Thoughts on Kylo Ren, the Force, and Evil ENFJs

I saw The Force Awakens on opening night and then again the following Sunday, and was just blown away by how amazing it was. The new characters were a particularly bright spot in this shining film. I loved all the new main characters, but I was surprised to find Kylo Ren the most compelling. I have several thoughts on his powers and his story, but we’ll save those until after the spoiler warning.

Last week in my Star Wars Myers-Briggs chart I did something I wasn’t expecting — I typed Kylo Ren as an ENFJ. Many MBTI fans will argue that NF types don’t make good villains — that they’re too in-touch with other people to hurt them. Even with Hitler as a real-life example of an INFJ bad guy, they still argue that NFs are hard-wired to act for what they believe is the “good” of humanity.Thoughts on Kylo Ren, the Force, and Evil ENFJs | marissabaker.wordpress.com

 

Spoiler Warning

this post contains Major Spoilers for The Force Awakens, and for other books and films in the Star Wars universe

And yet, I really get the feeling Kylo is an Idealist type, or an NF personality in the Myers-Briggs system. Most clever and/or menacing villains are cast as Rational types, or NT in Myers-Briggs, but there’s something different about Kylo. People are already talking about how he’s a new kind of villain. One video review I saw described him as, “Not your typical villain, he has very complex motivations.” Another said, “they play very well with what a villain is, and they add some layers to it” and that Kylo is “A great villain, a complicated villain.” The NT villain has been done over and over again in film — people wouldn’t be saying this if they got the sense Kylo was another character along these same lines. We expect NT villains driven by a lust for power and a need for control. Kylo is something else.

The Cult Leader

I’ve said this before, but being in touch with other peoples’ feelings doesn’t automatically make you a good or caring person. Extroverted Feeling used in an antagonistic way is the harshest judge of other people. It’s all focused outward rather than processing the person’s own emotions. When damaged, immature, or even just temporarily angry, Extroverted Feeling types can tear other people apart. Understanding how others work means you know exactly what to use against them. The clearest time Kylo uses someone’s emotions against them is when he asks his father for help reaching his full potential, and then kills him.

We learn very little about the Knights of Ren, but we do learn that Kylo is “Master of the Knights of Ren.” He’s probably the leader, and may even be the founding member. Prior to the films release it was assumed Ren was a surname taken by all the Knights in this order, but since Finn calls him “Ren” and not “Kylo” I suspect this is a name specific to the character. Perhaps “Knights of Ren” should be taken as “Knights who follow/belong to Ren.” He even tries to recruit another follower in the final duel with Rey — “you need a teacher” (and David Keirsey calls ENFJs “The Teacher”).

This is a key reason I chose ENFJ rather than INFJ as Kylo’s type. ENFJs love having followers, and the few times you will see ENFJs playing villains in fiction it’s as evil cult leaders. In addition, Kylo doesn’t strike me as a Hitler-type villain (Hitler is generally typed as INFJ) trying to bring about a new world order — this is more personal and hands-on for Kylo. He’s not commanding from a distance, he’s right there engaged with the fight.

Thoughts on Feeling

One of the key traits we see Kylo display is outbursts of emotion, slashing at consoles and rooms twice with his lightsaber after learning something that makes him angry. You might use this to argue that Feeling is his inferior function — the one he goes to when stressed. An INTP, for example, has Extroverted Feeling a lowest on their function stack. However, emotional outbursts aren’t limited to types with Feeling low on their stack — I’m an INFJ, and I’ve thrown things across the room and knelt on the floor and screamed when I was angry (rarely, and quite a few years ago, but it did happen). I think Kylo is using his Feeling far too comfortably for it to be his least well developed function. ENFJs use inferior Thinking, which you can read more about by clicking here.

Like Fe types, Kylo notices other people — what they’re doing, what makes them tick, how to control them. He knows immediately which Stormtrooper helped Poe Dameron escape because he picked up on Finn’s distress on Jakku. There are also two interrogation scenes in the film that illustrate this point. For the first, Kylo interrogates Poe and we learn he can pull thoughts out of other people’s heads. Even before using the Force, though, he’s already learned a lot about Poe’s character. In the second scene, he interrogates Rey and doesn’t try his Force power as the first step. Instead, he takes off his mask and tries to establish an emotional connection so he can manipulate her, though he does make sure she knows, “I can take whatever I want.”

Another key scene where I feel he shows dominant Feeling rather than thinking comes right after he fails to get information out of Rey. Kylo goes to Supreme Leader Snoke and says that he would succeed if given a second change with Snoke’s guidance. He’s asking for a mentor to teach him, where most Thinkers would ask for help reluctantly because they want to prove they can do everything on their own.

 

Force Powers

I have a working theory that a Jedi or Sith’s specific skill set is influenced by their personality. I’ve previously argued that any type can be a Force user (i.e. not just Intuitive), and I still think that. My thought here is that any specific powers a Force user has are tied to personality.

Take Yoda for example. He’s an INFJ, and INFJ personality types are known for being the most in-tune with other peoples’ emotions. Some even call them empaths because of the unique way their brains are wired to use Introverted Intuition with Extroverted Feeling. Yoda’s specific Force gift is to see inside other people. In the book Dark Disciple he says he can see the history of a person’s soul, which is what makes it possible for him to tell that Quinlan Vos has turned to the Dark Side when no one else can sense it.

Speaking of Quinlan, he’s another Jedi with a Force gift that’s specific to him. Psychometry allows him to see the history of an object when he touches it — a comb tells him its owner flexed in the mirror when no one is looking, his master’s lightsaber tells him how he died, a stolen antique points to the smugglers who handled it. This gift fits well with his ESTP personality — they’re very much tied to the sensory, external world of people and objects.

On the Dark Side, Dooku and Emperor Palpitain are both INTJ, and they’re the only characters we see use Force-lightening in the films.  It’s generally assumed to be a power common to Sith, though, so perhaps we can’t count them, especially since Son (basically the personification of the Dark Side) uses it in Clone Wars S3E15-17. Foresight is a strong contender for the Emperor’s specific Force power, especially if you’ve read Lords of the Sith. That’s a more of INTJ-type power — their Introverted Intuition acts as pattern-recognition that, coupled with very clever use of Extroverted Thinking, can help them predict future events with a high degree of accuracy.

Kylo Ren has a Force power we’ve never seen before (at least as far as I know; certainly not in any of the films). He can read minds. This is the first time we’ve seen a character in Star Wars use the Force to pull thoughts out of people’s heads, and it’s terrifying. It’s like an evil, and perhaps more powerful,version of Yoda’s gift. So if these powers are tied to personality types, then we might expect to see Kylo also using Extroverted Feeling and Introverted Intuition, but perhaps with Fe dominant as in an ENFJ.

Tempting Sith

Most Sith are NT types. Darth Sideous/Palpitain and Darth Tyranus/Dooku are INTJs, Darth Vader/Anakin is an ENTJ, and Sith-in-traning Asajj Ventress is an INTP. When you’re tempting one of these types to the Dark Side, the pitch usually includes the instruction to give into your feelings and let the hate flow through you. For types that use Thinking as their primary or secondary function, this is an invitation to ignore their most stable way of making decisions and tapping into less-developed Feeling.

This pitch did not work on Luke Skywalker, who is an INFP. INFPs are used to checking in with their finely honed Feeling side to make decisions based on what feels right. Though Luke does let his aggressive feelings take over for a while and cuts off his fathers hand, when the Emperor pushes him Luke steps back, analyzes how he feels, and turns-down the Dark Side’s invitation.

When Kylo Ren talks with Supreme Leader Snoke, we don’t see a “give into your feelings” pitch. Instead, he’s counseling Kylo to overcome the pesky, sentimental emotions that are holding him back from fully joining the Dark Side. It doesn’t seem to fit very well with the Sith code of “Through passion, I gain strength,” but I suspect it’s part of what would be needed to get an ENFJ to go full-evil. Anakin had to by-pass his Thinking to become Darth Vader instead of doing his duty as a soldier of the Republic and a Jedi Knight. Ben Solo has to by-pass his Feeling to become Kylo Ren instead of staying loyal to his family. Along those same lines, he has to pass the test that other Feeling-type Luke failed — kill your father.

Why Go Evil?

In Anakin’s story line, we saw a Light Side user tempted by the Dark Side. In Kylo’s story we see a Dark Side user who struggles against a “call to the Light.” His nature is rebelling against his dark choices in a way we’ve never seen before. So what could flip such an unlikely villain as an ENFJ to the Dark Side? While it’s not explained in this film, we do get a few hints and director J.J. Abrams provided us with some additional insight in an interview:

An incredible power, an incredible force, and incredible potential that was, like many young people, sort of misguided and unclear. And the story for him is one of conflict, not just internal conflict but external conflict. And it’s what makes him a rather interesting villain.” — J.J. Abrams

Here’s what we know: 1) Ben Solo had “too much Vader in him,” so Leia made the decision to have him train with Luke. 2) Han feels like he failed his son, and Kylo tells Rey that Han “would have disappointed you” as a father-figure. 3) Luke withdraws from the galaxy largely because Ben/Kylo turns to the Dark Side. 4) Kylo sees himself as finishing what Darth Vadar started. 5) Kylo considers his mentor, Snoke, a source of wisdom.

Every type needs to know they’re supported while growing up, but it’s particularly key for ENFJs, and especially ENFJ men. They’re using Extroverted Feeling as their primary mental process — a function that’s used by more than 50% of women in the population and which is stereotyped as “feminine.” In addition to that, young Intuitives often feel misunderstood since they’re only about 30% of the population as a whole. Assuming that holds true in the Star Wars universe, young Ben Solo probably struggled with feeling like he was unusual and out-of-place, especially as his Force powers developed. Add this to the fact that his parents were an ESTJ and an ISTP, it’s no wonder if he felt there was something wrong with him. When Leia sent him away, that probably confirmed an idea that he was something less than his parents hoped and added a feeling of rejection.

I don’t know what Ben was told about his grandfather, but whatever it was made him fascinated with Darth Vader. If he was told or overheard that the guardian/mentor/parent figures in his life who weren’t meeting his emotional needs thought there was “too much Vader in him,” that might have prompted his initial interest — a search for someone in his family who would understand him, even if they were long dead. Then if Snoke stepped in around this time and gave Kylo the reassurance he needed and encouraged him to “be himself” and told him there was nothing wrong with him, that would explain a Dark Side switch. Obviously this is all speculation, but I feel it’s a probable theory.

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16 thoughts on “Thoughts on Kylo Ren, the Force, and Evil ENFJs

    • I can’t recommend this movie enough, especially if you love Star Wars. Looking forward to hearing what you think of Kylo — he and Rey are the characters I’ve been discussing most with people since seeing the film. It’s so interesting to see his struggle and development as a villain and a character.

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  1. I am an INFP, borderline INFJ, and Kylo resonates VERY strongly with me. Only one other SW character has to that degree–Luke. I absolutely, wholeheartedly agree Kylo is an NF type. I do lean towards the possibility of introversion for Kylo since we very explicitly see him retreating to meditate, and another moment where he seems to be steadying himself when he is “alone” with an unconscious Rey, before he prepares to face her.

    I also think that the temper bursts are a sign of an NF with poor coping skills–and one that to me is actually very relatable not for physical violence but for verbal violence: as in, when I get angry I can tear someone apart on a very personal level. 😦 I try very hard not to lose it, but I also realize that if I don’t acknowledge this propensity I am more likely to do exactly that.

    I also think the reason he pulled off his mask for Rey–something some people objected to–was that she actually hurt him when she called him a creature in a mask! He couldn’t tolerate being depersonalized in her eyes so he gave up something that was a tactical advantage in an interrogation (you should never heed your prisoner’s request early into an interrogation!). She cut him deep with that remark in a way that Poe’s less personal wisecracks about the mask did not. He could dismiss that as “what a smartass.” Rey…he could not filter that out.

    I also agree with the possible theory that Force skills are related to personality and had the same thought about the mind reading. On one hand it is terrifying to watch him cut a person right to their deepest core. On the other hand…this is definitely the NF speaking!…there is a part of me (which I didn’t see with Rey) which would actually have to resist a wish to surrender. A part that when told not to fight, might agree despite the part of me trying to hold back critical information. Not to end the pain by ending the interrogation but by a temptation to initiate two-way communication on that level for its own sake. I don’t mean that in some creepy fangirl way. It’s the part of me that feels it is not known and not understood to others despite wanting that sort of understanding, that might be tempted to take the opportunity where it arose. O_O

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    • Yup, definitely an NF of some kind. In defense of my typing him as an ENFJ, I am good friends with two ENFJ men (one’s my brother), and their introverted sides are stronger than most people think. But I do see the argument for Kylo as an Introvert as well. We’ll probably get a much better sense of his type in later films.

      My temper bursts are usually verbal as well, especially now as an adult. And I completely understand what you’re staying about the temptation to try and cultivate two-way communication even in an interrogation situation like that. Must be an INF thing.

      Really like your theory as to why Kylo removed his mask. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but it makes sense. Thanks so much for your comment! 🙂

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      • To me a lot of the signs in Ren’s body language even before he removed the mask in front of Rey point to her judgment mattering to him for some reason. When I compare how he controlled the interrogation with Poe to what I read as him being hesitant and off center with her (with Poe he just charges in on the offense to face down an insolent opponent…with Rey you actually see him knelt down, almost as if starting from a *defensive* posture), that’s why I think he was in a position to be hurt by her. I am not one of those who is “shipping” the two of them–I have a different theory and I think Kylo is possibly the most knowledgeable person in universe as to the truth–but we’ll see.

        It occurred to me after submitting the original comment that I have skirted closer to Kylo’s brand of temper than I really cared to think, before. I have had this thing since college of engaging in literal, mental swordplay when angry…and I can clearly remember a few occasions of being so furious about something someone has done that I grabbed my wooden sword out of my closet and ran through some really aggressive moves. I actually…can’t imagine fighting in a detached Jedi fashion. The difference is I make sure I’m alone AND that NONE of my property is at risk!!! Plus the intent in my case was to try to save myself from lobbing any more verbal grenades, which I already had that evening. It’s actually a little unnerving to see something like what Kylo is doing, think that’s so wild as to be unlike me…and then think, “Oh, no…”

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        • One of my thoughts was if I had a lightsaber and knew I didn’t have to clean up the resulting mess, I’d be more likely to vent like that. It is a scary thought. I never want to lose control that much.

          Now you have me curious about your Rey theory. I’m sure Kylo knows who she is (or at least has a pretty good idea). I’ve been leaning toward her being Luke’s daughter. Then I heard yesterday that director Colin Trevorrow said they won’t reveal her complete backstory until Episode IX, and that who she is will be important to the entire galaxy, so maybe it’s more complicated than that.

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          • When I do get that angry, I am still VERY careful, and not just about property. I only vent in a room where the cats are not allowed so that if I have some kind of accident they’re nowhere near. Plus I don’t even want them to SEE it. Just to be clear this is very rare that I get that worked up, and I have never lost control enough to break anything and do not want to get there ever. Even a dream of losing control is awful enough to know that I want no part of that IRL.

            Personally I think Kylo is her older brother and she doesn’t remember him, possibly because of a memory wipe. If we are not getting the full backstory in Episode 8, I lean towards that since I would THINK Luke would own up to being her father at the beginning of Episode 8 or drop some pretty transparent hints. If he’s not going to…one possibility is that she isn’t his.

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  2. Thank you for this superb analysis! I agree with your assessment 100%. I also fully support the diagnosis that Kylo Ren developed reactive attachment disorder as an infant. Adam Driver’s comments about his character seem to gel with this theory. I can’t wait two years to discover Kylo Ren’s and Rey’s backstories, so I’m developing them myself. You might enjoy my blog and I would definitely welcome your comments: http://kylorey.wordpress.com

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  3. First of all: You probably are correct about the type of personality, the examined characters are.

    Second: I don’t understand why people keep supporting this god awful film?

    The plot and the characters are so badly written and played, that I just don’t get it. Why? Why do you support this horrible thing?

    If you want to know about Star Wars, read the original (and for the true fans, canon) books at least by Timothy Zahn and Kevin J. Anderson, because there are so many good star wars book and overall writers, that have been left on the side, by Disney for the grand plan, to make Star Wars into a commercial for a Disney theme park.

    I will be honest – I have not read any of the new books, but with the disappointment, that was the movie, it’s going to be a long time before I even think of buying them.

    PS

    Sorry in advance for speaking my mind, because I know what is going to happen now. I’ll probably get avalanched by people (that have no idea of the scale of the true Star Wars universe, people that have watched only the movies and probably, the CGI the clone wars and the other one, without knowing about the original book, the comics, the absolutely brilliant game that once were.) who are going to tell me that I have no idea of what Star Wars is all about……..

    PSS

    Sorry for the grammar and punctuation mistakes. English isn’t my first language so yea…

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    • I went back and forth on whether to approve this comment because of the “avalanche” you spoke of, but I have high-hopes for a civil discussion among anyone who wants to jump-in. If things turn ugly I will delete this comment thread.

      Personally, I liked The Force Awakens. I thought the writing was solid (not spectacular, but more similar to the original trilogy than the prequels) and the acting was good. I loved the new characters.

      I’m 100% on board with the new canon. It’s easier for me because I never really got into the EU for SW like I did for Star Trek, but I do sympathize with EU fans. It’s never a good feeling to see something you love in print discarded or butchered for the big screen.

      Still, if any studio was going to move forward with new films I think they probably had throw at least the post-ROTJ EU out. It would have been hard (impossible?) to adapt in a way that made everyone happy. I probably would have made the same call in labeling the EU “Legends” just for the sake of establishing a consistent canon. I’m hoping as things move forward Disney/Lucasfilms will use some of the EU and bring beloved characters back into canon.

      I have read all the new in-canon books except for “A New Dawn” (it’s on my list). “Lost Stars” was fantastic and “Dark Disciple” is good if you like The Clone Wars series (which I do). The others were okay (some people really liked “Lords of the Sith,” but it was too dark for me to enjoy) except for “Aftermath” which is one of the worst books I’ve ever read. If you ever do decide to give the new books a chance, please don’t start with Aftermath — you’d be even more disappointed than you are now.

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    • Quite simply, not everybody sees it that way and no one’s preferences–not yours, not mine–constitute objective fact. I considered the acting and directing much superior to the prequels, and I found Adam Driver quite capable of going toe to toe with Harrison Ford, whom I also highly respect. I know some people do not like Kylo Ren’s personality and that’s their right, but as far as the acting, I thought Driver did well. (The character I find fault with is Rey, personally…I am hoping to see less of the Mary Sue stuff in the next movie and see her made more human.)

      Additionally, I would recommend avoiding comments about the “fandom status,” so to speak, of those whose opinions differ from you. For instance, I am in fact very aware of the scale of the Star Wars universe…but for them to make another movie, that had to be cleared away, and I support that decision. I know that has to be hard to see things you invested yourself in become Legends, but otherwise no sequels were going to happen. Personally, I am glad the Legends stuff is now optional. Having had the experience of writing fanfic before and after the EU purge, I can say that before, the amount of obligatory canon was almost choking to work with. Now, I have more latitude though I do like to make some nods to the Legends stuff where I find it fitting. The experience of the movie makers is likely similar.

      And I realize that takes away from a sense of exclusivity and expertise that older fans had, and brings in an influx of new fans that may not be like you, and I know that may make you feel like your private sanctuary is threatened, but new people are going to enter the fandom regardless, and on their own terms. I do not think any fan has the right to tell someone else they are “not a true fan.” You are perfectly entitled to your preferences…but recognize that they are preferences and not objective facts. Other fans are equally entitled to theirs, and I am going to go on enjoying TFA and being intrigued by Kylo Ren no matter what anyone else thinks of it (and without getting my knickers in a twist if, say, someone else thinks Jar-Jar Binks is the best ever…I don’t agree, but *that’s okay*).

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  4. Pingback: Character Analysis – The Journey to the Awakening

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