Why We Should Chase Our Shadows

Why We Should Chase Our Shadows
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Fox News has no shadow.

That's what I thought when I read a recent piece by conservative Mark Tapson, "Draco Malfoy's Bad Boy Appeal." Tapson explores the phenomenon of young women and even girls being drawn to Malfoy, the handsome young villain in the Harry Potter series. To Tapson, this is bad news:

Malfoy/Felton will always be nothing more than an unattainable fantasy for young fans. But the belief that a Bad Boy can be tamed and reformed by the Right Girlfriend is an all-too-common wishful delusion, and anyone who succumbs to it is likely setting herself up for frustration and heartbreak in the real world. Yes, Bad Boys sometimes grow up and wise up, but the challenge of molding one into a Good Man more suitable for a relationship and perhaps even marriage and fatherhood is a gamble with a low rate of success.

Those are wise words. But they may also be an incomplete truth.

Of course it's foolish for a woman to hitch herself to a bad boy in the hopes of redeeming him. But it's also understandable if a woman doesn't want the bad boy antipode: the sunny Dudley Do-Right who doesn't cast a shadow. A girl shouldn't date Chris Brown; but she might not want Kirk Cameron, either. Christ himself endured Holy Saturday, a descent into the depths of the underworld.

In Jungian psychology there is a powerful concept that we are losing in our modern world of digital distractions, speech codes, and beaming conservative commentators. It is the concept of the shadow. The shadow represents the subconscious, as well as the darker aspects of our personalities. The shadow can be our lust, violence, depression and anger, among other things. But according to Jung himself, it is crucial to psychic health that we integrate the shadow into our consciousness.

"Everyone carries a shadow," Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." Jung also believed that "in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness-or perhaps because of this -- the shadow is the seat of creativity." For some, "the dark side of his being, his sinister shadow...represents the true spirit of life as against the arid scholar."

It's easy to use this kind of thing as an excuse for bad behavior, of course -- I didn't mean to hit my girlfriend, my shadow made me do it. But Jung's goal was to achieve a healthy integration of the bright face that we display to the world and our darker instincts. That means we don't attack innocent people, or rape, or live in filth. Malfoy's problem is that he is out of balance: he is mostly shadow. But the other extreme can also be unhealthy, not to mention unattractive to women. A man who never takes a look at a woman's body -- in a brief, harmless way, that is -- or never feels a desire to kill someone who is annoying him, or who is not willing to turn himself into a howling animal on an athletic field, is someone who isn't quite fully alive.

And women sense this. The women I know who marry nice, upstanding men with fine jobs and bright smiles and good hygiene often look bored. They might not want bums, but they aren't quite ready for angels, either. This is why characters like James Bond, Captain Kirk, and Jason Bourne are so popular. What the scholars and liberal do-gooders would banish winds up celebrated in the polar culture.

Harry Potter is a not Malfoy's opposite, but rather a Malfoy who is more healthily integrated. Over the course of the story Harry doesn't become a beacon of light, but successfully integrates his darker side, which is crucial to making him a weapon able to vanquish Voldemort. He learns to harness his rage and absorb the darkness of the Dementers, who seem to be pure shadow. At one point Harry even confronts a dark figure that turns out to be another version of Harry himself -- a shadow version. It was interesting that in his piece Tapson, quoting author J.K. Rowling, referred to Malfoy as "a damaged human being."

Yet Harry is also a damaged human being. He has the scars to prove it. As we all do.

Too often in modern society we try and stamp out the shadow, particularly when it comes to men. Boys are taught to suppress their darker instincts for violence and dangerous play. Feminists call ribald jokes hateful and sexist. Conservatives don't interact with popular culture because they don't want to get sweaty. Fox News comes to us, a place of bright colors, ridiculously leggy women, anchors without depth or darkness -- a plastic world without an underground.

We offer this world, then we are surprised when girls, surrounded by polite and politically correct young men, find something compelling about a Malfoy. It was telling last year when the media shamed Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks, who made a spectacular play and celebrated in an explosion of entertaining darkness. Sherman, a man who unlike his critics seems fully alive, is laughing last. It's no surprise that his girlfriend is a stunner.

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