A few weeks ago I observed something curious in one of the personality type groups I frequent on Facebook. One member started a discussion about what kind of villain different personality types would be and there were a few types they didn’t even list. Their assumption was that most Feeling types wouldn’t become villains and especially not NF or FP types.
Rather than bask in the knowledge that we’re the lest villainous type a surprisingly high number of NFs jumped into the comments to defend our ability to turn evil. Most of their comments went something like this: “Well, I wouldn’t personally be a villain, but I could be because *insert reasons.* And on top of that, *insert fictional or real name* is a villain of my type.” I laughed at the number of INFJs who reminded people that Hitler was an INFJ while at the same time reassuring people they don’t feel Hitler-ish tendencies themselves.
Who Gets To Be The Villain?
I dare say when most people think about villains, they think of a detached mastermind. There’s a ridiculously high percentage of NT type villains (and correspondingly few NT heroes; it’s even harder to find heroic INTJs in fiction than it is to find NF villains). In real life, of course, people of any personality type can lean more towards the best version or the worst version of their type. No one personality type is inherently “better” than any other. However, society does stereotype certain characteristics associated with types as better or worse.
Prioritizing other’s safety over your own, a characteristic most commonly associated with FJ types, is often seen as a heroic trait. Hence, we see characters like Captain America with an ISFJ personality type. But what if you have an ISFJ character who decides only a certain group of people (or even just one person) is more valuable and it’s their duty to protect them? Suddenly the heroic trait doesn’t seem so safe any more. Especially when you consider the prime example of a villainous ISFJ is Norman Bates from Psycho.
On the other hand, being able to look dispassionately on a situation and make tough calls doesn’t necessarily make you a bad guy, but it’s not a trait most of us would call heroic. So we see TJ types accused of being cold and unfeeling and they end up as evil dictators or masterminds. Or both, like INTJ Emperor Palpatine. But sometimes you can’t save everyone and someone has to make the tough calls. What sort of hero steps up then? It’s often a Thinking type like ESTJ Princess Leia. Good and evil isn’t all that cut-and-dry, even in fiction.
The Thing About NF Villains
NF types are called the Idealists. As a group, they’re usually described as types who have a grand vision to make the world a better place and help as many people as they possibly can. It’s not easy to understand the motivation for a type like that turning to villainy. As one writer says, “When your mind is naturally set to do the best you can for humanity, it seems they’re the least likely to go that path of destruction and chaos” (click here to read article NF “Villains and Other Miscreants”).
The first definition that comes up for “idealist” when you type it into Google is “a person who is guided more by ideals than by practical considerations.” When a type like this goes evil, they’re among the hardest villains to understand or to stop. They believe they’re right and if you oppose them you don’t deserve any of the kindness and consideration that healthy NF types bring to relationships.
I’d say an evil NF type most likely goes one of two directions. 1) they truly believe that their evil plot is the only way to bring about the best outcome for humanity (take Ra’s Al Ghul from Batman as an example). Or, 2) they’re in such a twisted, unhealthy state they really don’t care about others anymore (like Smeagol/Gollum from Lord of the Rings). Both those versions can take different forms, but that seems like the most basic categories. The one that thinks they’re actually the hero and the one who doesn’t care about being a hero anymore.
Writing an NF villain can be a risky choice. Just look at the mixed reaction to Kylo Ren after Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out. People either thought (like me) that it was fantastic to see a different type of villain, or they called him as a whiny crybaby and refused to take him seriously. I suppose that’s one reason there aren’t very many of them. But it’s also the reason they make for an interesting story-telling choice.
Here’s a list of fictional villains who I’ve seen typed as NF personalities. Some of these are my personal typings and others are typed by random people on the internet. I’ve even included a few characters that I’m not personally all that familiar with, but other people seem to agree they’re NF types.
- Hans from Frozen
- Kylo Ren from Star Wars: The Force Awakens
- Constance Langdon from American Horror Story
- Alison Dilaurentis in Pretty Little Liars
- Lila from Dexter
- Megamind from Megamind
- maybe Commodus from Gladiator (he’s also typed as ENFJ)
- Lex Luthor from Batman v. Superman
- The Phantom (Erik) from The Phantom of the Opera
- Frankenstein’s Monster from Frankenstein
- Smeagol/Gollum from Lord of the Rings
As always, typing fictional characters is a highly subjective endeavor so feel free to disagree in the comments. Also, please suggest others characters you think might be NF villains!