Hero & Villain Archetypes in Film: The Professional

Hero & Villain Archetypes in Film: The Professional

A Chapter by Keaton S. Ziem

Analysis of specific character archetypes in film, citing examples. In this case; we examine The Professional.




“Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.” Detective William Somerset, Se7en


“Ladies and gentlemen, if I say I’m an oil man you will agree” Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood


The Professional is the master at whatever they do. They are usually confident and relish in their professionalism, although sometimes it’s the source of their jaded perspective on life. The Professional is sought after and is highly valuable to characters who have a problem that only The Professional can fix. It must be noted that The Professional performs their profession not just for the service of others, but for their own deeper satisfaction. They become good at what they do for a reason; because becoming skilled at their profession might lead to salvaging themselves from their own internal crises’.  


Professionals in Film:


Professionals in film are sometimes stuck in situations they’re incapable of escaping; situations that their professions have cornered them into, as is the case with Randy The Ram (Mickey Rourke) in The Wrestler or Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) in The Conversation. Sometimes ‘the professional’ moniker is applied to the character’s own personal demeanor, as is the case with Nick Van Orton (Michael Douglas) in The Game; his personality is very impartial, businesslike; Professional. Either way, Professionals are good at what they do but don’t find comfort or ultimate happiness in their professions; for true character growth, something else must be discovered outside of their professions.


Examples of Professionals in Film:


Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) There Will Be Blood (2007): The very first twenty minutes we spend with Daniel Plainview gives us a glaring example of his professionalism; he has utter dedication to his own profession and legitimacy, to the point that he becomes blind to anything outside his aspirations. He’s also good at what he does; he has gained enough personal experience in oil drilling that he has become an expert in the field. His catharsis is that in thinking of himself as an expert and aspiring to be The Professional; he has simultaneously learned to look down on anything and everything that is less than best. If he is the best, no one else comes close; and this is the source of Daniel’s bitterness by the end of the film.


Detective Lt. William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) Se7en (1995): Detective Somerset has worked homicide in his city for years, making him an aged veteran; yet even he cannot deny his innate talent at solving the riddle. Somerset himself compares it to a dog wearing down a bone; something he cannot prevent himself from working on. This frightens him as much as it inspires him to excel at his work; so the case of the seven deadly sins boggles Somerset’s conception of the deranged while also inspiring him to do his best work as a detective.


Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) The Exorcist (1973): When a teenage girl becomes seemingly possessed by a mysterious entity, the first order of business is to determine whether it’s genuine or if it’s psychosomatic. When all else fails, the girl’s family goes to the church, where they are led to Father Merrin; a priest who has extensive experience exorcising demons and has a past with this particular one. However, in saving the life of the girl, an exchange must be made�"a trade, for both Father Merrin and for his assistant, Father Karras (Jason Miller).

© 2011 Keaton S. Ziem

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Added on October 2, 2011
Last Updated on October 2, 2011


Keaton S. Ziem
Keaton S. Ziem

Los Angeles, CA

I was raised in a cabin in one of the largest Ponderosa Pine forests in the continental United States. I had nothing to do with the amount of trees that grew there. I am an only child with two brot.. more..