Monday, July 14, 2014

"The Hero and the Anima"

I've pointed out a few times I am an INTJ. I know my strengths and weaknesses. I can also identify an INTJ, which is why I know that Hannibal Lector and Walter White are INTJs gone bad. Gus Fring is one, too, for that matter.

We go bad when something very bad happens to us. Fring has his "best friend" murdered in front of him; Lector had his sister eaten, and White was unfairly treated by "friends," costing him hundreds of millions of dollars.

This is from the site, Hero and the Anima.

Why Walter White from “Breaking Bad” is the Quintessential INTJ (and everyone else’s type, too!)

"I rarely talk about fictional characters on here. But considering that what some believe to be the best show of all time is coming to an end, I think it’s dynamic protagonist, Walter White, is worth looking at in-depth. First, his cognitive functions:


Hero/Dominant: Introverted iNtuition (Ni)
Auxiliary: Extraverted Thinking (Te)
Tertiary: Introverted Feeling (Fi)
Anima/Inferior: Extraverted Sensing (Se)

"'Breaking Bad' may be set in my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico (Go Lobos!), but it is 99.1% pure Greek Tragedy. We see our protagonist, driven by greed, slowly approaching one moral event horizon after another, until finally he’s too far gone to ever be saved. And by the middle of Season 5, his hubris has become so great that we know that his fall is inevitable. His only option is to atone for his transgressions and be redeemed only in the eyes of the Gods.

"But it didn’t start out that way for Walter White. A brilliant chemist, he was perfectly content using his first two functions, Introverted iNtuition (Ni) and Extraverted Thinking (Te), for the majority of his life. Once he married Skyler and had Walt Jr., however, he began to develop his third function, Introverted Feeling (Fi). A recurring theme in Walt’s life is the value he places on 'family." He may lie to the people he loves at every turn, but he always rationalizes it by saying 'everything I’ve ever done, I do for this family.' And you know what? I believe him. Skyler doesn’t love him any more, and I think it’s tough to argue that he still loves her as a person, but he loves her as a wife and as the mother of his children. The reason he flips out when Jesse threatens to burn his money is because in his mind, that incredible sum of money equates to the longevity of his family and, transitively, of him.

"I was talking with a friend the other day about what it means to be a man, and how the idea of masculinity plays out in 'Breaking Bad.' He confessed to me that it took him 'way too long' to figure out that Walter sees Jesse as the son he never had. He wants to impart to Jesse all of his knowledge of chemistry because his own son lacks the physical capability (due to his cerebral palsy). It’s easy to see Walter as a monstrous drug kingpin with total disregard for human life and the feelings of others, but that’s too superficial a reading for my taste. Introverted Feeling (Fi) is much more complicated than that, especially when paired with Extraverted Sensing (Se). The Fi/Se combination demonstrates caring through action; getting that person to tell you how much they love you is nigh impossible, but they will go to the ends of the earth to *show* you how much you mean to them. This is one of the reasons he and Skyler butt heads so much; she is an ESFJ and leads with Extraverted Feeling. She doesn’t give a shit about the money, she wants to engage his feelings directly. (Incidentally, the INTJ and the ESFJ are probably the least compatible types, second only to maybe the INFJ and ESTJ. The fact that Skyler and Walter stayed functionally married for as long as they did absolutely blows my mind.)

"But it’s Walter’s fourth function, his Anima, Extraverted Sensing (Se), that really drives the show’s narrative. Material wealth has always been incredibly important to him, since Season 1, Episode 1. We learn that a big reason for this is the fact that he sold his share of Grey Matter for $5000 when now that share would be worth hundreds of millions. That decision, motivated by greed, is what sent him down his path, and ultimately that’s what he hopes to regain.

"'You asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business,' a resolute Walter tells Jesse. 'Neither. I’m in the empire business.' If there is a clearer example of unhealthy, poorly-developed Se backing up Ni, I can’t think of it. This is not to say that the empire business is a bad business to be in, but Walter’s external motivation is purely material. He buys he and his son matching muscle cars because that’s how he tries to forge the bond between the two of them. Of course, in true Greek Tragedy fashion, the father is later brought low by his son. In the penultimate episode, Walter calls his son and breaks down crying as he tells him that he’s sending the family (there’s that word again) $100,000. 'I wanted to give you so much more,' he says, choking back the tears. 'You’re sending money?' Walt Jr. replies. 'You killed Uncle Hank!' Walt. Jr. angrily slams down the phone, leaving a devastated Walter to process the fact that the only person in the family who cared about money was himself.

"[Excuse me for a second while I go have ALL THE MAN-FEELS. To the young men out there reading this right now, let me assure you that the man-feels you get during father/son moments like this only get more powerful the older you get.]

"Walter’s Se does yield some 'positive' results, however, most notably in Season 4. In a season-long game of cat-and-mouse between Walter and Gus Fring (also an INTJ), we see Walter and Gus each trying to out-chessmaster each other. They are both clearly brilliant, and exceptionally in touch with their Ni and Te. But each time one of them is able to land a blow, it’s because that person is able to coordinate their Se with their Ni. Gus, incidentally, can do this on a small scale much better than Walter can; Gus is not only willing to let his Se take the reins and mercilessly slit an underling’s throat with a box-cutter, but he’s able to avoid getting blown up in his car due to a keen sense of his physical surroundings in the parking garage. Of course, it’s Walter who ends up delivering the killing blow, but only through a combination of intense patience (Ni) and non-trivial physical exertion (Se) which includes him climbing in and out of nursing home windows and quickly rigging a bomb to a bell attached to a wheelchair.

"While I personally have a very high opinion of Walter White as a person, I absolutely understand if you don’t. If that is the case for you, I don’t want the takeaway of this blog to be 'all INTJs turn into homicidal megalomaniacs once they activate their Se.' It’s important to understand where Walter goes wrong, which is that once he starts to get in touch with his Se, he indulges it at an infantile level, rather than trying to actually cultivate it. Additionally, his Fi is directed *only* at his family (for sake of argument, I’m counting Jesse, Mike, and Saul as his family), so while he believes he’s being magnanimous, the scope of his generosity is too narrow. Rather than being the visionary leader and noble patriarch we know he can be, he takes the easy way out and settles for simply amassing material wealth. When confronted with his mortality, he’s unable to see that money for the future is a poor substitute for human connection now. Things could have gone differently for him if he’d chosen to actually prioritize his family like he thinks he does. But now it’s too late, and he has to face the consequences of the choices he made.

"I don’t know what the last episode has in store for us, but watching Walter’s rise and fall from grace has been nothing but harrowing. If the end of the series is half as satisfying as the buildup to it promises to be, then television critics and pop culture historians will be talking about 'Breaking Bad' for many years to come."

1 comment:

Glen Filthie said...

I dunno how much stock I would put in this Bob.

I do not trust psychology; it is not a hard science despite its appearances. I myself have traits common to almost all those listed and would fit a few of them with equal ease.
I like your theory about how home and family being a psychological requirement for women. I believe the same holds true for men too. Without family or community we are nothing.