Defense Mechanisms in Pop Culture

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We all have an affinity for particular fictional characters, whether on television, books, or movie screens. In lots of cases it is for their spunk, their personality, or way of thinking, and what we do not know is that many of these characteristics come from psychological concepts and each character can represent these ideas. Defense mechanisms are a common basis for these character tropes and are present in movies like Mean Girls and J. K Railing’s Harry Potter book series for the sake of character development.

Based off of self-help book, Queen Bees and Wannabes by Roseland Washman, Mean Girls is considered iconic in the Young Adult film genre. Although it had the typical high school plot, Mean Girls was more relaTABLE than any other movie with similar storyline simply because the script and characters mimicked high school and teenage behaviors almost exactly. The use of Defense Mechanisms like Reaction Formation, Displacement, and Rationalization take place throughout the entire movie itself. The story centers around Caddy Heron, the daughter of zoologists who have moved to

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Illinois after a 12 year research study in Africa. She had been homesteaded all her life until the move and is introduced to the wild jungle of high school and its social hierarchy, with the Plastics: Regina, Gretchen, and Karen, (the “mean girls)” reigning at the top. After befriending them, Caddy is betrayed by Regina George when she gets into a relationship with Aaron Samuels, a boy Caddy had a crush on, even after Regina was aware Of Caddy feelings towards Aaron. From that moment forward, it was ultimately Caddy goal to break the Plastics apart by sabotaging them.

Reaction Formation, taking authentic feelings and switching to the exact opposite, is introduced during one of the first times Caddy encounters Regina. While conversing, a random girl passes by and Regina compliments her by telling her that her skirt is pretty, but the minute the girl leaves, she turns around and tells Caddy that ‘that is the ugliest offing skirt” she’s ever seen. Caddy is quick to remember that Regina had said the same about the bracelet her mom had made her, hinting at Region’s two- faced personality.

Reaction formation tends to happen when someone fears o be criticized because they have a liking towards something that is deemed unaccepTABLE in society, so perhaps Regina did like the skirt, but because it was vintage and from the ass’s, it wasn’t cool for her to think that. As the story progresses, Caddy manages to become Region’s confidante, making Gretchen feel unappreciated by who she felt was her best friend. After Regina dismisses Gretchen idea of making “fetch” a popular slang term, she cracks under all the humiliation Regina puts her through.

Gretchen uses Displacement by expressing her frustration through an essay on Brutes and Caesar (Regina being Caesar and Gretchen portraying Brutes), ‘ ‘Why should Caesar get to stomp around like a giant, while the rest of us try not to get smashed under his big feet?… People totally like Brutes just as much as they like Caesar. And when did it become okay for one person to be the boss of everybody, huh? Because that’s not what Rome is about. We should totally just stab Caesar! ” Displacement is essentially taking out negative emotions on someone or something that is less threatening.

While Gretchen is angry at Regina, she fears her because of her popularity and her power to control the school’s attitude towards anyone, which could end up harming Gretchen reputation. Moving towards the climax of the film, Caddy hosts a party without her parents knowing and invites Aaron Samuels as an attempt to seduce him, however, she is so inebriated that she throws up on his feet and he runs away. As she chases him outside of her house, she encounters the first two friends, Janis and Damned, who were involved in her entire plan of sabotaging the Plastics and not invited to the party.

Caddy uses Rationalization, to justify her actions by claiming that she had to “pretend” to be plastic and act like she ad no affiliation with them, since they were not a part of any cool cliques, but Janis responds by saying that Caddy is no longer pretending and has become “Plastic” herself. Debuting in 1 997, the Harry Potter series, written by J. K Roiling, soon skyrocketed to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. The memorTABLE storyline settles around the life of Harry Potter, a young wizard and his adventures at Hogwash’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, along with battling some enemies.

Harry Potters parents were killed by the dark wizard Voltmeter when he was one years old and unintentionally left alive, from that moment Voltmeter has been wanting to kill Harry and rule the hazarding world. J. K Roiling became an incredibly well known author and went on to develop 7 Harry Potter books total, but she is highly regarded in the writing community because of her immense thought she puts into each character and scene, and by analyzing the scenarios from both the novels and movie adaptations, it is clear to see the Freudian concepts such as Projection, Repression, and Regression.

In order to fully comprehend Voltmeter’s character, it is important to know some of the unreal HP background. Muscles are people of no magical descent, Purebloods are the progeny of both wizard and witch, and Hullabaloos are the children of one magical parent and a Mugged. In regards to social status, Purebloods are the top of the hierarchy, while Hullabaloos (the term Mudflow used as a slur), are not as equally respected. Voltmeter, born Tom Marcelo Riddle, was born a Hullabaloo: his father a wealthy Mugged and his witch mother Improper Gaunt.

Riddle became an orphan since his father had abandoned his mother and she had died soon after giving birth. Riddle shed that he had been born a purebloods rather than accept his heritage, and so he changes his name to Lord Voltmeter. Once Voltmeter gained enough power over the majority of the hazarding community, he begins to target all Hullabaloos and killing them. This is a clear example of Projection, as he is projecting his feeling of inadequacy on others.

Many scenarios throughout the book are essentially due to a characters response to a certain action, for example, continuing onward with Voltmeter’s story, he is introduced to the concept Of a Horrors. A Horrors is an Object where a Dark evil) Wizard or witch integrates a piece of their soul in order to achieve immortality. When Voltmeter was still a Hogwash’s student, he had received this information from his Potions teacher, Professor Sluggers.

After the series of tragic events led by Voltmeter himself, Sluggers is ashamed as he is a reason for how Voltmeter has continued to wreak havoc all along, and it is because of his negative feelings that he subdues the memory and even remembers it incorrectly. With that being said, Professor Sluggers experiences repression, where he suppresses an unaccepTABLE desire or action and leaves it in his unconscious. About 17 years after Harry parent’s death, he is on the brink of destroying Voltmeter once and for all by gathering and obliterating all of the Hercules.

Harry has his two best friends, Hormone and Ron, accompany him in search of the remaining objects, but tensions arise when Ron (who is infatuated With Hormone) believes that Harry’ is making a move on Hormone. As a result of the sudden negative emotions and anxieties Ron is experiencing, he regresses into childish anger, resulting in numerous temper tantrums and abandoning his friends. Although not an extreme example, Ron goes through Regression, the returning into a child state in order to escape the present problems.

Overall, there are a multitude of shows, movies, and books that have woven Fraud’s concepts into their storyline to build a certain persona. These are mainly used to allow the audience some form of connection with the characters as they are experiencing something that we can relate to. It is because of these ideas that we have those common character tropes known to the entertainment business.

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Defense Mechanisms in Pop Culture. (2018, Feb 01). Retrieved from

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