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.