Sherlock Holmes and The Trouble With Typing Fictional Characters

Discussions about Sherlock Holmes’ Myers-Briggs® type can get pretty heated in the online community. He’s either an INTJ or INTP and whichever side you come down on (if you care about this sort of thing) is worth passionately defending. I’ve weighed-in on this myself in a blog post arguing that Sherlock as portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in the Sherlock BBC series, Robert Downy Jr. in the Sherlock Holmes movies, and even the Basil of Bakerstreet version from Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective are all INTPs.

I do think that’s the best-fit type for all three of those versions, but they aren’t the only portrayals of Sherlock Holmes. We ought not forget, for example, the original character in the stories penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve been reading and re-reading several of those for my Classics Club book list and Sherlock doesn’t seem very much like an INTP in those stories. In fact, the only thing I can say with absolute certainty is that he’s a Thinking personality type.

Typing People Who Aren’t Real

Sherlock Holmes and The Trouble With Typing Fictional Characters | LikeAnAnchor.com
image courtesy of The Sherlock Holmes Museum

That brings us to the second part of this post’s title: the trouble with typing fictional characters. Though I love looking at fictional characters’ personality types, there are limits to how accurately you can type them. It gets especially tricky in the case of someone like Sherlock Holmes or Batman because so many writers and actors have been involved in portraying this character over quite a long period of time. There’s bound to be some inconsistencies in how each creative sees the character they’re working with. Plus, I doubt very many of them think about the character’s Myers-Briggs® type and how they can keep it consistent in every portrayal.

Going back to Sherlock Holmes as our example, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sometimes writes him in a way that looks like ISTJ, sometimes more like one of the NTJ types, and sometimes with traits of a TP type. He also calls Dr. Watson by two different first names (John is used three times, James once), so I think it’s safe to say Doyle wasn’t all that concerned with consistency. In any case, Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories were written about 30 years before Jung published Psychological Types, so we know he wasn’t relying on those theories when writing the character.

So Why Type Fiction?

Since it’s difficult to type fictional characters with a high degree of accuracy, why do it? For one thing, it’s fun. It’s one of the ways to turn an interest in Myers-Briggs® into an entertaining pastime as well as a useful hobby.

Typing fictional characters can also sharpen our skills typing real people. It gives us a chance to study how characters react and puzzle out which psychological functions they’re using based on what they say and how they act. In addition, well-written characters provide familiar examples of the different types to use in every-day conversation. If someone asks me what an ENTP or ISFJ, for example, looks like in real-life then Tony Stark and Samwise Gamgee are there to help clarify things.

Do you enjoy trying to figure out fictional characters’ personality types? Tell us about your favorite characters and what you think their types are in the comments!

10 Stories You’ll Relate To If You’re An INFJ

What stories do you relate to as an INFJ? Not just a character in the story that you identify with, but also themes and plot points that speak to something inside you.

That’s what this blog post is about. It’s not necessarily a list of INFJs’ favorite books and movies (though there is some overlap). It’s not even about INFJ fictional characters, though they do appear in several of these stories. This list is about stories that INFJs can read or watch and see something of their dreams, desires, worldview, and personality. We love to find ourselves inside stories, and the 10 on this list are among the stories that INFJs find most relatable.

“We are all stories in the end, just make it a good one eh?”

― The Doctor (Matt Smith)

1. Amélie

Even though it’s always at the top of INFJ movie lists, I’d never seen Amélie (2001) until I watched it to write this post. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I can’t think of any film character who’s more relatable for me as an INFJ than Amélie is in this film.

What INFJ hasn’t experienced random strangers pouring out their life’s stories? And how many of us have got so caught-up in our imaginations that we sit crying over our future on the couch? Or imagine that the person running late was kidnapped by bank robbers and through a weird series of events ended up living as a hermit in Afghanistan? Read more

When Heroes Can’t Save Themselves: Death and Loss in Infinity War

Even if you haven’t yet seen Avengers: Infinity War you’ve probably picked up on the vibe that not everything ends happy. Well before the film’s release there were charts out detailing which characters were safe, which ones in danger, and which ones we definitely expected to die. Even my cousin, who’s outside the MCU Fandom, wanted to see it because she had to find out who lived and who died.

Warning: Mild Spoilers Follow For Avengers: Infinity War

When Heroes Can't Save Themselves: Death and Loss in Infinity War | marissabaker.wordpress.comWhile the film has been well received overall, some are describing the deaths that do happen (and in some cases the whole movie) as pointless because we “know” pretty much how this is going to go. Coulson and Loki have already come back from death scenes in the MCU. It’s something we expect from the genre. And some of the characters that died at the end have sequel movies that are filming right now. We assume they won’t stay dead, and so might conclude that their deaths don’t matter.

It’s also been quite a shock to see earth’s and the galaxy’s mightiest heroes lose such an important battle. This isn’t the end of the story, since a sequel film is coming in May 2018, but the only one who gets a happy ending in this film is Thanos. This isn’t just the Empire scattered the rebellion and Han Solo is frozen in carbonite. This is Darth Vader got exactly what he wanted and retired to Mustafar to spend the rest of his life watching lava bubble.

Second Warning: Major Spoilers Follow For Avengers: Infinity War

Read more

Fictional MBTI – T’Challa (ISFP)

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.Fictional MBTI - T'Challa (ISFP) | marissabaker.wordpress.com

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: Read more

Ficitonal MBTI – The Librarians

The Librarians is one of my favorite TV shows. What could be better than a team of bookworms saving the world from runaway magic? Sure it’s campy and can’t be taken too seriously, but isn’t that part of the appeal?

Typing fictional characters is one of my favorite things to do in blog posts. I’d started writing this one for last week, but when I realized how many of the Librarians characters are Sensing types I thought it’d be a great follow-up to my “Myths About Sensing Types” post. One of the more pervasive myths about Sensors is that they’re neither intelligent nor imaginative. Since all the main characters in this show except Flynn are Sensors, The Librarians provides a perfect example to the contrary.

Please note: I type using cognitive functions, which are the basis of Myers-Briggs theory. If you’re not familiar with this concept or want a refresher, check out this articles: The Simplest Guide To Myers-Briggs Functions Ever

Eve Baird: ESTJ

Ficitonal MBTI – The Librarians | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Eve is the easiest character to type, partly because she’s such a stereotypical example of the type nicknamed “Supervisor” or “Guardian.” ESTJs are known for their blunt demeanor, no-nonsense attitudes, and ability to keep things moving forward. They also care about keeping the world running as it should be, a trait Eve devotes to keeping the Library safe and magical artifacts out of the wrong hands.

ESTJs lead with a judging function called Extroverted Thinking/Effectiveness. That means Eve’s preferred mental process involves measuring and managing impersonal criteria when making decisions. There are examples of this in literally every episode. Read more

Another Post About Kylo Ren: My Thoughts on The Last Jedi and Emotionally Driven Villains

Note: an updated post about Kylo Ren’s Myers-Briggs type can be found on my Star Wars blog, Costumes and Characters.

If you were reading this blog two years ago, you know Kylo Ren is the new Star Wars character I found most intriguing. While most other fans were debating who Rey’s parent’s could be and what we might learn about Snoke’s origins, I was in the smaller group analyzing Kylo’s character arc and reading every in-canon novel looking for glimpses of his backstory.

Honestly, the thing I was most excited for going into The Last Jedi was seeing whether or not I’d still type him as an ENFJ after learning more about his character. My siblings seemed to think that was weird, but what can I say — I love a good Idealist-type villain and writing/thinking about personality types is what I do. Can you blame me?

And so this is my second post about Kylo Ren on this blog. If you haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet now’s the time to stop reading because

SPOILER WARNING

Seriously, if you don’t want to learn about major plot points and character arcs in The Last Jedi then get yourself to a theater before you read this blog post.

Another Post About Kylo Ren: My Thoughts on The Last Jedi and Emotionally Driven Villains | marissabaker.wordpress.com

 

Where Are The Knights of Ren?

This might be my biggest question coming out of the film. We caught a brief glimpse of the Knights of Ren in The Force Awakens and learned that Kylo is “master of the knights of Ren,” but that’s about it. People weren’t even sure whether the Knights of Ren were an order Kylo joined or one that he founded (I was on the “founded” side of the argument, suggesting “Knights of Ren” should be taken as “Knights who follow/belong to Ren”).

In The Last Jedi, Luke reveals that he was training 12 students when Kylo destroyed his new Jedi academy. A “handful” of the students joined Kylo and he slaughtered the others. It’s not too much of a leap to say that those students became the Knights of Ren, which would support my favorite theory for their origin, but where are they now? They’re not mentioned by name in this new film and it seems that if Kylo had a half-dozen force wielders sworn to follow him he should have been using them to hunt down the last of the resistance as well as Rey and Luke.Another Post About Kylo Ren: My Thoughts on The Last Jedi and Emotionally Driven Villains | marissabaker.wordpress.com

ReyLo Drama

I really can’t talk about Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi without talking about what happened between him and Rey. When they started communicating across the galaxy with each other I was really expecting a sibling reveal. It just so neatly parallels Luke and Leah’s Force-assisted communication. But then we find out Snoke was behind the connection and Rey’s parents are “nobodies.” I’m a little disappointed that there isn’t more of a reason for her connection with Anakin’s/Luke’s lightsaber, but I’m okay with this direction for her character’s story. She doesn’t have to be a Skywalker to be strong in the Force — the thousands of Jedi who existed prior to there even being a Force-sensitive Skywalker proves that.

Anyway, back to Rey and Kylo. It really wasn’t clear there for most of the film whether he would turn to the Light or she would turn to the Dark. I loved that edge-of-your-seat emotional drama. The moment where they touched hands (you know that one I’m talking about) gave me all the feels and watching them fight Snoke’s guard together might have jumped into my top-3 favorite lightsaber battles (I’ll have to watch it again, probably very soon, to be sure).

Another Post About Kylo Ren: My Thoughts on The Last Jedi and Emotionally Driven Villains | marissabaker.wordpress.com

I Still Think He’s An ENFJ

I’m beyond happy that my post from two years ago speculating about Kylo’s origins and personality type is still relevant after what we learn in The Last Jedi. I don’t think they contradicted any of my guesses, and when we learn that Kylo destroyed Luke’s academy after waking to see his mentor holding a lightsaber over him … well, that just supports my theory that Kylo was desperate for a mentor figure who would actually be there for the “real” him instead of one that was so terrified of his potential to be like Vader that he thought about killing him.

Also, I still think Kylo Ren/Ben Solo is an ENFJ personality type, albeit a very unhealthy version. He’s still showing a strongly idealist (NF) streak and his pitch to Rey when asking her to join him is right out of the NFJ villain textbook. It’s the same kind of argument you see in INFJ Ra’s Al Ghul use: the world is broken, so we need to wipe it clean and rebuild something that actually works.

I had a few people argue on my last post that Kylo is an introvert, but I’m still going to go with Extrovert. I feel like he’s leading with his Extroverted Feeling rather than Introverted Intuition, and when we see him go into “stress mode” it looks more like the ENFJ’s inferior Thinking than the INFJ’s inferior Sensing. I’m sure General Hux would say Kylo is excessively critical, displays convoluted logic, and has obsessive behaviors when in the “the grip” of his 3-year-old mental process. In contrast, a stressed INFJ is usually characterized by obsessive focus on external data (Kylo ignores such data), overindulgence in sensory pleasure (not something we see from Kylo), and adversarial attitude to the outer world (his rage is more focused on specific people than the idea that the world is out to get him).Another Post About Kylo Ren: My Thoughts on The Last Jedi and Emotionally Driven Villains | marissabaker.wordpress.com

An Emotion-Driven Villain

I love that as a villain, Kylo’s driving motivation is far more about connection (or lack thereof) than power (which is another reason to type him as a Feeling-dominant ENFJ). His major choices in this film all have to do with who he is and isn’t connecting with. We learn that in the past he lashed-out at Luke and all his students when he believes his mentor was about to kill him, and we see a similar thing happen when he kills his current mentor Snoke. Snoke has been telling Ren the whole movie that he’s pathetic and easily controlled, so when Snoke demands Kylo kill the one person he’s formed a new bond with (Rey), Kylo kills Snoke instead.

It’s a very Sith-like move to kill your mentor and take an apprentice, but that’s not exactly what Ren is trying to do. He’s been building an emotional connection with Rey and his pitch to her is less rule-the-galaxy-and-bring-order (like ENTJ Vader) than it is bury-what-hurt-us-and-build-something-new. And that’s on top of his assurance that she means something to him personally after they learn that she comes from nowhere and is a “nobody” (Update: director Rian Johnson has confirmed that Kylo, at least, believes he’s telling the truth). Even if the rest of the universe doesn’t care about them they could share a connection that would reshape the entire galaxy. It’s about relationship, not just power. And when Rey leaves him too, Kylo lashes out with such violence that even Hux thinks it’s excessive. When the red-headed Nazi thinks you’ve gone too far it might be time to reign yourself in.

It’s going to be really interesting to see where this goes next. Much as I would love to see him truly follow in the steps of Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker by turning back to the Light, I’m not really expecting a redemption arc for Kylo at this point. It’s probably more a toss-up whether Rey or Hux manage to kill him first (maybe Rey will best him in a duel, then Hux will shoot him as she’s struggling to decide whether or not to spare Kylo).

Another Post About Kylo Ren: My Thoughts on The Last Jedi and Emotionally Driven Villains | marissabaker.wordpress.com