Introvert Character Tropes

– Alexia M. Larcher

Two days ago, I started coughing every few minutes at work, to the point where I was getting seriously worried. It’s not unusual for me to catch a cold at this time of the year; I discovered several years ago that I can’t handle sudden changes in the weather. It doesn’t bode well for me, considering climate change has already arrived in Canada as it has in the rest of the world. Anywho. I’ve been doping myself with extra-strength decongestant syrup to survive the weekend and I spent most of my free time in the past two days sleeping, which is why I’m late with this post. My apologies.

Every once in a while I end up on TvTropes and play a game I called “If I were to summarize my life into one trope, what trope would it be?” The last time I played it, I wondered if they had an Introversion section. They do! So how to introvert tropes compare to extrovert tropes?

Introvert tropes seem to center around the quiet sidekick. If the introvert is a positive addition to the team, they are often violent and quietly dispatching enemies left, right, and center. They are never quite considered as part of the team (Beware the Quiet Ones) or they are outright loopy (Absent-Minded Professor or Mad Mathematician). The inner lives of introverts are depicted as generally scary and negative (Rant-Inducing Slight or Ice Queen) and explain their silence to the audience. Does silence have to be explained? Apparently. Of course, you will find introvert characters who do not have these issues, but aside from the strong, silent hero, a generally male trope that David mentioned in an earlier post, they are nowhere near as common.

In contrast, extrovert tropes seem to center around their being loveable or hateful, but generally loveable. They can be the Life of the Party (loveable), the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (loveable), the Perky Female Minion (loveable) or simply Big Fun (indeed). Sometimes they are the Gossipy Hens or Affably Evil, but overall, extrovert characters seem to revolve on how much other characters love them.

So why don’t we see more positive introverted main characters? Television and movies are, ultimately, visual media. It’s incredibly hard to convey the internal life of a character without “externalizing” it through objects or relationships. To give an example, Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey has a lot of internal subtext, but leaves many people confused simply because Kubrick tried to convey what his main character thought through imagery and not a narrator’s voice. (I realized this when I read the book. Yes, the 2001: Space Odyssey book exists, and it was written by Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote the movie script.) Script writers, for whatever reason, decide that introverted characters are “media boring” if they’re not blowing things up and so they don’t bother spending a lot of time on them. This is also why you’re more likely to find introverted characters in books more than anywhere else.

Some good examples of introverted characters (introverted characters depicted as having large inner worlds):

– Will Farrell’s Harold Crick in Stranger Than Fiction is depicted as an introvert finding his own stride.

– Monsieur Lazhar, from the same movie,  might an introvert, but it’s hard to tell because of the situation he’s been put in.

– Captain Benjamin L. Willard in Apocalypse Now, who you only hear speak through his diaries for 90% of the movie.

– Neo, from The Matrix, disputably. (I feel like putting a Keanu Reeves snark, but I won’t.)

– Amélie Poulain and her boyfriend in Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain.

– Fight Club’s main character, though it manifests as utter insanity.

– Many of Clint Eastwood’s characters are introverted of the I Work Alone type, but they’re still subtly different enough that you can tell that they’re self-sufficient internally as well, a sign of a large inner world.

– Terence Mann from Field of Dreams.

– Could The Doctor be an introvert? It would probably depend on which incarnation, since some have been known to travel alone for hundreds of years on purpose. Inevitably he always comes back for a companion, but how different is it to introvert hanging out with friends on purpose?

– For anime fans, most of the cast of Genshiken could be considered as introverted. So is Shiori from The World God Only Knows (in the picture for The Quiet One). Her only “flaw” is that she takes so long to decide what to say that the other person is gone. Her inner dialogue is quite entertaining.

N.B. – Batman, Spiderman, and Superman are rather introverted by default: if too many people know their superhero identities, it would blow their cover. It’s hard to tell how much of an inner world they actually have considering the nature of serial American comic books, which didn’t spend much time brooding over their characters’ psychology.


One thought on “Introvert Character Tropes

  1. Pingback: Stumbled Upon: Another View of Introverted Men | The Introvert Files

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