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!
9 thoughts on “Idealist Villains: When NF Types Turn Evil”
Thanks for sharing! I personally think NFs make some of the most compelling villains. Their deep feelings make them unswervingly loyal to their evil cause and their understanding of people can make them the most manipulative of characters.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hands down, John Doe(Kevin Spacey) from Se7en. INFJ extreme to the polar end.
His plan to motivate people by showing them the error of their ways through using people as subjective tools and metaphorical symbols via the Seven Deadly Sins is pretty on point…especially listening to him in the end during his explanation and the ‘why’. His abode denotes his deep connection to God, yet, his views are of a darker sort which would turn most away just on their ‘feeling’ alone to believe that subjective God would ‘never’ be behind such atrocious acts.
“The Lord works in mysterious ways.” John Doe
He and Somerset (Morgan Freeman) have interesting personality type contrasts – and I want to call them both out at being INFJ on polarizing ends…but Somerset feels more INTJ at times due to his perception based in logical reasoning. HOWEVER He does show far more ‘feeling’ in certain situations, which is why I’m hesitant to pop him as an INTJ. Like his meeting with Tracy (Mill’s/Brad Pitt”s wife) in the diner and different little nuances of character archetype in the film. I mean, he goes out of his way to help David even after their terrible first meeting in multiple ways. He cares more then just on a logical stand point; and it shows. Vehemently. Especially at the end…
David Mills character is the ‘hero’ type – and the primary extravert in the film. At least to me, and I’ve watched this movie an insanely huge number of times before I even got deep into personality typing and Jungian Philosophy in the first place. I’m not sure what I would type him as in full, as I’m not as privy to bothering with many other types but I still remain convinced that he is of the extraverted tree.
Hannibal Lechter is another. From the books and Silence of the Lambs film, I’m speaking of predominantly. The TV show did a good number as well (and Will Graham himself is an overly feeling type to be sure), but since we are speaking of Villains…well, had to bring him up. He can easily seem like an extrovert, but it’s obvious his preferences are to his lonesome in a sense. Save for those he ‘let’s in’ or, are not ‘prey’. He is, in my mind, another that would be a ‘sinister’ version of an INFJ using their ‘abilities’ and functional stacks to manipulate situations to their advantage.
No matter how ‘feeling’ one may be, if one is focused more on the darker side of the ‘human’ thought processing – nothing can really sway them from their vision or how they view humanity in general.
I mean, Lechter was a Psychologist and did help people better themselves. And in that, he was helping humanity, albeit a small portion of it. The fact he was a killer on the other hand just goes to show it doesn’t take much to voluntarily become a Monster when you are that privy to the Inner Worlds of the Unconscious – that place most INFJs prefer to be in.
The choice was made on their own volition. In truth, it is society that perceived it as evil – however in John Doe’s case…his point was very poignant with an extreme variable used to gauge people’s thoughts.
I can agree, as most people are far too subjective to discern an act on their personal feelings and using the worst society has to offer to prove a point engages multiple forms of thought in said ‘sheeple’.
But i’m an awfully weird INFJ myself so, it’s probably why I discern a lot of this as not as disturbing since on one hand, like with Doe, I agree with him. When the world is ripe with apathy to an extreme and most only bother acting on their ‘feelings’ instead of anything remotely logical (I’m sure I seem more INTJ mentioning logic…but I am a Feeler – I just am very aware of my Ti after my initial response to a situation with Fe and quickly think if through BOTH sides), you bring in a dastardy amount of weakness ripe to be taken advantage of.
But that is just my two cents to two highly ‘feeler’ type ‘villains’.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I haven’t seen Se7en or read/seen any of the Hannibal Lechter stories, but from what you say it does sound like they’re doing some interesting things with NF villains. And I’m pretty sure I’ve heard others talk about Kevin Spacey’s character as being an INFJ. Thanks so much for commenting!
When I learned I was an INFJ it really opened my eyes. I felt like finally someone gets me! How did they figure it out…thank you internet. Reading this article I couldn’t help but laugh, a few of those villains I secretly (and sometimes not secretly) empathized with. Take Loki for example (at least from what I’ve seen in movies) because of how he’s treated as a child he’s made to feel inferior to his brother – despite his brother trying to work with him not against him. People value strength over smarts and I can see how thats frustrating. Even though he was doing evil deeds, I just felt like he was misunderstood and with the right type of understanding there could be hope for him….haha maybe I feel this way because of my own family experiences. Anyway good article! Interesting thanks for writing it! 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Glad you like the post! I also find Loki a very sympathetic character. I can’t see myself ever turning against people that completely, but I empathize with his loneliness, frustration, and desperate hunger to be valued for who he is rather than what his family wanted him to be.
You linked my article!
Sorry I was super excited to see my article linked somewhere, and glad to see you agree with my assessment of the oft overlooked ENFP villain!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’m always happy when I see people linking to my articles too 🙂 I’m glad you liked this post
Other INFJ villains, Robespierre in nearly every media that plays him as a villain. The main character of Mo Dao Zu Shi/Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation is either INFJ or ENFJ and in his first lifetime saunters downward by death of a thousand cuts, and oh does it hurt to watch. (he undergoes a very similar process to the second half of the musical Wicked). I’d say Magneto in the comics is an INFJ, even when he’s at his most supervillainy end of the spectrum. Maedhros from The Silmarillion is definitely INFJ and is objectively a villain, for all he tries not to be (little Oath and Kinslaying thing though). In Reamde by Neal Stephenson, Abdallah Jones is definitely an INFJ and definitely a villain.
LikeLiked by 1 person
As an INFJ is feel i want to change the world for greater good. I want to bring happiness in the world. But when i look world around me i sometimes feels that not everyone is good. So i have 2 ways to change the world either be a good person so that other people could learn from it. Or destroy the evil of world to restore the balance of nature. People don’t understand the meaning of existence. I try to follow the 1st path as much as possible but some where back of the mind i think isn’t extinction a rule and the way humans are living we are not far away from it. To restore the balance of nature humanity need to change today otherwise someone will come to destroy it. I definitely will not go on that path but someone will.
I think you missed Thanos in INFJ list. He did everything to restore the balance of nature and he lost because only once he changed his mission from restoring balance of nature to destroying and recreating the world.