Main Character Syndrome & MBTI

I’ve been thinking a lot about why certain characters can seem impossible to type. Sometimes, it can be really difficult to type a character when the writers haven’t really taken the time to give them a concrete personality. I notice that this seems to happen a lot with main characters specifically, which seems ludicrous, doesn’t it? I mean, if we’re watching a show, we’re supposed to root for the main character. We should feel as though we have a sense of who they are. However, many main characters are very poorly written. They’re defined in terms of what happens to them. We know them by their situation and their story. But their story isn’t who they are. Often, I find that their cognition will change in order to suit a storyline, which seems to happen less with supporting characters. Supporting characters tend to be very solid in terms of cognition, while main characters are all over the place and contradictory. I find it frustrating because it’s lazy.

I am starting to believe that certain characters can’t be typed. If you can see arguments for nearly every function in a character, then sure, you can try to narrow down which ones they use most frequently and pull a type out of that, but in the next episode, you’ll probably doubt yourself or change your mind. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s probably not you. It’s likely more of a reflection of the author/screenwriter than it is of your typing abilities. I’m going to run down some specific examples of this problem off the top of my head.

Elena Gilbert: Man, Elena is rough. I’ve seen her typed as an ISFJ, INFP, ISTJ, INFJ, etc. The only thing people seem to agree on is that she leads with an introverted function. I would have to agree with that. I will say that I see more Si/Ne than Ni/Se. However, she’s extremely damaged, which may make it more difficult to type her. If you look at her life prior to losing her parents, she seemed very different, so how much of what we see is her true self and not muddied by all of the tragedy in her life? Elena is so inconsistent. She’s a giant ball of contradictions. I think a lot of people stereotype her, and, I can’t say that I fully blame them for that because there’s not a lot else to really go on. I can make arguments for both Fi and Fe, but if I were being forced to make a call one way or the other, I would probably go with Fi. Where Fi is in her functional stack… I really couldn’t say at this point in time.

In the six seasons that Elena was on the show, she really wasn’t developed very well at all. It seems that the writers relied too heavily on what other people do to her and what happens to her and not enough on defining who she is. She’s probably the best example of “Main Character Syndrome” that I can think of. She lost her parents. She’s a piece of meat in an alley and the Salvatore brothers are a couple of stray dogs. She’s a doppelgänger. Elena is a Mary Sue. I was never really able to root for her because, after six years, I honestly never really felt like I knew anything about her other than those facts. She’ll do anything to protect the people she cares about, but that’s not really a defining trait. As a matter of fact, that’s probably true of most people. She prioritizes the people who are close to her over strangers or people she doesn’t know very well. It’s hard to analyze her character and pull a personality type out of it when she’s just kind of all over the place.

Lucas Scott: Lucas is usually typed as an NF, most often INFJ or INFP. I’ve watched all of One Tree Hill more times than I can count over the years and I still find myself wavering on whether Lucas uses Fi or Fe. He can appear to use both functions at different times. He sometimes clings to his moral judgments and can become extremely critical of those who fail to measure up, but he is also good at articulating his feelings and giving speeches about them, and has ideas about the way things “should” be. I think that I see more Fi in him than Fe. I have a theory that when he appears to use Fe, it’s actually Fi. Lucas has strong ideas about the kind of person he is (or wants to be), and because he sees himself a certain way, he can take on some stereotypical Fe traits. Lucas cares about people and, for him, it is important to express that to them. I don’t think he expresses himself because he feels that’s the appropriate thing to do. I think he does it because that’s the sort of person he wants to be. It’s not really for other people’s sake, it’s for him. He wants to live up to his own personal ideals. However, when I try to look for the Te, there is virtually none in him. Honestly, I see a stronger case for Ti in him than Te. But, he obviously can’t be both Fi and Ti. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe his morality isn’t decided internally. It’s really difficult for me to decide one way or another. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking of certain instances and going, “Oh, you know, maybe he is Fe after all.” I can’t make a call either way with any real certainty, so for now, I won’t.

Now… is he Ne-Si or Se-Ni? This is an even bigger struggle for me to lock down than Fi-Te/Fe-Ti. Lucas has an appreciation of symbolism and he’s extremely insightful. He can see people for who they are and has inherent understandings about things. I don’t really see Ne in him but I do see Ni. I can see a case for inferior Se in him, but is he really Ni-dom? And, if he were Ni-dom, he would have to be an INFJ, and I’m not ready to label him Fe just yet. He’s definitely not an INTJ. If he uses Te at all (which is a big “if” for me), then it would be low in his stack. I can’t come up with a single function that he absolutely, undoubtedly uses.

Aria Montgomery: Beyond being an Fi-dom, what other functions does Aria really use? There really isn’t enough evidence to support Se, Ne, Si, or Ni. She’s defined by her relationship with Ezra, but her personality is pretty bland. She’s “artsy.” I’ve seen people use her interest in writing and photography as support for both Ne and Se, which is weak and stereotypical. She makes stupid short-sighted decisions sometimes, like having an affair with her teacher, but I don’t feel like that’s evidence of Se. I’m sure you can find Ne users who have, or would be willing to have a sexual relationship with a teacher. Doesn’t mean they’re not Ne. A repeated argument I see to “support” INFP is her love of old movies as though no Se in the world enjoys older films. All of the reasonings I’ve seen have been extremely superficial and weak. I believe this to be a result of people desperately trying to fit her somewhere, when, in reality, she is just a poorly written character. Spencer, Hanna, Emily, and Alison are all reasonably fleshed out characters. I’ve never seen Hanna typed anything other than ESFP. Spencer is mostly typed ENTJ, but I have seen the occasional ESTJ, but the general consensus does seem to be ENTJ. I’ve never seen Emily typed as anything but ISFJ. I’ve never seen Alison typed as anything other than ENFJ. This isn’t because everyone jumps on the same bandwagon. It’s because there’s evidence and consistency. Aria, on the other hand, is defined in terms of her relationships and what happens to her. Is there really more to her than that?

Dawson Leery: Sort of like a less tolerable late ’90s Lucas Scott. I see him typed as INFJ or INFP, just like Lucas. I can’t justify him being Ni-dom, though. I lean towards INFP for him because he has that strong moral code and a tendency to chastise anyone who violates it. He can be so judgmental with people when they make decisions he disagrees with. Dawson sees a lot of things as black and white. He can also be pretty selfish with his emotions. And I can see a stronger case for inferior Te than inferior Se. If someone were to ask me what type I think he is, I would probably instinctively say INFP, but if I were asked to explain why, in any kind of detail, I would probably be at a loss.

Sam and Dean Winchester: Ugh, Sam and Dean. I love them to death, but they give me such a headache when it comes to MBTI. I’ve mostly seen Sam typed INFJ, INTJ, and INTP. I definitely think that he’s a Fe-user, and I don’t think it’s inferior, so I’m more inclined to subscribe to the INFJ typing, but I’m still trying to gather enough evidence to actually do a post for him. A lot of people think he’s Fi because he carves out an individual identity from his family away from hunting, but I don’t think that argument is strong enough. Fe-users are capable of doing that. Leaving home and carving out a new life for himself could stem from Ni instead of Fi. Though, there are also times I think he might use Si instead of Ni. All of the “evidence” I’ve seen in the various typings for him that I’ve read seem flimsy and like they’re really just trying to make something fit him, so as of right now, I don’t really know anything for sure when it comes to Sam. My opinion varies episode to episode.

I see Dean mostly typed as ESTJ, ESTP, and the most ridiculous one in my opinion, ESFJ. I believe that he’s definitely Fi/Te, so I don’t think that he’s an ESTP and definitely not an ESFJ, but I’m not completely sold on him as a Te-dom, either. I’ve always been mostly torn between ESTJ and ESFP for him. I think a big problem with the Winchesters is that Supernatural has been on the air for so long that their personalities seem to go through a lot of changes over the years. Maybe it has to do with different writers coming on, I’m not really sure. They’ve also been through a lot and are far from healthy, which makes things pretty difficult as well.

Klaus Mikaelson: ENTJ or ESFP? Most days, I will declare Klaus an ESFP with absolute certainty, but every now and then I find myself watching an episode of The Originals (or an old episode of The Vampire Diaries) and second guess myself. My problem with him is that I see more of a case for dominant Se than dominant Te… but I notice more signs of inferior Fi in him than inferior Ni. I’m going to have to launch a massive character study to determine his type once and for all because he drives me crazy.

Ted Mosby: I sometimes see him typed as an INFJ, but the main argument in those typings seems to be his long-term goal of getting married, as though that can’t also be true of a Si-dom. Does his goal come from doing what is traditional and expected of him (Si) or because that is simply the vision he has for his life (Ni)? What is his motivation? There are sometimes cases to be made for inferior Se in him, though. I’m actually pretty evenly split on Ted. Let’s take the story that he’s telling his kids. Very detail-oriented. Very specific, vivid memories (which he sometimes tends to remember subjectively rather than objectively). However, he sees how all of these memories are connected to build a larger, overall picture and has a strong concept of symbolism. He’s future-focused and has a clear visual of the life he wants for himself, yet he is also hung up on the past and tends to hold onto old relationships instead of moving forward (Karen, Victoria, Robin). He even keeps all of the stuff he has received in his past relationships in his apartment because they remind him of specific experiences. He’s both a realist and an idealist. He’s grounded and his head is in the clouds. Past-focused and future-oriented. Out of every character I’ve had to decide between Si and Ni for, Ted probably gives me the most trouble.

I’m currently rewatching episodes of One Tree Hill and Pretty Little Liars in order to definitively type Lucas and Aria. After that, I’m going to try to tackle Elena and Klaus… and then the Winchesters. Ted will probably come sometime after that. Dawson is probably going to take a while, because while I loved Dawson’s Creek, I don’t know if rewatching the series is actually worth sitting through Dawson himself. I consider him to be one of the most insufferable television characters in history, so, while I find the show entertaining and I like the other characters, I always have a heavy feeling when I consider watching it again because he just annoys me to no end.

Marshall Eriksen (How I Met Your Mother): ENFP


Dominant Extroverted Intuition [Ne]: The mysterious and the unknown are very exciting to Marshall. He believes in ghosts, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and the cockamouse. Marshall loves to theorize and speculate. He’s thrilled when anything seemingly paranormal happens, and readily accepts the existence of the supernatural. Marshall’s gift of objectivity comes in handy in his career as a lawyer. He often wins arguments against his friends because of his ability to see many different perspectives. Marshall is always entertaining possibilities, though sometimes those possibilities are negative ones, leading to anxiety. Marshall is very creative and uses his Ne to make ordinary tasks fun.

Auxiliary Introverted Feeling [Fi]: Marshall is an extremely ethical, emotional person. He has a strong sense of right and wrong and can often act as the group’s moral compass. He feels strongly about waiting until you’re in love to have sex and doesn’t care what his friends think of him for it. Marshall will fight for what’s important to him. He wants to make a difference in the world. He takes jobs practicing law at firms, but feels unfulfilled because he wants to save the planet. Marshall knows that he wants to be an environmental lawyer and do good. He is faithful to his code of ethics and doesn’t waver in his devotion to his values. If he believes something is wrong, it’s wrong, and he can be quite inflexible when somebody violates his personal beliefs. Marshall is unafraid to take a stand and call things as he sees them when necessary (Fi-Te).

Tertiary Extroverted Thinking [Te]: Although it goes against all that Marshall stands for, he is willing to take jobs for the money in order to provide for his family. He realizes that he has to work his way up within the system, and even though he dislikes it, he’s willing to deal with it (to a certain point). He knows that it won’t be forever, and he understands that he has to be able to put food on the table until he’s able to achieve his dreams. Though Marshall typically has a gentle, kind nature, he can utilize his Te in arguments when he needs to. For Marshall, it’s enjoyable to create graphs and charts. They’re humorous, however and serve his Ne. Marshall keeps track of facts and data. When he’s able to reference his accumulated knowledge in disagreements with his friends, he gets very excited about his victory (“Lawyered!”). Though it doesn’t happen often, Marshall can sometimes become authoritative and direct, such as when he coached children’s basketball. He also likes to utilize his Ne to create tangible things. He uses his imagination and creativity to develop games for his friends to play. He puts his thoughts into action. He designs the game and comes up with a set of rules. If he needs to make an important decision, he employs his Ne to come up with a fun way to do it. Hey, Lily and I should choose one of our friends to be Marvin’s godparent. But how do we decide? Oh, I know! We create a giant wheel, get Lily a Vanna White-esque ensemble, and have our friends compete game show style!

Inferior Introverted Sensing [Si]: When Marshall is under stress, he tends to fall prey to “grip” experiences. Following his father’s funeral, Marshall opts to remain in Minnesota. He stays in his childhood bedroom, has his mother cooking for him and doing his laundry, and plays video games. He regresses to what is comforting and familiar. When he moves to New York, he finds a Minnesota-themed bar to spend time in. Marshall values his own personalized traditions, particularly the ones he has created with Lily. They’re important to him because they created them (Ne/Fi/Si), and they’re unique, belonging to just the two of them. When he tries to let go of one their airport tradition, he ends up not being able to and shows up anyway.

Note: Many people seem to consider Marshall’s type to be a no-brainer, but he’s actually pretty difficult to pin down if you think about it. I spent a lot of time going back and forth between xNFP and xSFJ. Marshall’s Si/Ne use is obvious. But which is higher? Marshall likes to be able to feel connected to his past and enjoys reminders of where he comes from. However, his Si seems to be childish, often consuming him during times of stress, which indicates that it’s probably not very well developed. His Ne is effortless. I can see an argument for Ti in Marshall. He believes in what he believes in and has a personalized logical framework for a lot of things… but what do those things have in common? They’re all related to his Ne love of the unknown. He gets excited by ideas and speculation. Marshall sees himself as a person who “believes.” I argue that this is part of his Fi, not Ti. This is why he doesn’t listen to people who argue against his fantastical beliefs. Marshall Eriksen is a believer and there’s nothing you can say that will change that. His Fi is very strong, and though his Te is pretty weak, this was enough information for me to favor xNFP over xSFJ.

Enneagram: 9w1 So/Sx

Quotes:

Marshall: [about the game he invented] It’s called, “Marshgammon”. It combines all the best features of all the best games: Candyland, I Never, Pictionary…
Robin: Backgammon, obviously.
Marshall: No, backgammon sucks. I took the only good part of backgammon, the “gammon”, and I left the rest of it in the trash where it belongs.

Marshall: So, I was trying to think how to best express how sexy you are to me. A song? A poem? And then it hit me: a board game!
Lily: You just get women.
Marshall: No, no, no! You’ll like this. We ask risque questions and spicy dares to slowly move up your shapely legs. I call it “Shoots and Lilies.”
Lily: I would have guessed “Monopo-Lily”
Marshall: Yeah, that would have been better.

Marshall:Marshall: [Explaining the rules of Marsh-gammon] … But if you roll an even number while adjacent to the Peppermint Forest, then you “Marshall out,” and all your chips go into the pot, and remember, if you ever ask the question “What?”, then… you got to drink. Got it?

Ted: Hey, don’t you have a paper to write?
Marshall: Dude, you’re talking to The Kid. I’m gonna knock back this beer. I’m gonna knock back one more beer. I’m gonna go home. I’m gonna write a 25-page paper. I’m gonna hand it in and I’m gonna get an A. My name is Rufus and that’s the Trufus.
Narrator: He got a B-, but still. 25 pages in one night? B-? The Kid was good.

Marshall: Speaking of waiting, I signed an abstinence pledge in high school. It’s totally cool to wait. And stay away from drugs… other than pot.

Marshall: All right. We threw two parties. Everybody had fun. Everybody “wanged,” everybody “chunged.” Now The Kid has gotta get to work, and The Kid is not to be disturbed. Repeat after me: I will not have sex with Marshall.
Ted, Lily: I will not have sex with Marshall.

Barney: Dude, I can’t believe you cried in front of your boss.
Marshall: I don’t know what happened. There is just something about been yelled like that, like I was being spurred by my dad, suddenly… suddenly I was a little boy.
Robin: Is boy the right word?

Marshall: Ted, you know how at some point in the future, Machines will rise up against us?
Ted: Sure.
Marshall: So, the machines – they’ve killed everybody, And all that’s left Is you, me… And Barney. Which one of us would you, like get with?
Ted: Why do I have to get with one of you?
Barney: The machines are forcing you. They want to watch. That’s just how they get down.

Narrator: When your Uncle Marshall was ten years old, he read a book called Life Among the Gorillas. It was written by an anthropologist named Dr. Aurelia Birnholz-Vazquez, it told the story of the year she spent living among the Western Lowland Gorillas of Cameroon. When Dr. Birnholz-Vazquez came to the local community college to give a lecture, Marshall, the youngest member of the audience, raised his hand with a question.
Young Marshall: What advice do you have for a budding anthropologist?
Dr. Aurelia Birnholz-Vazquez: So you want to be an anthropologist?
Young Marshall: Yep. When I grow up, I want to go live with the gorillas, just like you did.
Narrator: What she said next changed his life.
Dr. Aurelia Birnholz-Vazquez: Oh, that’s wonderful, but I’m afraid you can’t. They’ll all be dead by then.

Marshall: This is a pie chart describing my favorite bars. And this is a bar graph describing my favorite pies.

Marshall: After law school, I’m going to work for the NRDC. They’re gonna stop global warming.
Narrator: [In 2030] Well… I mean… they did their best.

Robin Scherbatsky (How I Met Your Mother): ISTP


Dominant Introverted Thinking [Ti]: Ted’s greatest frustration with Robin is how closed off she is emotionally. She’s a rational person and dislikes when her relationships get too serious. Robin is extremely skeptical and can come up with a logical explanation for everything. She utilizes her Ti in her sense of humor, which is sarcastic and tends to point out other people’s errors in logic and inconsistency. Robin is brutally honest and can deliver harsh truths, though she usually does so in humorous ways.

Auxiliary Extroverted Sensing [Se]: Robin is a doer. She gets a thrill out of engaging with the physical world. She loves guns, sports, and traveling. Robin has mastered the art of living in the moment. She doesn’t get hung up on the past, or get worked up thinking about the future. Robin is good at seizing opportunities as they present themselves. The idea of new experiences excites her and she doesn’t hesitate to dive into the unknown.

Tertiary Introverted Intuition [Ni]: Robin has a clear picture of what she wants her life to be. She wants to be a reporter and visit new places. Children are not part of her plan. Sometimes, she gets hunches about what’s really going on in a situation and these hunches often prove to be valid. Robin will put up with undesirable circumstances (like anchoring the news at 4 in the morning), because she knows it’s a step towards advancing her career and opening herself up to new opportunities.

Inferior Extroverted Feeling [Fe]: “I really don’t like feelings.” This quote just about sums Robin up. Sometimes, when people are kind and considerate to her, she assumes the worst, like when Barney became more sweet and thoughtful with her, and she instantly came to the conclusion that he must be cheating on her. She doesn’t typically act on her feelings and is good at counseling her friends when they’re about to make foolish decisions based solely on their emotions. Robin’s hard exterior makes it difficult for her to let people in. Because Robin refuses to be emotional, when she finally does acknowledge her feelings, she has been known to do so in the form of a major meltdown.

Enneagram: 7w8 Sp/Sx

Quotes:

Robin: The future is scary, but you can’t just run back to the past because it’s familiar. Yes, it’s tempting, but it’s a mistake.

Robin Scherbatsky: Okay but, if relationships are like a freeway, then saying “mm hmm hmm” is like, getting into the carpool lane. And, I don’t want to take an exit but at the same time I’m not ready to get into the carpool lane. Because what’s in the carpool lane? Oh, it’s a big diamond!

Robin Scherbatsky: I can’t believe I’m talking to a therapist. Well, ususally I’m not the touchy-feely, talk-about-your-emotions type. But with this… I just had to be a big enough person to admit that I need help. Huh. I guess this is what growing up feels like.
Kevin: This is *court*-mandated therapy. You assaulted a woman.

Robin Scherbatsky: There are plenty of legitimate reasons to get in a fight. It might not be pretty, but in certain situations you gotta do what you gotta do.
Ted Mosby: Right, I forgot, she thinks fighting is sexy.

Robin Scherbatsky: So kids, I settled in for Christmas alone. I appreciated that Ted wanted to cheer me up, but honestly, it wasn’t necessary. So I can’t have kids. Big deal, this way, there’s no one to hold me back in life, no one to keep me from traveling when I wanna travel, no one getting in the way of my career. If you wanna know the truth of it, I’m glad you guys aren’t real. Real glad.

Robin Scherbatsky: A marriage has to be built on honesty and trust and all of that Lily-and-Marshall crap.

Robin Scherbatsky: Dear Marshall: I do not like that stupid hat. I want to beat it with a bat. Or maybe stab it with a fork. It makes you look like such a dork.

Robin Scherbatsky: Dear Ted: It’s “encyclopedia”, not “encyclopaedia”. You always pronounce things in the most pretentious way possible, and it makes you sound douchy, and not “douchay”.

Robin Scherbatsky: What would be the point in telling you that I want to live in Argentina? You don’t want to live there.
Ted Mosby: I could want to live in Argentina.
Robin Scherbatsky: No, you couldn’t. I mean, you life is here and your career. I’m a journalist, my career could take me anywhere, and I hope it does.

Robin Scherbatsky: Hey look, as the only one here packin a vag I got a natural instinct for nurturing and crap like that plus I could teach him how to bow hunt!

Robin Scherbatsky:Sometimes in life you have to be assertive and stand up for yourself.

Robin Scherbatsky: [What she would tell Marvin if Marshall and Lily died] Alright, kid. Here’s the deal with the deal: Your Mom and Dad are done, ski bellyflopped off a subway platform. Mom; busted open like a Piñata. What was left of your Dad hung around for a few days. Anyway, plugs pulled, organs donated, long story short, I’m your new mummy now.