Monday, December 8, 2014

An Inspection and An Introspection

So I read two very interesting posts recently.

The first one, by Hamlette, brought me to this Tumblr where Charity types fictional characters by Myers-Briggs, and discusses MBTI personality types.
The second post, also by Hamlette, is an older post where she discussed why she loves certain characters and/or stories. Both posts really made me think.

I already knew that I was random, but I have now decided that I must be really narcissistic or really emotional or both. I made lists of my favorite characters and my favorite stories in my downtime at work. Like Hamlette, I wanted to see if there was a common thread. I also took a couple of tests to see what MBTI type I was, and it seems like I'm an ESFJ. "The Caregiver" I wasn't sure at first, but I did run the boys' lives from birth until they were big enough to beat me up. Teehee.

But now that I've looked through my lists, it starts to make sense.

Some stories I like without really having a favorite character. I like all the characters equally because they're all equally important to the story. Some characters I love to pieces, while the story is just so-so for me. The story can be really great or really horrid, but I'll read or watch it just because I love the character.

I'm not sure if that explains it very well, but here's what else I discovered. When I studied my stories list, two things stuck out to me: "impressive", "nostalgia". When I studied my characters list, five things stuck out: "male", "female", "admire", "identify", "sympathize".

Let me explain.

If I own a book or movie...

1. It's because I'm impressed by it.

My two favorite Ted Dekker books are Skin and Adam. And they're not warm and fuzzy favorites. They're deep and disturbing favorites. Adam was the first Dekker I read, and I remember being awed by the deep theology. I read Skin in 4 hours: a decision both brilliant and misguided. I questioned my psychological existence for the rest of the day. Similarly, I picked up Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale, for free in 2007, I think, and I've read it at least 5 times since. If you are a girl, or if you know a girl, get this book. It's a wonderful story about growing up and finding your strength. Because of this, I can't pick a favorite character. Oh, and Monster, by Frank Peretti, is something every Christian should attempt to read. Evolution vs. Creation is a pretty hot debate, and this book certainly opens up some thought-provoking ideas. I read it in 4 hours, too, and it very nearly blew my mind.

2. It's because I grew up with it.

Probably 80% of my favorites fall under this. An Old-Fashioned Girl, Love Comes Softly, The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, The Wind in the Willows, Christy, The Boxcar Kids.....all of these are stories that I watched or read repeatedly as a child. Fiddler on the Roof is one of the three movies my go-getter mother will actually sit down for. The Sound of Music is the sole reason I ever started singing, and it's all my dad's fault. ;-) I only owned about 10 Boxcar Kids books, but I read them until I nearly had them memorized. I remember trying to use their detective tricks once to figure out who was coming over for dinner. (I failed, but it was interesting effort at least.) And thanks to the Christy series, I had an undying crush on the Reverend David Grantland for at least 6 years. Until I read the actual book a couple years ago, which simultaneously crushed my childhood dreams and gave me a whole new appreciation for Miss Huddleston's work.

3. Or it's because I'm a groupie.

Some books or movies I wouldn't love half as much if I didn't have friends or brothers to enjoy them with. I can't remember which of us kids had The Wind in the Willows for literature one year, but the boys and I ended up writing a screenplay about Toad crashing his new car, and we went around saying "poop-poop" for 2 months. The boys and I quote Napoleon Dynamite without even thinking about, and my girlfriends and I compete to see who can bring an Austenland quote into the conversation first. (Our official leave-taking phrase is "Tally-Ho!") With Tolkien or the Avengers, there's so many characters that we start pegging people. Our youth group was so small and diverse that it usually works perfectly. In the Avengers, we have Iron Man, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow (who doubles as Peggy Carter), and Jane Foster (me). [The fact that we have an Agent Carter and a Jane Foster should pretty well explain why nobody--and I mean NOBODY--gets pegged as Captain America or Thor. ;-) ]  In Tolkien, we have Gimli, Aragorn, Legolas, Eomer, Eowyn (me), Arwen, Tauriel, and Galadriel.

And then there's my characters. This is where I get all embarrassed and self-conscious, because I've realized that I get way, way too "into" characters. First, I approach a character differently if they're male or female, and I must be the only person who does this. (I know why I do it, and it's just because of my life, and for that reason, it seems a bit silly.) Second, I tend to favorite unique or supporting characters. I don't like to just jump on bandwagons, but I think it's because I like an underdog, too.

Essentially, I like a female character if...

1. She's my mirror.

Reason #1Aa1.1I I love Emma Woodhouse Knightley. We're so alike it's almost annoying. We meddle in people's business, and we know everything, of course. Effie Trinket: I said it in Hunger Games, I said it in Catching Fire, I said it in Mockingjay 1, and I'll say it in Mockingjay 2. "I. Am. Effie. Trinket." In the middle of horribly depressing situations, we put on a saccharinely silly disposition to try to forget everything around us. Mia Thermopolis and I have the same life motto: "The concept is grasped, the execution is a little...elusive." We also trip over things all day long. Glinda Uplander and I are like blonde glitter sisters. Pink fixes everything, you know. (My best friend is Elphaba Thropp, so it's perfect, yes.) Penelope Garcia and I have the same idea: if you mix a few big words into your conversation, everyone else gets a kick out of it. Plus, they think you're super smart, when really you just love words. And then there's Margaret Hale Thornton. *sigh* The parallels I could draw between her and me are uncanny. "A father who had to leave the church and move the family to a place we never wanted to go. A mother who hated living there. An older brother who nearly broke the mother's heart. Being shunned and misunderstood by basically everyone around. Being stubbornly set in your opinions. Judging other people too quickly. Being thrown in a culture totally different than what you grew up in. Eating your words. Playing peacemaker." Suffice it to say that it was physically painful to watch Mrs. Hale's reaction to Milton. :/

2. Or she makes me look horrible.

I am in awe of Elizabeth Bennet Darcy. She is seriously amazing. Polly Milton Shaw is the epitome of a lady. I will never be as great as she, but I will die trying. Ignoring her ridiculously bad social skills, Dr. Temperance Brennan is jaw-droppingly brilliant. Sammy Lane Matthews is surprisingly shrewd, and I applaud her growth. I wanted to hug Kitty Pryde in DOFP, but, honestly, she didn't even need a hug, because she is Kitty Pryde, thank you very much. And Martha Lucinda Claridge Davis...I love how her faith plays out in her day-to-day life. Steady, faithful, honest, without parading it or pushing it. She also taught me never to use water to clean chinking in a log cabin. That's a good housekeeping tip to remember. LOL.

Then there's the male characters, who are about half and half. I applaud myself for not picking just hot guys, but when I compared my men, I'm afraid one of my common themes isn't much better.

After further review, it appears I gravitate towards male characters who...

1. Are sweet or sensitive or gentle. In a non-weak way.

I don't know why. (Actually, I have a two-page answer to why I like Thor, but that's...not here, not now.) When I tried to think of the first moment--in a movie, at least--when I first thought "I like him. I like him a lot"--it was usually in a scene where the character was hurt, or vulnerable, or softhearted. And the character in general is a gentle-soul type of person. I spent nearly all of TTDW resisting the urge to hug the TV, because poor Thor really goes through the wringer. I've only seen one episode of Combat! so far, but my first exposure to it was a book called Counterattack, and Caje's quiet, fierce protection of a French civilian boy really stuck out to me. (And then I watched "No Trumpets, No Drums", which firmly cemented him as a favorite.) Spock...well, I have absolutely zero explanation for that one. I watched Into Darkness first, and then Star Trek, and I just remember falling head over heels in love with him. It must have been when Vulcan was destroyed. Then there's Beastie-boy. What a guy. I saw him in DOFP first, and I liked him a lot, and then I saw First Class, and his face when the other mutant teens are like "Let's see your 'problem', we're cool with it." He can't hardly believe he's finally accepted, and that look.....yeah, I was hopeless. :-)

(But this at least explains why I so fiercely defend P&P '05 against '95: Matthew MacFadyen made Darcy much more sensitive and approachable than Colin Firth did. Let the purists take what they like; I like my men approachable. ;-) )

2. Are admirable examples of fine gentlemen.

[oh, come on; whose picture did you think I was gonna use?] 

Again with the admiring. I love Mr. Knightley so, so much, because he's so smart, and so stinkin' right. In reality, I'd probably get into multiple fights with him, but in fiction, he amazes me. I admire the book Darcy for the same reason. Clark Davis is another good example, as is Tom Shaw. Tom hit a few speed bumps before he got his act together, but all along, he was a good guy. Faramir is another. So noble, so honest, so brave, so selfless. John Thornton--I think I'd hit him, too, but realistically, it would humbling to think such a good man would ever be okay with me. And then before I wax introspective AGAIN, yes, I'm going to mention Thor. He's like Tom--took him a bit to get better, but I love him all the more for having those struggles.

So there you have it. A super-long, super-detailed look into my reactions to fiction. Having typed myself as ESFJ kind of clarifies some of these, but I'm still learning about the whole MBTI thing. If you're curious, I suggest checking out Charity's Tumblr. (But be careful: it's black hole of curiosity. ;-) )

But now I pass on Hamlette's questions: what draws you to certain characters? Why are your favorite stories your favorites? Do you think it reflects anything about you?

(Okay, I added that last one. ;-) )


  1. Ok WOW! I am in awe of this post. And I mean that in an awesome way! :) I confess that I haven't ever analyzed why I like certain characters or books. Although I guess I do know that I tend to go for the happy ever after ending when I'm picking a story to read. I get enough grief and pain in real life, I want my fictional life to have rainbows and kittens at the end! ;) (Although this does not mean that I don't enjoy real stories. I do!) And now you've inspired me to attempt such a thing. I do love to analyze stuff, so this should be right up my alley! If/when I get this done, I'll get back to you on my findings.

    But suffice it to say, this post was made of awesome. I love not being the only one who analyzes stuff to the nth degree! Makes me feel like a kindred spirit or something. :)

    1. You are too kind. :) Thank you! I prefer happy endings, too. I avoided the Hunger Games for a long time because I knew they were sad, and I don't really watch war movies for the same reason. I would LOVE to read your character post. Can't wait to see what you come up with. :)

  2. Well done!

    And the Realization just keeps on giving. Once you know what your friends' triggers are, you can tell a lot better whether or not they're going to like a book for movie, and know whether or not to recommend it. One of its many uses!

    Actually, we owe this whole thing to one man: Joss Whedon. DKoren and I were watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I mentioned that I actually don't like Buffy herself much. DKoren was like, "How can you love this show if you don't like the main character?!?!?!?!?!" And out of that pondering and discussion, the Realizations were born.

    Anyway, you mentioned having different things for male and female characters. I do too, to some extent. I need both male and female characters to be Helpful and Nice (yes, I deem Wolverine to be Nice. Inside, he's nice. He really, really is). But I also need my female characters to be Supportive. Or rather, I cannot stand Unsupportive female characters. If a female character tries to stop someone, especially her love interest, from doing something that is very important to them, then I am done with her. And if she is Pushy? Go away, woman. No Pushy Women Here. I'm trying to think of examples, and Mia Sorvino's character in At First Sight comes to mind -- when Val Kilmer's character didn't want to do something (vague-ing this up so I don't spoil the movie), she pushes and pushes him to do it instead of supporting his decision. Can't stand her because of that. (I don't like pushy men either, but I detest pushy women.)

    And as for men -- I fear gruff men. Gruffness scares me. I am perpetually afraid of RIchard Boone, even when he's playing a good guy like in Have Gun, Will Travel, because he is Gruff. And I cannot define Gruff, I just know it when I see it. It's not the same thing as Grumpy or Crotchety, because I love grumpy and crotchety guys to bits.

    So. Um, shutting up now. Snack time for the kiddos.

    1. Thanks! :) Yep, I can see how it could be useful, but looking over my post, I guess my triggers aren't very useful, because they're pretty subjective. Oh, well, I enjoyed writing it out, and, heh, I usually watch/read things because my friends recommend it. Like Horatio Hornblower. Or. X2. Great stuff. ;-)

      You know, there is so much of Joss that I do not know. I've discovered him every backwards way possible. I only know Boreanaz from Bones, and I only know about Firefly/Serenity because I watch Nathan Fillion on Castle. And I'd never heard of Joss Whedon until The Avengers.

      DKoren's reaction is probably the boys' reactions to me + XMen. I've realized that while Wolverine is so freakin' awesome, and I like his solo movies, I'm finding I like Beast most. Beast is the best part of First Class for me. The boys just tend to go for the kick-butt stuff. :-)

      (I deem Wolvie nice, too.) Pushy females turn me off in real life, so I'd say I don't like them as characters, too. I loathe extroverted women (real or fake) who walk all over their introverted men. Grr. The gripey wife in City Slickers (w/ Billy Crystal)--ohhoho, I wanted to choke her SO MUCH.

      Then is Batman Gruff or Moody? I'm thinking Moody.

    2. Hey, it doesn't matter how you discovered Joss Whedon, just that you did ;-) He's very talented at storytelling, breaking my heart, and making me want to smash things.

      Mmmmm, David Boreanaz. I love him as Seeley Booth too! Just not as much as Angel. And Nathan Fillion is such a sweetie -- love him as Castle. In fact, Bones and Castle are the only two forensics/procedural shows I like well enough to buy on DVD. Though Ioan Gruffudd's Forever is really enjoyable too, and I may end up deciding I want to own it too.

      Beast is really sweet. He's kind and generous and helpful, and I really like him a lot. Oh, that moment in DOFP when bad, naughty, evil Magneto has left him tied up in the fountain, and all the people are staring at him -- I could cry.

      Batman is moody and broody. Though I haven't seen Dark Knight Rises yet -- he might get gruff in that, I don't know.

    3. Is Forever getting good? I gave up after 3 eps because I joined our community chorus, which practices on Monday nights, and I can't find time to watch it at other times. I really want to get back to it. I like Dr. Morgan a lot. :/

      Ow, that moment in the fountain--I felt for Beast there. All exposed to the world's cameras, and they're only going to make fun of it. Yep, that hurt.

      OMGGGGGGG...You really need to watch DKR. It's long and hurtful and sobering and thought-provoking and Bane will scare the snot out of you. Poor, poor Christian Bale.

    4. I'm like 4 eps behind on Forever, but it's getting better. He doesn't die in literally every episode anymore, lol. I watch it on Hulu because we don't do TV. The relationship between Henry and Abe is definitely the best part, and they've been playing that up more.

      Yeah, I know I need to see DKR. I really liked Batman Begins, enough to buy it. But then, Heath Ledger dying... I did go see Dark Knight to honor his memory, but I can't seem to find the desire to see DKR. But I should, I should. One day, I will.

    5. Forgot to mention I loved the Boxcar Children books too, and now my son does too :-) The first one was my favorite -- I reread it a lot, and the others I just read once or maybe twice.

    6. Yay for Forever, then. I can't wait to get back to it. I'm curious to see what they can do with Jo.

      I loved the Alden kids so, so much. I was fascinated by their resourcefulness in the first one. We used to search for junk at our dead end, which is next to some train tracks (conveniently), and I would pretend I was Jessie or Violet. Great imagination fodder. :D

    7. Skip eps 7 and 8 of Forever (one's a retread, one's icky) and start again with ep 9, called "6 A.M." Gorgeous episode, my absolute favorite so far.

      I have a penchant for stories about people having to build lives out of whatever is at hand -- "The Boxcar Children," "Robinson Crusoe," "The Swiss Family Robinson," season one of "Lost," etc. I would have LOVED playing at your dead end!

  3. Fun post to read!

    FINALLY, SOMEONE ELSE WHO LIKES DAVID GRANTLAND. I get why girls like the Doctor in the novel, because he’s great and David is horrible, but on the television show the Doctor is a jerk, and David is nice. So as a child, I always preferred David. (You realize Christy Huddleston is an ESFJ, right? I haven’t typed her officially yet, but … yeah, epitome of ESFJ.) Anyway, moving on.

    Aww, I loved the Boxcar Kids books!!

    ESFJ characters. I’m glad to know I’m typing them correctly and that you can identify with them. :D

    Margaret Hale. In some ways, I can relate to her (being an SFJ myself) and in some ways, she frustrates me. I warmed up to Mr. Thornton and understood him much sooner than she did, which isn’t entirely fair given that I get to see HIS SIDE of the story! She doesn’t, until the end. (It’s hilarious, though … I introduced the miniseries to another ISFJ friend. I was sitting with a bunch of other girls who had seen it, and already liked Thornton, so we were crushing on him a bit, and I could FEEL the vibes from her side of the couch that were DO NOT LIKE HIM. We started freaking out a little bit, wondering if she would warn up to him – she did, but it took her a long time! Now, she adores him, but at the time … well, it was like having Margaret Hale in the room with us.)

    Men. I like angsty men who do the right thing even when it’s hard, and who are often not liked for it. I am drawn to logical men for some reason. Powerful men. Intelligent men. I’ll like the villain more than the hero if I think he’s smarter. My mother worries about me. :D

    1. OF COURSE WE LOVE DAVID GRANTLAND. He was so dashing and charming and nice, and then the doctor was pushing and swaggering his way into things. I wasn't really happy with the book when I first read it, but I'm okay with it now. And, nope, had no idea Christy was an ESFJ. I can see that, though.

      I understand that. My friends sat me down to watch North & South and kept gushing about the "beautiful British man". I thought he was a royal turd up until about halfway through episode 3. Now, of course, I have tons of feelings for poor Mr. Thornton. :-)

      I get the whole 'well-written villain' thing. Are you a Loki fan? He's definitely fascinating. I can't stand his conniving, so I appreciate him, but that's about it.

      Question: is there one defining difference between an ESFJ and an ENFP? I spent 2 hours yesterday going between your Tumblr and the MBTI homepage, and one other site trying to decide what I am. I can't tell if I'm an insecure ENFP, or an unhealthy ESFJ. But I've managed to sit everyone else down and make them take the type test. :D

    2. I do like Loki, yes. I often enjoy the villain for their intelligence. So much smarter than everyone else in the room ... usually. Though Loki's weakness is his arrogance.

      One defining difference? Yes. ESFJs finish things. NFPs do not.

      ENFPs are Ne-dominants. Their entire focus lies around the novelty of things -- in brainstorming how to fix the world's problems, bring order to chaos, improve on old traditions, with grand idealistic dreams far flung from reality on how things things might be accomplished ... but when you inject details into it, such as actual plans, hiring people, tax forms, etc., they deflate like a balloon because ... details? Boring things. Dull things. Too much repetition in them. Not enough room to breathe. Oh, I have another idea -- and they are off again. It is the Ne-leading, Si-inferior pull. Reality -- Si -- is a distant, troublesome thing lost in a gaping void of excitement for ideas.

      In basic terms, intuitive dominants are far removed from their physical environment, from reality. They dominate in terms of abstraction and conceiving new ways of doing things, and are always chasing novelties and new things, but chafe under routine, bore easily, and would abandon everything in an instant to pursue something new and exciting. ENFPs in particular, because their strongest attribute is Ne and Fi.

      I know several INFPs. They start a project, get sixteen more ideas out of it, and start working on those too, so they have a dozen projects "in-progress" at any one time, and cannot imagine being any other way. Working on one thing without touching anything else until it is completed would probably drive them mad. They create for themselves, out of the "emotional ties" they have to the material; if you read, or look at it, good for you, but they didn't create it for you, the reader, the consumer, the listener, the viewer. It was created as a means of self-expression. ENFPs are like that, but as Ne-doms, juggle even more balls in the air at all times.

      I head-butt a lot with NFPs because they are so far removed from reality; they are true idealists who deal in ideas rather than real things. That's the natural SFJ/NXP divide. The idea fascinates them so much, that it consumes their mind, it becomes an abstract in their head, and reality falls far away into the void. And to them, I deal far too much with reality. I stay far too much in routines. I am not as adventurous, or likely to drop everything for some new idea. I follow through to the end.

      In short, are you Anne Shirley? Do you see the world as she does? Do you live in a wonderland removed from reality like she does? Or are you Diana Berry, enjoying the wonderland but well aware that reality exists, and operating around you? They are the perfect examples of NFP/SFJ dynamics. Anne sees the abstract, the ideal, the lake of shining waters. Diana sees the truth, the reality. She can use her imagination, but it does not dictate all of her actions.

    3. (May I first just say that this FASCINATES me?! MBTI has baffled me for YEARS, and this has set off my new obsession. My family is sick of hearing about it. :D )

      I think I understand, and after reading your explanation of the 8 cog functions, I'm pretty sure I'm an ESFJ. I definitely don't use the ENFP functions in that way. The only part that I have in common w/ the ENFP is that I'm scatterbrained. I am Anne Shirley in that I talk constantly. But I don't really dream big dreams. I have some Ne, but it's definitely behind my Fe and Si. I cling to my Christmas decorations, and I love to watch our old home movies. And I've realized that I am dictated by other people's emotions. Sometimes in a unhealthy way, but mostly I'm good with helping people when they are down in the dumps.

      Also: you type as an ISFJ? Because your Blogger profile says ENTP. I just wondered. :-)
      Also: are ESFJ and ISFJ considered 'opposites'? Because I'm 95% sure my BFF is an ISFJ, and now I know why we get along so well. :-)

    4. It is truly interesting! Hopefully I can clear up some of the bafflement and help you explain it more clearly to your family. (I think mine is getting sick of it.)

      Yes. That is something I have noticed about Fe-doms (EXFJ) ... very much in tune with, concerned about, and even dictated by other people's emotions. You can bypass your secondary function but you can't shut off your dominant function -- so ISFJs are more emotionally isolated from people than ESFJs, but you have clearer, stronger access to your Ne than ISFJs do.

      Oops! Thanks for letting me know; I've changed it. My high Ne-usage had me confused for awhile as a high-Ne type, until I got to know more of them and compared my behavior to theirs and realized that I'm a finisher who can put aside new ideas as they come to wrap something up before starting another project. High Ne ... can't. So yes, I am an ISFJ but my storyteller side (and my ENFP father -- who is basically George Bailey incarnate) messes with my functions a bit. In a good way, mostly.

      Opposites, no ... a true opposite would be an NTJ/SFJ. A dual type (functions backward and forward) would be NTP/SFJ. ESFJ and ISFJ are compatibles, but even they can butt heads. It's nice that you get along with your ISFJ so well. :)

    5. Oh, I definitely have clear access to my Ne. I get six projects going, and then get depressed because I can't finish them, BUT I HAVE TO FINISH THEM ALL. 4-H was traumatic for me and my ENTJ mother.

      You're welcome. :-) I was just curious. My Ne is what made me think I was ENFP, but I realized I so definitely did not use Fi.

      Cool. And I think so, too. Took us 9 years to get it together. :)