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Jung Journal
Culture & Psyche
Volume 12, 2018 - Issue 1
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For the Love of God and Country, the Making of a President

ABSTRACT

This film analysis highlights The Crown and The Young Pope, two excellent TV series. Both showcase the struggle between personal identity and the powerful symbol of appointed office through the characters of a young Elizabeth II and a fictional pope. These shows premiered just before the election of Donald Trump, each in its own way shedding light on his outrageous behavior as president. An exploration of the protagonists’ vulnerabilities reveals how the archetypal dynamics of the shadow, trickster, and Self explain Mr. Trump’s “fool show,” appearing not only on television but also in real life.

A film analysis with political commentary: The Crown, The Young Pope, and the Election of Donald Trump

The timing of two popular television series, The Crown (Netflix) and The Young Pope (HBO), is uncanny. After years in production, these compelling shows arrived just before the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States. The protagonists of all three—a living queen, a fictional pope, and a newly elected president—share a common theme that showcases Jung’s views on the struggle between personal identity and collective traditions.

The Crown originated with writer Peter Morgan’s film The Queen (2006) and his play The Audience (2013). This latest work (released November 4, 2016) is a lavish production created and written by Peter Morgan for Netflix. It cost upward of $100 million and stars Clair Foye as the young Elizabeth II; Matt Smith as her husband, Prince Philip; and John Lithgow as the aged Winston Churchill. The narrative illuminates the challenges of a young princess who abruptly ascends to the throne following the death of her father, King George VI (Jared Harris). Elizabeth finds herself at the tender age of twenty-one newly married and Queen of England. She must not only grapple with the rigid protocols of her office, but also contend with a dashingly handsome husband who prefers serving in the Navy to posing with his wife at endless ceremonies. It is Winston Churchill, steeped in the symbolism and traditions of the British monarchy, who guides Elizabeth in matters of state, but he unfortunately has little to offer her in the ways of love.

The young queen struggles along a path of individuation that pits the forces of love and power against one another. Most often, she bends to tradition, though at times asserts an independence of will. She refuses to reside at the traditional residence, Buckingham Palace, instead choosing to dwell in the newly remodeled family home, Windlesham Moor. As her coronation nears, Elizabeth is faced with a painful dilemma: will she place her husband’s needs above those of the crown, or insist that he respect tradition and bow to her (as queen) at her upcoming coronation?

Over the objections of the traditionalist Winston Churchill, the coronation is televised, and for the first time, the public is allowed to see the crowning of their new queen—with one exception! They are not privy to the anointing of oil that seals her fate as Her Majesty, the Queen of England. Watching the reenactment of this most sacred ritual felt special, even numinous. The ten episodes in this first season depict different vignettes in which Elizabeth contends with her regal responsibilities as they conflict with her role as a new wife, an older sister, and as a daughter who isn’t afforded any time to mourn the loss of her beloved father.

Despite being tutored in the vagaries of the British constitution, Elizabeth is new to Court protocols and the challenges in dealing with visiting dignitaries. She juggles her roles like the court jester, relying on her wit and good heart to see her through difficult decisions that offer no clear right choice. Sadly, we watch the growing gulf in her marriage, the short-lived attempts to obtain a worldlier education, conflicts with her lively, extroverted younger sister, Margaret (Vanessa Kirby), and encounters with the unsympathetic queen mother (Victoria Hamilton). No one ever said the path of individuation was easy, and for Elizabeth, despite her power and privilege, this journey seems all the more difficult.

Such is not the case with The Young Pope, which was created and directed by Paolo Sorrentino for HBO and released on October 21, 2016. We are introduced to Lenny, a brash narcissist who works his way up from archbishop of New York to election as pope. The Crown and The Young Pope are lavish productions, dripping with ancient traditions and featuring veteran actors—the Englishman Jude Law seems to take almost malicious delight in his performance as the first American Pontiff. Whereas The Crown’s Elizabeth embodies the tension between personal love and state power, The Young Pope’s Lenny Belardo is intent on radically transforming the Church by using his newfound authority. He is convinced the Church has lost its way by falling into ecumenism and only he can get it back on track. He is not in this job to be liked, but to be in service to God and God only—as he sees God, that is. Unfortunately, although the young pope demands nothing less than total devotion to the Lord, he behaves like a mean-spirited, rebellious adolescent hell-bent on overthrowing the Church’s sacred traditions. He chain-smokes, drinks Cherry Coke Zero, and conspires with his confessor.

Unlike Elizabeth’s wise counsel, the new Pontiff eschews the traditionally appointed Cardinal and instead selects his adoptive mother, Sister Mary (Diane Keaton), as his consigliere. This raises the ire and scheming of his camerlengo and secretary of state, Cardinal Voiellos, brilliantly played by Silvio Orlando. Lenny is not quite as young as Elizabeth, and unlike her, he is vindictive, outrageous, and even sinister. And yet, in service to God, Lenny’s agenda is little different than the queen’s. Each is an interlocutor between God and State; each attempts to hold, create, or regain a space for Divinum est mysterium that would otherwise be lost. Elizabeth is “Defender of the Faith,” in that she is charged with protecting the great mystery called God and upholding sacred traditions. Lenny, too, is in God’s service, but for him, traditions have degraded and threaten to dispel the mystery of “his” Lord and the Vatican. Lenny is not interested in political correctness. In his persona as pope, he makes God dangerous again and attempts to reignite a lost passion, not for one’s brother but for divinity.

Lenny and Elizabeth also share personality vulnerabilities: his, expressed in an extroverted way, and hers more introverted. She lost her father, and he never knew either of his parents. Where she is demure, he demeans everyone around him. Their pets reflect their inner character—he keeps a kangaroo that hops about freely in the Papal gardens, whereas she prefers the down-to-earth company of horses. Against their respective histories, real and imagined, each contends with the archetypal shadow. For Elizabeth, shadow is revealed in her awkward attempts to balance personal and stately power. She often veers toward a rigidity that makes her romantically unappealing, even stodgy, at times. Lenny, by contrast, is loose and reckless.

As if these shows weren’t exciting enough on their own merit, they take on fresh meaning in the synchronicity of context—the 2016 presidential election. This election was by far the costliest in history, with estimates ranging upward of $1 billion. During the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, a meme surfaced that pitted the old with the new. The Democrats, extolling the successes of the last president, were content to extend his legacy another four years. On the other side of the aisle, the Republicans advocated for radical change. Evolution versus revolution. The drama was intense and sustained, holding a populace that was, and continues to be, nervous. Hillary was as steadfast as Elizabeth in upholding old traditions and appearing impervious to the antics and bombast of her political opponent, the outsider and irreverent businessman Donald Trump. The country was in suspense for well over a year. Many waited with baited breath for Hillary’s “coronation,” while others, laughing at Trump’s antics, still rooted for this boorish man who delighted in bluster and bombast.

Shadow isn’t the only archetype that makes an appearance in our current political scene and in these TV shows. There is a dark side to the shadow that calls up the demonic energies of another archetype—the trickster. At times surrealistic and comedic, amoral and cruel, the least conscious form of the trickster pops in and out of these television series, as well as the melodrama of realpolitik. Queen, pope, and president are doing a high-wire act while juggling persona and shadow, love and power, God and country—each under the sway of both shadow and trickster archetypes. The trickster steps to center stage in his most fantastic role—real and imagined—as fool and court jester. The fool is typically portrayed in myth and fairy tale as naive and innocent, but faced with challenge he has the potential to evolve into a wise sage. The fool often acts like a sacred clown (heyoka), a contrary that mirrors the Self. Similarly, the court jester mimics the king or queen, offering a counterpoise that can help his or her sovereign be more aware of the shadow.

In the early years of her reign, Elizabeth is ill equipped to deal with the challenges facing her. Despite her sincerity, she often makes a fool of herself; she makes promises she cannot keep and in her retractions is forced to sacrifice some part of her personal self. She frequently sacrifices spontaneity, represses emotions, and must constantly bear in mind that her station as queen trumps her true desire to live as a simple countrywoman. Be a queen, not a person, she is told repeatedly—public persona must take precedence over individuality. For Lenny, the young, rebellious pope, power is expressed in extroverted and often cruel ways. He berates his cardinals, insists they bow to him, kiss his ring, and lavish him with attention. And yet, despite his overblown confidence, he is as lonely and doubtful as Elizabeth. At one point, he openly admits that he does not love God and that he should step down from his position. The inner integrity that supports persona is clearly different for these two: Elizabeth struggles with immaturity; at the core of Lenny’s narcissism is an empty self.

These series draw from the past with impressive accuracy and, at the same time, offer interesting parallels to the new president. Donald is as inexperienced and naïve to his office as Elizabeth and as brash and outrageous as Lenny. He differs, however, from them in that he lacks mastery, much less awareness, over his impulses. As a result, he often comes across as clownish, ridiculous, silly, in short, a fool—not just any fool, but rather one who is dangerously ignorant, boastfully inexperienced, and outright destructive. He lacks the innocence of a Parsifal and, instead, is corrupted by hubris—a know-it-all who thinks he is smarter “than all the generals.” He touts being fabulously rich but refuses to release his tax returns. Trump sees himself as a deal-making, opportunistic businessman who prides himself on taking advantage of others. Unlike the court jester who, in service to the crown, knowingly mimics the king, Trump mocks everyone for his own ambition and self-aggrandizement. Without any experience in governance or policy-making, he essentially proclaimed himself president or, more accurately, king. Although the press described Clinton’s path to the presidency as a coronation, it was actually Trump who found himself seated on the throne. Perhaps no one was more surprised than Trump when his fool show actually won him the election!

Historically, the fool was a favorite to the king in the Tudor court (Lipscomb 2011). Thought to have a special relationship with God, he alone was allowed to speak the unvarnished truth to his sovereign, albeit in riddles and at a price. In Liber Novus Jung remarked that “the soul demands your folly, not your wisdom” (2009, 230), and the court fool provided plenty of folly with Trump’s pranks and his manipulating chaos, keeping everyone on the edge of their seats. Unfortunately, Trump’s folly is more a folle à deux than anything resembling wisdom. Lenny the pope plays this part well—the divine fool (for Christ). Elizabeth meanwhile might have done well to have a fool in her court.

Throughout his campaign, Trump donned many masks worn by the trickster. He continues to indulge himself in casting aspersions, bald-face lying, deriding his opponents with name-calling, mocking journalists, and, as he declared from the start of his campaign, being politically incorrect. Not one poll predicted his successful ascendency to the White House. He is the very opposite of what we’ve come to expect of a president. Honesty, decorum, integrity, and vision are a few of the qualities that we’ve seen in some of our best presidents. Donald Trump does not have much in the way of any of these attributes. In fact, he rails against those who do—calling out his rivals with childish names, most especially “crooked” Hillary Clinton … but his crowd loves it! This fool’s show taps into the prurient, darkest, basest instincts of millions of voters, offering them the kind of sordid spectacle one might see at a public hanging. “Lock her up!” was the latest version of “The King must die!” Clearly, many people had reached their limit with eight years of a gridlocked Congress and a president who some believed didn’t deliver on his promises.

From my point of view, it is unfortunate that a lowly fool doesn’t know how to stop being a fool, and campaigning against one individual isn’t the same as representing all the people. Despite having won the Electoral College vote, Trump continues to campaign by holding rallies and posting Tweets. As president, he issues declarations (Executive Orders) as if he were a king. But what does this say about the voters who put him in office? Rallies, Tweets, and declarations don’t occur in a vacuum—these were directed toward his base who enjoyed this fool’s show, ignored the potential danger, and garnered enough electoral votes to put him in office!

The trickster loves to turn reality on its head. As an antihero, he is in special service to the Self—doing its dirty work by putting us in touch with the shadow. Trump and his fictional counterpart Lenny, do exactly this: they ape the Self by resorting to every trick in the book! Gaslighting, hyperbole, doubling down, and dog whistling are some of the tricks Trump used in his campaign; like looking in a fun house mirror each distorts some aspect of the Self. Every politician wants citizens to embrace his or her idea of how great things are, yet people still have to deal with everyday reality that often doesn’t measure up. Trump masterfully played the outsider, someone who got people believing he was “their voice” while living a ridiculously lavish life built on taking advantage of the very people who voted for him!

Heads of state and royalty are apt “hooks” for collective projections of the Self. It seems that Trump’s narcissism has him confuse this powerful projection with his identity. Instead of carrying the projection responsibly, he identifies with it and is inflated by its intoxicating effect. Like him or not, Lenny the pope knows exactly what he is doing. For her part, Elizabeth as queen struggles to keep her personal shadow out of public view, striving instead to carry graciously a regal projection of God and country without becoming inflated by its energy.

These conflicts between personal identity and the archetype of the Self, as well as distinguishing public and personal persona, raise critical questions about Trump’s psychological fitness to be president: Does he know how dangerous identification with an archetype can be? Is he self-serving or being used by those around him? Can he differentiate himself as an individual from the role he inhabits?

Judging by the TV programs Trump was reported to have watched, shows like Fox & Friends and The O’Reilly Factor, we can be fairly certain that he hasn’t seen The Crown or The Young Pope. Nonetheless, were he more reflective, he would do well to view these well-conceived series for the historical and psychological insights they offer. The Crown might give him insight into why people in his position sacrifice themselves to preserve their country’s sacred traditions. It would highlight the cost of personal sacrifice that a true leader is willing to suffer for his country. It would lend balance between power and patriotism, adding depth of character and genuine sincerity, and perhaps jump-start the making of a good president. The Young Pope might also serve as a mirror, reflecting how behaviors like name calling, taunting, creating mischief, and playing God are crude, inhumane, and not fitting to the office of president. Both series might call to his attention the fact that a pope and a queen are linked to God by divine rite and sacred order, and that a president is not so ordained.

Additional information

Notes on contributors

Thom F. Cavalli

THOM F. CAVALLI, PhD, is a practicing psychologist, coach, and lecturer specializing in psychological alchemy. Correspondence: illavac@hotmail.com. Website: www.CavalliBooks.com.

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