The caregiver archetype portrays compassionate characters in a film. They offer their helpful hands to those in need. They help the protagonist, or others around him, in some way. The caregiver is fueled by this desire and can take on many forms.
He may be a parent or nurturer of some sort. Other common career options for the role include lawyers, therapists, clergy, or teachers. Sometimes the protagonist himself assisting those in need can be a caregiver archetype.
A caregiver could be a partner to the protagonist, and play an instrumental part in the hero’s character development.
The most selfless among the categories, the caregiver is known for his generosity. He doesn’t turn people away. Instead, he welcomes them. Even when he has nothing to give to the vulnerable, he still offers sustenance in some way.
Although supporting in nature, the caregiver character is different from the mentor archetype. The mentor offers training and wisdom. He or she often lets the protagonist take action for himself, based on the lessons provided by the mentor.
In contrast, a caregiver is more “hands-on.” A caregiver can provide shelter and food for the hero. A caregiver could play the role of a mother and even raise the hero, like he was part of one big family.
Think Mrs. Weasley’s relationship with Harry Potter. More on that below.
Additionally, the caregiver archetype tends to be a people pleaser. He derives comfort in making others happy, and his actions in the film are consequently to this effect. Self-sacrifice is a distinguishing trait of the caregiver, as are empathy and optimism. They see little sparks of good from a concentration of evil in a person.
Caregivers offer hope even when there seems to be very little of it. When the hero or a character is beyond his limits, he offers the encouragement to keep on. His aid is not always material, he may offer mental support for those lacking.
The caregiver archetype is present in many great movies of past and present.
A retired marine with a big heart, Robert McCall is the star of the show and the caregiver in the 2014 anti-hero success, The Equalizer. “Bob” loves his neighborhood. He takes on a mentor role for the children there and is quite friendly with those around him.
He is eager to listen, constantly plunging himself into peoples’ businesses, eager to help. Never backing down from those in trouble even when it doesn’t concern him, Robert McCall is a genuine caregiver.
Yet he’s tough enough to soldier on as the long protagonist in a classic man vs. man narrative.
His kind-hearted nature and willingness to help others succeed show when he takes on an 8-5 at a Boston hardware store. He earns the affection of his coworkers with his friendliness and generosity.
McCall gets close to Ralphie, a colleague, helping him achieve his security guard ambitions. Bob assists him to prepare for the test that Ralphie was so nervous about. And that’s not the first time he goes out of his way to help out people he barely knows.
At a local dinner, Bob befriends a young girl Alina, who is a victim of sex trafficking. She is hospitalized one day after a night out in the town gone wrong.
Her pimp, Slavi, is responsible for her situation. Upon learning the news, McCall intervenes like the caregiver he is. He offers close to $10,000 to Slavi as a bargain for Alina’s freedom.
When he declines, McCall resorts to violence to free her from the clutches of the traffickers. He kills Slavi and his men. Alina starts a new life and job, made possible by Robert’s assistance.
Molly Weasley is a mother of seven whose care and love extend beyond the confines of her large family. She cooks for her household, sees to it that they are in good health, and takes in young, orphaned Harry like she is one of her own.
When she learns of Harry’s miserable home situation with his abusive Uncle, she treats him like an adopted son. Mrs. Weasley fights fiercely to defend her family and would do anything for them.
Her children and the people she loves are her priority. Nothing matters more. She would give up her life for them and does her best to make everyone happy.
The caregiver provides structure to the hero’s life. Mrs. Wesley does that for Harry Potter, providing a foundation that helps propel him into the hero he is meant to be. She offers a comfortable environment where he can feel safe and happy.
Molly Weasley is warm and inviting and is the very definition of the word friendly. Genuinely caring for those around her, Mrs. Weasley has a huge heart and a kind soul. She is a caregiver beyond the basics of being a mother.
She fights to the death to defend her own when they are threatened. Mrs. Weasley takes on a powerful witch who had downed many skilled wizards before her when her children are in danger.
Sadly, she loses one of her sons but saves the rest of her family, and many other lives, with her expert magical ability. She goes to show how powerful a caregiver role can be in a film. Not only offering support but also standing up and holding her own when push comes to shove.
The Blind Side recounts the real-life hardship of talented American footballer Michael Oher who overcame a tough life to make it to the NFL. Michael endured a miserable upbringing, living from one foster home to the other with his mother having abandoned him at an early age.
Leigh Anne Tuohy comes to the protagonist’s rescue in the film, taking on a caregiver role out of the compassion of her heart. Their paths cross due to Michael’s friendship with schoolmate SJ, who is Leigh’s son.
Leigh steps into the caregiver’s shoes when she comes across a cold and shivering Micheal one night on her way home. She notices the teen walking alone, poorly clothed, and visibly in distress. She finds out Michael is homeless and offers him a place on the couch in her home. Leigh doesn’t know Micheal, save from the distant connection to her son.
So when she offers to take him into their life, eventually adopting him, she goes out of her for someone she barely knows.
Aside from offering him a new home, Leigh Anne Tuohy takes on other caregiver duties as well. She is a crucial part of the plot, encouraging Micheal to exploit his size and embrace his talent as an offensive lineman. Furthermore, she aids his academic progress by hiring a tutor. All she does is gear towards providing structure to Michael’s life, thereby launching his career.
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