One of the things I like to do when studying personality types is find examples of the different types in fictional characters. It helps each type make more sense to me if I have some example to link it to. While I was reading The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, I started having fictional characters come to mind as I was reading. The types “clicked” as I realized I understood them well enough to relate each to a fictional character.
Much has been written in books and online about the numbers on Enneagram, and today’s post is not going to re-tread that ground with complete profiles of each Enneatype. I’m just going to give a brief example of each type using a fictional character that I think is a good example of that type. I’m still an Enneagram beginner, so don’t take everything I say as the definitive view on the Enneagram. But I hope to give a overview for others who, like me, are trying to get a better sense of how the Enneagram shows up in real life using examples of fictional people. I’ll be quoting from the book I mentioned earlier as well as type profiles from The Enneagram Institute®.
Ones — Steve Rogers
These types are perfectionists who follow rules to the letter and are deeply committed to the concept of fairness. They tend to believe that their way is the right way and they’re very sensitive to criticism (both from other people and from their harsh inner critic). Ones have a mind that naturally compares things and makes value judgements, but as The Road Back To You points out, they tend to be shocked that other people see them as critical. They’re “The Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic” according to The Enneagram Institute. Read more →
It always intrigues me how certain characters attract so much investment from viewers. Browsing Pinterest lately, it seems like Bucky is the new Loki — the Marvel fandom’s dark, mistreated character who just needs a hug because we love him soooooo much. In Bucky’s case, the reasons why we find his character compelling aren’t too hard to find. He’s a good man who was forced to do terrible things and is now constantly fighting a battle to be himself. Sebastian Stan’s portrayal allows audiences to glimpse Bucky’s human side under the soldier persona he wears and the assassin role he’s forced to adopt, and audiences are drawn in by a realistic, sensitive portrayal of a compelling character.
Most people type James “Bucky” Buchanan Barnes as an ESTP, and I’m inclined to agree with them. Operating under the assumption that MBTI type doesn’t change, when we see him as Bucky in Captain America: First Avenger he’s a healthy, stable version of his MBTI type. The version of Bucky we see later in Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a severely stressed and traumatized man of the same MBTI type. Bucky in Captain America: Civil War is still dealing with the fall-out of all he went through, but he’s more recognizable as an ESTP.
Typing Bucky Barnes
We only get about 13 minutes of footage with Bucky in the first Captain America film, but those scenes reveal a character in line with type descriptions of ESTPs as people characterized by decisive action, contagious energy, and enjoyment of being in the moment. They are “thrillseekers who are at their best when putting out fires, whether literal or metaphorical. … They assess situations quickly and move adeptly to respond to immediate problems with practical solutions” (Truity.com description). David Keirsey writes that ESTPs (whom he nick-names Promoters) “live with a theatrical flourish which makes even the most routine events seem exciting. … Promoters demand new activities and new challenges. Bold and daring at heart, and ever-optimistic that things will go their way, Promoters will take tremendous risks to get what they want, and seem exhilarated by walking close to the edge of disaster.” Other nicknames for ESTPs include “problem solver” and “realist.”
ESTPs lead with a mental process called Extroverted Sensing, or “Sensation.” This process “can get into the action in the moment. Think of it as ‘real-time kinetic’” (from Personality Hacker). It’s a fun-loving function that delights in sensory experiences, such as Bucky spending his last night in New York dancing with girls he probably doesn’t care whether or not he ever sees again. On that same night, he and Steve are talking about Steve’s inability to enlist and he says, “I don’t see what the problem is. You’re about to be the last eligible man in New York.” He’s trying to make Steve feel better with joking and doesn’t really ‘get’ the duty-fulfilling and self-sacrificing aspect of Steve’s character. It’s not a deeply ingrained aspect of his personality type (like it is for ISFJ Steve), though in practice he still does his duty and sacrifices himself because he’s a loyal friend and a good man.
We also see Bucky demonstrate sensory skills in more serious situations. Even post-experimentation and groggy when escaping Redscull’s prison, Bucky could walk across that metal girder with coordination, balance, and no hints of fear other than a healthy caution. As a Howling Commando, we see him as a sniper (which requires skills that come naturally to SP types) and making split-second sensory decisions with ease in the final train fight.
ESTP types support their Sensation function secondary with Introverted Thinking (or “Accuracy”) and then tertiary Extroverted Feeling (or “Harmony”). These mental processes describe how ESTPs, like Bucky, make decisions. First he’s using impersonal criteria to evaluate information and make decisions that are motivated by his own understanding of how the world works. Extroverted Feeling gives ESTPs an insight into other people that they stereotypicaly use to be charming and get people to do what they want. When he tries to ask Peggy to dance, he’s clearly not used to being ignored in favor of his friend (or any other guy). ESTPs are not primarily an emotional sort of people, though. In an early scene, Bucky had just had an argument with his best friend and turns that emotionally invested side of himself ‘off’ to take the girls dancing and enjoy himself.
The Winter Soldier
Once Hydra turns Bucky into the Winter Soldier, it’s difficult to use any scenes to get a clear picture of his personality type. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier we see a few glimpses of the real Bucky trying to get out, but not really anything to help with typing him. In Civil War, however, his own mind is starting to reassert itself and we can talk about his personality type in that film.
When ESTPs are stressed, one of the most common things they experience is internal confusion. They feel out of control, forget details, and become paranoid. Their inferior, or 3-year-old, function is Introverted Intuition (also called “Perspectives”). It’s a mental process that speculates on things that cannot be known, which is great for creativity and insight if you’re using it as a driver process but not so good if it’s an underdeveloped function that comes out when you’re stressed. Most ESTPs snap out of what Naomi Quenk calls a “Grip experience” (where stress causes your inferior function to assert itself) fairly quickly, but “Chronic grip behavior can lead the individual and others to believe that he or she is typically negative, pessimistic, and worried about both the present and the future” (Was That Really Me? p.180). Add to that all the torture and brainwashing used to turn Bucky into the Winter Soldier, and you have the Bucky who’s fighting alongside Cap in Civil War.
Here, we see a man who is not only fighting physical battles (and with extraordinary skill now that super-soldier enhancements have been added to his natural sensory abilities), but who is also fighting a mental battle. As extroverts, ESTPs tend to focus more on the external. Bucky’s experiences have turned him inward, making him more serious and forcing him to develop his Introverted Thinking side. Though type theory holds that your base personality doesn’t change, Bucky is in many ways a different person than the one we see in The First Avenger. He’s burdened with the weight of what he’s done and his friend Steve is now his only real connection with another human being.
In some ways, Bucky’s joking remark from the first Captain America movie “I’m turning into you” has come true. He’s become much more introspective and aware of the weight of his actions. Yet he’s also still thoroughly himself. We have a scene where he and Cap are reminiscing about fun times they had and a girl Bucky tried to impress, and he’s really Bucky against instead of the Winter Soldier. The fun-loving young ESTP is still in there, just buried deeply under the weight of all he’s been though.
In The First Avenger, we see Bucky fighting to protect his best friend and giving his life for his country. Now in Civil War, he trusts his best friend to help him through and gives up his freedom by going into cryostasis so he’s can’t be used to hurt others. Bucky’s decision to enter cryostasis at the end of the movie is also an intensely individualistic move that’s characteristic of SP types. If he can’t guarantee he can control himself, then at least he can make sure no one else can take control of him either.
If you enjoyed this post, check out my other MCU typings:
Before Daredevil premiered on Netflix in April of last year, the closest Marvel’s Cinematic Universe came to portraying a superhero of faith was Captain America’s line, “There’s only one God, ma’am, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that” in The Avengers three years earlier. As much as I like and admire Steve Rogers as a character, however, I’m not sure I’d describe him as a man of faith. Certainly he’s a moral man who believes in God, but his faith doesn’t play a major role that we can see on-screen.
Matt Murdock (played by Charlie Cox), on the other hand, is a character defined by his faith. The way he’s portrayed in the Netflix series leaves no doubt that Matt is a staunch Catholic and that his faith influences every decision he makes. The religious elements don’t make Daredevil any less violent (this is not a show for children or squeamish adults), but the series’ engagement with religious themes does make it one of the most intriguing things on screen right now.
It’s rare to see a character portrayed as unabashedly Christian in today’s culture, at least outside of films produced by a faith-based group such as Sherwood Pictures. It’s even rarer to see a man of faith cast as the hero of a gritty drama. Yet Matt Murdock is a practicing Catholic who proclaims his belief on-screen, as well as a seriously impressive superhero.
Quick note: I’ll be honest, I don’t know all that much about Catholicism. I’ve known Catholics and counted several my friends, read a few books written by Catholic authors (both fiction and non-fiction), and encountered some facts about Catholicism in studying British history, but I wouldn’t really consider myself knowledgeable on the subject. If you’re reading this as a Catholic and I say something stupid, please correct me with love in the comments 🙂
Quicker note: this article contains spoilers for both seasons of Daredevil. Spoilers for Season 2 will be clearly noted.
To Kill, or Not To Kill
Everything about Matt’s choices is influenced by his Catholicism. He won’t kill because he firmly believes it is morally wrong. That is explored strongly in the first season, when we learn Matt refuses to kill his enemies and tries his best to prevent others, including his allies, from killing as well. It’s back again in the second season when
we learn in flashbacks that Matt’s college romance with Electra ended after she asked him to kill the man who murdered his father. A few episodes later, we find out that she has a mission to pull Matt away from the faith that was, in part,why he’s not still fighting alongside Stick. It didn’t work. Matt wasn’t a perfect enough Christian to say no to premarital sex or to leave Electra when she was stealing cars and breaking into people’s houses, but his faith runs too deep for the possibility of murder to not act as a wake-up call.
Unlike Batman, who doesn’t (typically) kill because it’s part of his crime-fighting code, Daredevil doesn’t kill because it’s part of his faith. The only way he would consider breaking the law of God that prohibits murder is if he thinks sacrificing his soul would save enough people to make it worthwhile. That’s why he considers killing Wilson Fisk near the end of Season 1. “I know my soul is damned if I take his life,” Matthew says, “But if I stand idle” people “will suffer and die.”
For most action heroes, there wouldn’t even be a question of what to do — you just go out and kill the bad guys. Matt, however, cares about what taking another person’s life says about him. He doesn’t take this question to his bartender or girlfriend though (as an equally introspective but less religious character might). He takes it to his faith in the form of his priest, Father Lantom, who reminds him, “There is a wide gulf between inaction and murder, Matthew. Another man’s evil does not make you good. … the question you have to ask yourself is are you struggling with the fact that you don’t want to kill this man, but have to? Or that you don’t have to kill him, but want to?”
A Question of Motive
In the same conversation where Father Lantom talks with Matt about whether or not Matt should kill Fisk, he also says, “Few things are absolute, Matthew. Even Lucifer was once an angel. It’s why judgment and vengeance… are best left to God. Especially when murder is not in your heart.” When Matt asks how Lantom can know what’s in his heart, the priest responds, “You’re here, aren’t you?” The fact that Matt wrestles with how his faith fits into his mission to fight for justice is one thing that proves he’s a good man. Our motivations matter.
Matt works as a lawyer by day trying to right wrongs within the system, then goes out at night as Daredevil trying to bring justice to the people who were overlooked by the law. In the first episode of Season 2, Matt tells Foggy that the woman they helped as lawyers by recommending a battered women’s shelter would have been murdered by her husband before her escape if Daredevil hadn’t put the man in a hospital. Daredevil goes around fixing the problems that Matt Murdock can’t.
An article that appeared on Slade.com last year said Netflix’s Daredevil understands that Matt’s religion is “essential to his identity … which is what makes the show work.” The article continues, “Murdock’s brutal justice is more than his way of taking personal responsibility for the sins of others; it’s his way of atoning for his own. Murdock’s real superpower, and also his biggest foe, is his Catholicism” (from “Daredevil’s Greatest Superpower Is His Catholicism“). Matt’s religion is what drives him to fight for justice, yet it’s also what makes him question himself at every turn.
Guilt and Redemption
Throughout his crusade, Matt punishes himself as much as the people he’s after. In “Daredevil, Catholicism, and the Marvel Moral Universe,” Leah Schnelbach connects this with “mortification of the flesh.”While Matt Murdock does qualify as a powered-person in the MCU, his powers don’t give him fast healing or make him invincible. To fight evil, “He has to keep getting hit, keep getting wounded. Over the course of the show, we see this process–old wounds reopen, cuts heal slowly, bruises linger, and each fight seems more labored. … The point is that he keeps going anyway” (click here to read the full article). Matt’s only partly joking when he responds to Claire describing him as “blind vigilante who … can take an unbelievable amount of punishment without one damn complaint” by saying, “The last part’s the Catholicism.”
Mortification of the flesh is a concept very much tied to penance in the Catholic version of Christianity. It’s referenced even more clearly into Daredevil in Season 2, again by Claire (mild spoiler warning). Matt’s beating himself up (metaphorically, this time) for not saving a group of people soon enough. She suggest he take off his “hair shirt” and “start thinking about climbing down off that cross of yours and spending some time with us normal people for a change.” The idea of Matt martyring himself is a theme throughout both seasons.
MAJOR SPOILER WARNING
One of the aspects of Season 2 I found most interesting was the association of Matt with Jesus Christ. He’s not portrayed as a “Christ-figure” per say, but there’s more going on here than just Claire’s overt reference to Matt crucifying himself. Much like I argued when talking about Luke and Vader in Star Wars, we can compare Matt’s insistence that redemption is possible for Electra to God “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9, ASV). While Matt is willing to die for her, what’s more poignant is that he’s willing to sacrifice himself by living for her.
I struggled with this scene in the final episode. Why would Matt give up everything he’s working for in Hell’s Kitchen to run away with such a morally dark character as Electra? Upon further reflection, I realized he didn’t intend to abandon his faith by offering to take this action. While being with Electra does bring out the “devil” side of him, he’s not offering to run off with Electra just so he can be free of responsibility or guilt. He wants to do this because of his stated reason — that she “gets” the part of him that no one else understands — and because of the redemption theme running through this season. He has to believe Electra can be good and he’ll give up his own life to help make that possible.
Matt’s not a perfect Christian or a perfect Catholic. Some might even question whether or not he qualifies as a “good man” after putting so many people (criminals, yes, but still people) in the hospital. Where do we draw the line? and what is the responsibility of a moral man confronted with evils that he can fight, but isn’t sure at what cost? Those are the sort of questions that Marvel’s Daredevil offers for our consideration. It’s not interested in a sanitized version of Christianity that focuses on faultless people living lives of bliss and, quite frankly, I’m not either. And neither’s the Bible, if the struggles of David, Peter, Paul and so many others are any indication. God never tells us our walk with Him will be without wrestling. It’s how we respond to the crises of faith — the moments where we wonder if all this is worth it — that count.
This was requested in the comments on Fictional MBTI – Loki, and since I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier on Friday it seemed a good time to write a post about Steve Rogers/Captain America. Incidentally, I will reference Winter Soldier in this post but will try to keep it spoiler-free. If you don’t want to know anything about the plot, though, go watch the film and then come back 🙂
In support of typing Steve as an ISFJ, I’ll be citing quotes from Captain America, The Winter Soldier, Gifts Differing* by Isabel Myers, and Was That Really Me?* by Naomi L. Quenk.
Disclaimer: links marked with an * are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase on that website.
Isabel Myers describes the Introverted Sensing (Si) types – both ISFJ and ISTJ — as “remarkably dependable … they base their ideas on a deep, solid accumulation of stored impressions, which gives them some almost unshakable ideas” (102). For Steve Rogers, this resulted in the attitude that earned him consideration in Dr. Abraham Erskine’s experiment — “I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t like bullies; I don’t care where they’re from” (Captain America). The same deeply rooted ideas that form his character also gave Steve the conviction to stand-up to Nick Fury when asked to compromise his values to create a “safe” world — “This isn’t freedom; it’s fear” (Winter Soldier).
In the right person, the traits of Si are perfect for military command. Si types are extremely stable, not entering “into things impulsively” and, “once in, they are very hard to distract, discourage, or stop” (Myers 102). When convinced he is in the right, Captain America is an unstoppable force, whether he is performing a one-man rescue mission in WWII or leading a team against Hydra.
Since Si is an introverted function, there are aspects of their private reactions that ISFJs usually keep to themselves. Only when they feel “off duty” and are around people they trust will they share insights into their unique way of viewing the world. These impressions “may be absurd, irreverent, touching, or hilarious, but never predictable, because their way of sensing life is intensely individual” (Myers 103). Steve tends to joke before going on missions, such as his dialog with Peggy Carter before he parachutes behind enemy lines in Captain America, and that scene from the beginning of Winter Soldier (which is also in the trailer) when he says he doesn’t anything to do on Saturday night because his barbershop quartet is dead.
Though an auxilary function, Extroverted Feeling (Fe) is the most easily visible aspect of an ISFJ. Heavily informed by dominant Si, this manifests in ISFJs as an emphasis on “loyalty, consideration, and the common welfare” (Myers 104). Myers also says that a well-balanced ISFJ will be very hard working and more practical than a typical introvert. They also “carry responsibility well,” though they do not necessarily enjoy leadership (102).
Fe is a social function, to the point that some introverts who use Fe may be mistaken for extroverts (this explains why you’ll sometimes see Steve typed as an ESFJ). It adapts to situations and strives to act in a way that is acceptable to as many people as possible. An ISTJ probably wouldn’t have agreed to become the “star-spangled man with a plan,” but ISFJ Steve was convinced that was how he could best serve his country. He stuck with that role up until it conflicted with his deeply held Si convictions. In this aspect, ISFJs resemble INFJS, in that both will try to please others for as long as possible without compromising their ideas.
Psychologists disagree about whether or not the tertiary function should be described as “introverted” or “extroverted” (so it’s opposite of the auxiliary function), or simply listed by itself. Whichever the case, Jung says that this third function is under conscious control to some degree as it supports the auxiliary function (Quenk 33, 51). For an ISFJ, tertiary thinking helps with clarity in crisis situations, strategy and logic, and suspending feeling to evaluate other people’s actions. We can see this any time Captain America is planning something strategic, as he sorts through sensing data and comes up with a plan.
All dominant sensing type are uncomfortable with intuition, and highly skeptical of unverified facts. They can’t consciously access their inferior, or shadow, function of Extroverted Intuition (Ne) and are made uneasy by it. In every day life, this comes out as a general sense of worry and a skepticism about new ideas. This can be useful for detecting flaws in new proposals and warning about negative possibilities, which Steve does quite often in The Avengers. For ISFJs to become comfortable with something new and unexpected, they need time alone to process, such as Steve hiding from the world in The Avengers until he feel needed again and has had time to come to terms with his time displacement.
Anger is a typical response for ISFJs, particularly ISFJ men, when stressed. Stress can also cause ISFJs to become more outspoken, “irritable, and pessimistic” (Quenk 220). They are likely to feel a “loss of control over facts and data,” become more impulsive, and focus on worst-case scenarios (Quenk 221).
Stress triggers for inferior Ne include people whose types use intuition as a dominant function (such as Tony Stark/Iron Man), noisy and disorganized environments, unsubstantiated statements from authority figures, “not having sufficient information to do a good job,” and delays in goal achievement (Quenk 219). These last three triggers play a major role in the opening events of Winter Soldier, when Steve becomes angry that Nick Fury didn’t give him all the information about a rescue mission.
If you enjoyed this post, check out my other MCU typings: