Narrative Archetypes: The Outsider

Who is the outsider archetype?

The outsider archetype is a character, who is positioned outside the mainstream society within a narrative. They may be literally outside of that society, or inconspicuously so. Their outsider status may be a result of their own choice, or a choice made by society that they cannot be accepted.

The outsider may be a hero (the lone hero) or a villain (the outlaw).

The function of the outsider archetype:

  • To offer an alternative perspective
  • To act as a catalyst for change
  • To create conflict
  • To offer an outsider’s commentary on a society
  • To explore the idea of belonging vs conformity
  • To explore the idea of individual vs society
  • To highlight injustices within society, which act to ostracise the outsider

Example: Strictly Ballroom

In Strictly Ballroom, Fran is the conspicuous outsider, whose daggy clothes, big glasses and clumsiness make her socially unacceptable to the rest of the ballroom dancing community. Following the typical outsider narrative, Fran becomes a catalyst for change when she begins dancing with Scott Hasting (the poster boy for the ballroom dancing community). Her alternative view of dance (dancing with passion) challenges and upsets the community’s established forms of ballroom dancing. As such, a conflict is set up between the individual and society (Fran and Scott, and the rest of the community). The resolution is that Fran and Scott, as the outsiders, win over the community and changes the community into one which dances “from the heart”.


This blog briefly examines the “outsider” narrative in a number of American films and other media. It has some great examples of both old/new films, which feature outsider archetypes.

TV Tropes also offers a humourous breakdown of various “outsider” characters/narratives across various media. They come with examples which is great and makes for fun reading.

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