Interviews

Exclusive Interview: Author-Researcher Marissa Baker Explores Star Wars Characters’ Personality Traits

Grogu rides in a small sack
Introvert? Extrovert? Personality typing expert Marissa Baker applies the Meyers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator to Star Wars characters. Pic credit: Disney Plus

The Meyers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator uses four traits to study how people interact with information and the world around them. Based on the theories of psychiatrist Carl Jung, the MBTI uses a self-answered survey to predict four dominant patterns of behavior: View of the world (Introvert or Extrovert), processing information (Sensing or Intuition), decision making (Thinking or Feeling), and reaction to a structured lifestyle (Judging or Perceiving.) The result is sixteen major types expressed in a four-letter code– for example, INFP. (If you’d like to know your MBTI type, try a shortened version of the survey here.)

While there’s a wide range of variability within the types, knowing more about strengths and tendencies can help people better understand themselves, as well as co-workers, family members, and romantic partners. Even studying well-developed fictional characters can provide valuable information about how real human beings react with one another.

The Star Wars universe is so sprawling and culturally integrated that author-researcher Marissa Baker began exploring how some of its major characters expressed themselves as MBTI types. In an exclusive interview, Baker shares her findings with Monsters & Critics. She discusses viewing droids as having human traits, whether or not we can discern Grogu’s personality type, and what we can learn about ourselves by thinking over our favorite character’s traits.

Monsters & Critics: How did you become interested in MBTI?

Marissa Baker: I first took an online test similar to Myers-Briggs in high school, then I started reading more books on the subject when I was trying to figure out how to survive college as an introvert. The more I learned about my INFJ personality type, the more it seemed to explain about me. My interest in personality types grew into a blog, which later split into LikeAnAnchor.com and Star Wars Personalities, and The INFJ Handbook: A Guide To and For the Rarest Myers-Briggs Personality Type, which is now in its second edition.

M&C: When did you realize the Star Wars universe’s characters would fit well with MBTI?

MB: Star Wars has such a rich universe full of characters with diverse backgrounds, skills, and ways of seeing the world. Many fictional universes (like Lord of the Rings, for example) aren’t varied enough to give us good illustrations of all 16 personality types. With Star Wars, though, we actually have multiple examples of most types.

M&C: Are there any Star Wars characters that you feel defy typing?

MB: I think it’s possible to come up with a “best-fit” type for most characters. Which type is the best fit can be hotly debated, though. Anakin and Vader’s type (or types) is pretty controversial, for example, and many people disagree with my choice to type Kylo Ren as an Extrovert.

The characters I find hardest to type are the ones that we have less information about. I type both Shaak Ti and Aayla Secura as ISFPs based on what little we know about them from the prequel movies and The Clone Wars, but I’m not highly confident about those typings since we have so little information about how their minds work. Droids are also hard to type, especially the ones we don’t hear from directly in a language the audience can understand.

M&C: Have you had to change typing based on new information in “changes in canon” or additional episodes of a movie trilogy or show? For example, you currently have Boba Fett as an ISTP– does this still hold given what we’ve seen of him in The Mandalorian?

MB: I didn’t start typing Star Wars characters until after Star Wars was bought by Disney and I wasn’t all that familiar with the books, so any big shifts in character personality that might have happened with that weren’t really on my radar.

I went back-and-forth on some of the typing for quite a while before publishing them, but I don’t think I’ve made any changes since publishing the chart. Sometimes that has surprised me. For example, while I know many people were disappointed with Luke’s portrayal in The Last Jedi I actually found it remarkably consistent with what we know about INFPs (which is how Luke is typically typed).

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Some characters’ typings may still change in the future, though. My next project on the Star Wars Personalities blog will be typing Mandalorian characters, so I’ll be taking a closer look at Boba Fett soon. I’ll probably wait to write a post for him, though, until we see what happens with his character in The Book of Boba Fett show.

M&C: Can you type based on the information given in movies/shows alone, or do you also turn to books, graphic novels, etc?

MB: You can type based just on movies and shows, but I also use books and graphic novels to provide additional examples and support for my typing. For example, Qui-Gon Jinn only appears in one film. Just from what we see there I was pretty sure he seemed like an ENFP type, and Claudia Grey’s Master and Apprentice novel solidified that for me.

M&C: Which Star Wars character fits most solidly into a type?

MB: The answer to this is going to depend on who you talk with since typing fictional characters can always be debated. I think Luke Skywalker is one of the best examples of INFP we have in fiction. Other characters that fit really solidly into one type (for me at least) are Hera Syndulla as an ESFJ, Han Solo as an ISTP, and Obi-Wan Kenobi as an ISFJ.

M&C: Is it possible to type a sapient character who does not speak and whose inner thoughts we do not see? Is it possible to type Grogu?

MB: I’d be very hesitant to type Grogu at this point because we have so little information about how he processes information and makes decisions. Many typologists also say it’s very difficult to type children reliably until they’re at least in their teens, and it doesn’t seem that Grogu has reached a similar developmental point for his species yet. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see him grow up and learn more about his personality.

To get any kind of an accurate typing for a fictional character, I usually want to see examples of them making decisions in different situations and talking about how they process their ideas. That makes it hard to type characters who don’t speak, or who don’t speak in a way we can understand.

M&C:  You’ve typed both Qui-Gon and Ahoska Tano as ENFPs. Do you think they would have gotten along as Master and Padawan?

MB: Interactions between people always depend on more than just their personality type. That said, I know some ENFPs don’t get along very well with people who are too much like them. My suspicion is that Qui-Gon and Ahsoka think in similar ways, but base their decisions on different (and mostly unvoiced) internal “compasses.” Because of this disconnect, I think they’d often find each other exasperating. But I also think Qui-Gon would enjoy having a padawan who he could relate to more easily than he did Obi-Wan, and that Ahsoka could have benefited from having a Master who could better teach her how to stay true to herself while navigating the traditions of the Jedi Order.

M&C:  You’ve also kept Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader as the same type. What do you think this says about his turn to the dark side and return to the light?

MB: This is one of my more controversial typing decisions, but also one of the ones I’m most confident about. Picking a type that works for both Anakin and Vader helps illustrate my belief (which is supported by many typology researchers, but not all) that we don’t switch personality types when we go through stressful life events—we just express our types differently. I also don’t like picking one type for Anakin and a different type for Vader because it leans a bit too much toward the idea that some types are “good guys” and some types are inherently a better fit for “bad guys.” Myers-Briggs types are neutral—any one of the 16 types has the potential to be villains or heroes.

In terms of what this means for Anakin’s turn from Light to Dark (something I could, and have, talked about for a whole article) and back to the Light, I think it speaks to the idea that we can always come back. Star Wars is about hope, and that hopefulness functions on a personal, individual level as well as galaxy-wide. Obi-Wan might talk about Anakin as if he died, and Vader may say that name no longer has meaning for him, but the person that Vader used to be is still in there. In the end, he proves that he can still choose to do the right thing and be a better version of himself.

M&C: You also type droids. Do you think of droids in the Star Wars universe as sapient, or do you think their “personalities” reflect their programming and owners?

MB: I’m not sure if droids in Star Wars should be considered “alive” or “sapient,” but I think it’s helpful to treat them as if they are. We the audience (and many of the in-universe characters as well) respond to droids like C-3PO and BB-8 as if they have real fears, hopes, and feelings. This might partly be a reflection of their programming and owners, but people are also reflections of their DNA and their childhood experiences.

I think whether or not it’s helpful to treat droids as sapient also partly depends on the droid. Droids such as R2-D2 who’ve been allowed to keep their memories and develop quirks are now much more than their base programming. Not all droids seem to be capable of that, though. I wouldn’t type a Mouse Droid, for example, since their programming is much more simple and doesn’t mimic personality in any sort of detailed, complex way.

M&C: What can people learn about themselves by studying Star Wars characters as MBTI types?

MB: One of the reasons I like typing fictional characters is because it gives us practical illustrations of what the different types can look like, which can then help people find their own best-fit type. Since Star Wars provides us with such a large number of characters, it can also illustrate the differences between people who have the same type. Not everyone who’s an ISFJ will resonate with C-3PO, for example, but they might relate to someone like Rose, Finn, or Obi-Wan.

All Star Wars content is currently streaming on Disney Plus. You can follow Marissa Baker on Twitter here.


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