Vladimir Propp developed a character theory for studying media texts and productions. He discovered that all characters fall into 7 broad character types, all of which can be found in a variety, if not all, different types of media.
The Seven Character Types of Vladimir Propp
- The villain: Locked in a constant struggle with the hero, often trying to harm princess.
- The donor: Gives the hero an object or a piece of information that helps them prepare for what is to come.
- The helper: Assists the hero with their quest, often referred to as their ‘sidekick’.
- The princess: Needs assistance from the hero, usually because they are in some form of danger, typically the princess is the victim within the narrative.
- The dispatcher: Is the character who sends that hero on their mission or quest.
- Hero: Reacts to the donor and saves the princess, often resulting in them falling in love with the princess.
- False hero: May appear good but has an ulterior motive, or attempts to take credit for the hero’s actions.
Application of the Theory: The Hunger Games:
The Hunger Games
In The Hunger Games Katniss acts as both the seeker hero and the victim hero. She starts a revolution in order to aid the victims of the villain of the films but because of this she is also the victim hero, being targeted by the villain.
President Snow acts as the villain in the Hunger Games trilogy however along with himself, there is the whole ‘government’ of characters in the films who also act as villains in the narrative.
Peter acts as the helper in the hunger games, joining Katniss throughout the games and aiding her to victory, he also adds a romantic sub-plot.
The princess, normally female, is normally the prime victim of the villain and has to be saved at the climax of the film. This creates damsel in distress situations seen in many narratives.
The hunger games slightly subverts this character role. The princess of the film could be seen to be Katniss’ sister whom she saves by taking her place in the Hunger Games. This however, does not happen at the climax of the film, suggesting Katniss herself could be the princess as she has to save herself near the end of the film.
The dispatcher send the hero on their task/journey to restore the equilibrium. Therefore they tend to be the wise voice of reason in the narrative.
This is another character that The Hunger Games somewhat subverts. There can be many dispatchers in the film for example President Snow who works the hunger games, there can also be district 13, who started a rebellion, causing the hunger games to be started or Katniss’ sister who Katniss saved therefore having to take part in the hunger games. Therefore there is not one clear dispatcher causing slight confusion in the audience.
The false hero is a character that appears to be good throughout the film however is revealed at the end of the film to be bad.
The Hunger Games also subverts this character. There are no real false heroes in the hunger games however there are many false villains. People living in the capitol who disagree with the games all act as false villains in particular Katniss’ stylist, Cinna who demonstrates defiance against the Capitol throughout the film.