. They want the show.
Backstage, the jitters are giving way to proudful resignation. The strip, indeed the Full Monty* has to happen. And do it goes.
The final moment of triumph, the denouement sees our complete set of heroes, stripped naked in front of all. Sexy? Maybe or perhaps a dramatic version of a Rebirth of the animus spirit, now co-joined in a meaningful way with the complementary Anima.
And now this story is complete.

Last word
I do not write these as a film critique, but to try to illustrate that the themes and stories in some films, are our new fairy tales and myths.
I never know whether the writers intended for this to be so. I like to think that the one idea that started the creative process of the screenplay, grew and developed sometimes unconsciously to connect us all to the great hidden interplay of our psyche and our own hiddenness became available for us to see.
Peace and good fortune
Marius Paul.

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