I saw Black Panther yesterday. So naturally today’s post is a new installment in the superhero Myers-Briggs types series. I know I get pretty excited about most of the MCU films, but this one is seriously good. I love the hero characters and the principles they stand for like loyalty and peace. The acting is great, the plot’s tight, I love the music (I’m listening to the score as I type), and while it still has a superhero-movie feel it doesn’t shy away from digging into some really deep and difficult subjects.
Basically, you should go see the movie. And if spoilers bother you, see it before reading any further in this post. We are going to talk about key plot points and character moments. You’ve been warned.
Okay, let’s start typing. T’Challa’s judging functions are pretty easy to pin-point: Fi/Te. But the fact that he uses Introverted Feeling and Extroverted Thinking when making decisions only tells us he’s either a TJ or FP type. We’re going to need a little more to go on than that.
After Captain America: Civil War came out, most people typed T’Challa as an ISFP. A couple of the discussions I found online also pointed out that he’s an ENTJ in the comics (which I haven’t read, so this typing is only going to focus on his film portrayal). I ended up going with ISFP. And here’s why:
A Personal Code
Everyone has and uses both a Thinking and a Feeling mental process as part of their personality type. They’re both a “Judging” function, which means you use them to make decisions and answer “should” questions. The one you’re most comfortable with is either your driver process or co-pilot, and then its opposite is either your inferior or tertiary process. Personality Hacker uses nicknames for the Jungian cognitive functions, and I think they make it easier to talk about exactly what I mean when saying T’Challa uses Fi/Te when making decisions.
Introverted Feeling is nicknamed “Authenticity” and it’s an ISFP’s primary function. It’s an internally focused, subjective process that mostly boils down to making decisions based on what “feels right” to you. Unlike the Extroverted Feeling process, it’s not primarily worried about what other people think. Authenticity is concerned with making a decisions that lines up with one’s own personal beliefs. And that’s what we see in T’Challa.
Though T’Challa certainly cares for other people, when he makes decisions they’re in line with what he believes is right rather than what will make the majority of the people around him happy. Fi is the mental process that drives his decision at the end of the film to share Wakanda’s resources with the world (see — I told you we were going to talk spoilers). And this personal code is also why he let his father’s killer live at the end of Civil War. He discovered that killing an unarmed man for revenge wasn’t in line with his moral compass (though making sure he faces justice is). Similarly in this new film, he offered to save his cousin’s life even after the man tried to kill him and steal Wakanda.
Extroverted Thinking, or “Effectiveness,” is a much more impersonal function than Introverted Feeling, though it’s still used for making decisions. It’s an ISFP’s fourth function — the one they’re least comfortable using.
Effectiveness users look for the most efficient answer to a question. In other words, this process makes decisions based on what’s going to work. This is why in Civil War T’Challa tells Natasha that he doesn’t approve of all the politics. It’s because a hundred people arguing in a room doesn’t seem like an effective or efficient way to actually get things done.
I also don’t think his decision to go after Bucky himself was just fueled by an emotional type of revenge. It was also a coldly logical assessment of the most efficient way to handle the problem since he knows that, as Black Panther, he can take down a super assassin. Since Te is where an ISFP goes when stressed, it makes sense that one of the times we most clearly see T’Challa using it is after his father’s murder.
Interacting With The Real World
SP types have a certain advantage in physically-demanding tasks since this mental process is so focused on real-time interaction with the outer world. While being the Black Panther certainly enhances T’Challa’s abilities as a warrior, this new film shows us that he’s quite capable without them. He displays the sort of “real-time kinetic” intelligence that Personality Hacker says characterizes types that use the Extroverted Sensing, or “Sensation,” process. On a side-note, the ritualistic combat you see in Black Panther is inspired by real-world African martial arts, which is pretty cool.
SP types thrive on being in the middle of the action. And since Sensation is their Learning/Perceiving function, this is also how they prefer to learn new information. The things they can experience and verify with their five senses are the things that seem most reliable. And they often use their skill for interacting with the real world in creative, productive ways, earning ISFPs nicknames like Artist, Composer, and Producer.
As an SP type, T’Challa isn’t content with delegating tasks and that he can do himself. He goes after his enemies personally, even when not required by tradition and ritual. And he doesn’t just want to read reports or have people come to him to say what’s going on in Wakanda. We see him visiting his people and interacting with their worlds first-hand. He’s also interactive when planing missions. For example, there’s an early scene in Black Panther where he’s watching a projection of a convoy he’s about to attack as part of a rescue mission and he picks up one of the projected trucks to move it around and get a closer look.
Possibilities and Patterns
As far as we know, T’Challa is the first Black Panther to reveal his powers to the world at large. And he’s certainly the first king of Wakanda to share their country’s secrets with the world. While there is a struggle between the part of him that believes in a vision for Wakanda’s future where they help the world and his duty as king to protect his own people above the others, the idealistic visionary side wins out.
An ISFP has Introverted Intuition as their tertiary or “10-year-old” mental process. It’s also called “Perspectives” and it functions as a pattern-recognition system. ISFPs typically have conscious access to their Perspectives function, but it’s not always reliable. T’Challa is mature enough to recognize this and does not rely on his Ni too much or make a rash decision based on it.
However, he’s also comfortable enough with Intuition to not shy away from what his friend Nakia and sister Shuri have to say about considering a future where Wakanda and its technology play a larger role in the world. And as an Ni-user myself, I find it very satisfying that Wakanda’s first outreach center will be built in the location where T’Challa’s father killed his own brother and abandoned the brother’s son to protect Wakanda’s secret. It brings the pattern together in a way that feels right.
If you enjoyed this post, check out my other MCU typings: