Looking to end my weekend with some solid nothing doing, I checked out the movie Sisters with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler – it’s a pretty standard situation comedy with some solid relationship humor. As the audience, we get to see the inevitability of the relationships
What was fun to me was to see the Karpman Drama Triangle in action. It’s a way of looking at character conflict – both in real life and in fiction. Stephen Karpman was interested in acting and thought in terms of three roles:
Tina Fey’s character Kate sees herself as a helpless, martyr-like, and indecisive. She can’t keep a job and it’s never her fault. From her first scene, someone else is always responsible for her living situation, money, and bad situations.
Kate seeks to satisfies her need not to feel blamed. Victims drawn to those who blame them or save them. That gives them permission to defend their self pity.
A victim is freed once they test the limits of control in some situations and act. Focus on being involved with realistic positive outcomes.
Maura as played by Amy Poehler portrays a person who saves people who don’t need to be saved. As an enabler, Maura feels guilty if not helping others and needs to be a hero. A rescuer is best when showing caring without overstepping.
The more she fixes Kate’s problems, the less Kate is able to fix them. While Maura outwardly hopes Kate will learn to be self-reliant, her actions show that she believes Kate is incapable. This feeds into Maura’s need to be important. Meanwhile, Maura avoids working on her own problems. A victim and rescuer can be codependent, they’ll be able to find endless sources of persecution as they encounter anything they can’t control in the world.
A rescuer must learn to allow others to take responsibility for themselves. Maura’s strength as an inspiration and coach to others helps create real steps toward others learning to deal with their own issues.
Kate’s daughter Haley assigns blame on others. As she’s a minor, we get to see how these patterns develop. Haley is trapped in this situation by adults. The true helplessness that feel in our young lives solidifies these roles.
Both Kate and Maura place young Haley in the persecutor role by not dealing with their own issues. Early on Haley seems underdeveloped. Once they revisit her story, the details seem inevitable.
A persecutor is best when sharing what they want in a positive way. Rather than persecution, they can encourage others to voice their needs equally. Rather than assuming herself as an authority, Haley has to consider all the factors involved including her own involvement.
Each of these stances tells a blameless and heroic self-story. The healthiest social goal is interdependence – not quite anxiously dependent on others and not using independence to avoid the issues.
We all have some tendency toward these motivations. While usually we each have a preferred one with problems we have no control over, we all can exhibit them all in different situations. The triangle might even occur with any different number of people. When we’re conflicted we might even use these roles in our self talk
The catalyst for the film is the parents. They’ve initially created the dynamics with their avoidant behavior. We guess that they’ve left Kate and Maura without directly addressing it.
The parent’s new response at the beginning in deciding they’re no longer responsible for two adults is finally reasonable.
I grew up loving Designing Women! We watched it growing up. It had a few gay characters and tended to be funny and topical. There was an episode about gay men with AIDS. I looked it up just now and it was titled "Killing All The Right People". So you can guess what that was about! Watch this clip, it's worth it. https://youtu.be/VnMn-ObT0r8