Prior to doing my post on James Joyce which I alluded to in the last entry, I thought prior to getting into that it would be interesting to have a quick look into MBTI and INTJ’s and how they are portrayed in cinema and other media.
I don’t think it’s actually worthwhile spending much time trying to ascertain the types of fictional characters. For a variety of reasons, and often in order to serve the narrative the type you ascertain for any character could and will often fluctuate quite dramatically in order to serve the purposes of the narrative. This is a portentous way of saying fictional characters usually don’t reflect how the overwhelming majority of people behave in real life. However, it can be fun as an exercise and as discussed here it can be instructive as one means of gaining a broader understanding of authorial intent, directors, producers and a meta-understanding of the work, and so on. When thinking about how I was going to go about doing this post, I considered a few different options but having mentioned INTJ writers and directors previously, I thought it would be interesting to look at another one: Christopher Nolan.
I got thinking about how in many Nolan movies, they’ll be laden with INTJ characters and even minor supporting characters will often be only slight variations of this theme. At the very least, you’ll find them to be predominantly xxTJ. As an example, I was considering how Nolan’s vision of Bruce Wayne/Batman is rather unsurprisingly an INTJ. Suffice to say, Nolan’s Batman is big on symbolism. He wears the Bat-suit, here reimagined as military gear – a super-flexible lightweight armoured fabric, to be a symbol and an idea. The crucial abstraction is that this Batman isn’t so much fighting actual criminals as fighting the idea of crime and fear.
So we have a character that is an abstract symbol fighting abstract ideas. For any talk of gritty realism, the only thing that is really grounding Nolan’s narrative in anything resembling reality is an underlying theme that social problems are best solved by the intervention of powerful and virtuous rich men. Suffice to say, I’m not much of a fan of Nolan’s neo-liberal politics in these movies, but we’re about to get on to addressing why this is important.
It seems futile to put off getting to Heath Ledger’s Joker. My reading of the Joker is that he’s also an INTJ with Ni gone awry. For what it’s worth, there is a really good reading here which has him as an ENTP and makes a strong rational argument as to why. Still, as I said at the beginning of this, MBTI typing fictional characters is a futile but fun exercise useful mostly as a means of ascertaining meaning to authorial intent, it’s interesting what the Joker tells us about Nolan. Nolan’s Joker is interesting in that he offers an actual ideological difference to Batman. Batman represents a world ruled by militarised power wedded to an incorruptible symbol, The Joker represents on one level what is ostensibly Nolan’s view of the left: that they stand in opposition to his primary world view, intent on tearing it down, but they don’t actually have anything tangible and constructive to put in its place. Hence, ‘Some men just like to watch the world burn.’ Interestingly however, this isn’t necessarily the critique that it appears on the surface. Certainly when you consider this in juxtaposition with The Joker’s experiment: the schmaltzy sequence with the two boats, this actually posits the suggestion that the Joker is at the very least redeemable. Further to this, Gotham, as imagined by Nolan, actually makes a strong case for anarchism. When the world is wholly corrupt and the only apparent alternative is violent authoritarianism, burning it down is an entirely rational response. The sensible points of disagreement with the Joker are thus over his tactics, not his goals. Still, Nolan’s conservative instincts prove too strong, conservative and thus the second part of Nolan’s trilogy ends with a defence of the importance of mass surveillance when implemented by suitably benevolent overlords. It was never going to pay off the possibilities of this Joker. However…
At the tangential level, this trilogy is an unruly mess. The Joker actually pretty much represents the structure of the trilogy in macrocosm. By the final movie Nolan simply loses control of it all and it becomes a sprawling tangle of competing ambitions that doesn’t know what it wants to do even as, if at any given moment, what it’s doing, it’s doing well. This is unusual for Nolan, as generally his movies will employ a puzzle-box structure, operate across multiple frames of reality, or in the case of Dunkirk utilise a non-linear narrative structure across three separate timelines. (That last link about Nolan’s work is a fun read. It is basically INTJ life in a nutshell. ‘A common theme… is the conversion of people themselves into puzzles … for its audience to solve.’ Not that this is in anyway what this blog does or attempts to resolve.)
As mentioned at the start of this, MBTI is not something that can deftly and cleanly profile fictional characters. As fictional characters they will generally have to at some point defy the archetypes they represent or more accurately they will fluctuate into other archetypes in order to serve the purposes of the narrative. (An interesting example of this in other media would be Doctor Who. The actual archetype of the character due to its conceptual nature on paper is INTP, yet the character in practise has been practically everything but. However, I would speculate that this is because Doctor Who has never had an INTP show-runner. I would be curious to know how many INTP’s actually watch Doctor Who without considering the whole thing to be silly. Personally, I primarily enjoy it as it is a format that conceptually lends itself to telling absolutely any story, and thus being a story about telling stories. I also like it as conceptually lending itself to being a show about ideas. I’ve never had any interest in it from the atypical sci-fi level as I cannot for the life of me understand how you can illicit any kind of enjoyment from listening to someone reel off nonsensical technobabble and scientific sounding phrases which make absolutely no sense at all.)
Nonetheless, this is definitely the case with Bane, who at once takes up a role that much of it seems on the surface to have been intended for Heath Ledger’s Joker, instead we’re left with a character who shifts from a freedom-fighter with an elaborate plan to a qlippothic brute to an anarchic revolutionary to the archetype of the most tedious totalitarian scheming villain depending on which narrative purposes require serving at the time. This is the most profound example of why typing fictional characters doesn’t work. Sometimes they are just, like this, composites of various archetypes designed because circumstances dictate them necessary such as in this instance of Heath Ledger’s Joker no longer being an option, and/or it’s a more expedient way of handling logistics or moving the narrative along with out to much fuss or otherwise completely fucking up the pacing.
No less telling is the characterisation of Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman. This is interesting because I think how men write their female characters is probably just on some level reflective of how they see women in general, and provides some indication as to what they consider to be their ideal partner. I’m a big fan of Anne Hathaway and her performance here, nonetheless, the actual character itself at once demonstrates the same basic revolutionary instincts as Bane, proclaiming early in the film that “There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” Thus, her arc offers a secondary engagement with the politics of a violent overthrowing of the rich. Taken this way, her story ends up being firmly against class war, her early politics from early in the movie abandoned in favour of running away with a billionaire at the movies end. Like Nolan’s own instincts across the three movies, conservatism wins the day. While the composite archetype of Catwoman is pretty much anything but, if we were to look at Catwoman as something of a Mary Sue, you’d be left with thinking that Nolan’s ideal partner is somewhere between independent and idealistic and ruthlessly pragmatic, like, oh, I dunno, say, an ENTP. Who knew that’s what INTJ’s were into.