Community Characters According to the Personality Types of Dr. Helen Fisher
An Analysis of the Characters of Community According to the Personality Types of Dr. Helen Fisher
I recently came across the theories of Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist who believes that there are four broad personality styles and that each of these styles corresponds to a particular organic chemical. Fisher has primarily applied this research to romantic love, or interpersonal attraction more generally. She has worked as the scientific adviser toChemistry.com, for which she developed a personality test to determine individuals' unique mix of these personality styles. Dr. Fisher emphasizes that everyone has some elements of each style, but that individuals' personalities are primarily determined by the two styles (the primary and the secondary) that they display more of than the others. I am somewhat wary of any personality theory that attempts to explain everyone and everything, but I find myself attracted to Dr. Fisher's research because it does not purport to fully explain individuals and it allows for the fact that people are a mix of personality types, even if they have one type that is most prevalent. After reading her book Why Him? Why Her? Finding Real Love By Understanding Your Personality Type, I have found myself analyzing everyone I know according to Fisher's personality styles. So, I thought, why not do an analysis of the characters of Community, one of my favorite TV shows of all time?
Here are the four personality styles and the chemicals that they correspond to (all quotes are from Fisher, Dr. Helen, Why Him? Why Her? Finding Real Love By Understanding Your Personality Type, Holt Paperbacks: 2009):
EXPLORER (Corresponding Chemical: Dopamine) – "Explorers express a constellation of related traits. They are intensely curious and unusually creative. They are restless, energetic and spontaneous, often impulsive. They are willing to risk a great deal to pursue their many interests, and they get bored easily when not absorbed in something that intrigues them. They tend to be optimistic, irreverent and autonomous. Explorers are adaptable; they can play many different roles. Most are liberal in their political views, flexible in their personal lives and generous with their money, time and ideas. And Explorers crave novelty." (Pgs. 44-45) Explorers tend to be attracted to other Explorers.
BUILDER (Corresponding Chemical: Serotonin) – "Builders tend to be loyal and conscientious; duty, respectability and proper moral conduct are particularly important to them. Builders are also conventional; they admire and follow social norms and customs. They respect authority, follow rules and enjoy making plans and keeping schedules. They think concretely; Builders are often literal, detail-oriented and orderly, as well as cautious but not fearful. They tend to be social. And Builders are generally superb at managing people – at work, in the family and in their various social circles." (Pg. 65) Builders tend to be attracted to other Builders.
DIRECTOR (Corresponding Chemical: Testosterone) – "These men and women speak their mind. They are direct, tough-minded and decisive. Yet before they make a decision, they examine their choices thoroughly and unemotionally. Directors admire self-control; they are analytical, skeptical and exacting. Directors are independent, too. And they must achieve. Indeed, they enjoy competing to get to the top. Therefore, many are pragmatic, focused and daring. Directors can also be inventive, as well as mechanically or mathematically skilled. Oddly, many are musical, particularly adept at understanding the structure of music. Others are highly skilled at spatial games, from football to chess. And many Directors have a heroic side; they are the men and women who dash into a burning building to save a stranger." (Pg. 84) Directors tend to be attracted to Negotiators.
NEGOTIATOR (Corresponding Chemical: Estrogen) – "[Negotiators are] imaginative and theoretical. [They are] also unassuming, agreeable, and intuitive. [They feel] deep compassion for … family and friends, and for the less fortunate … [They are] talented at handling people, too, as well as emotionally expressive; [they share their] feelings. [They are] good with words … [Negotiators see] the big picture: [thinking] contextually, holistically, synthetically." (Pg. 104) Negotiators tend to be attracted to Directors.
So if you have ever heard that opposites attract but also that like attracts like and wondered which one it is, well, when it comes to Dr. Fisher's personality styles, the answer is both – it just depends on who you are talking about. If it is Directors and Negotiators, then opposites tend to attract; with Explorers and Builders, like tends to attract like.
So, finally let's consider the characters of Community and see what Dr. Fisher's research can tell us about the personalities and relationships of our favorite Greendale Human Beings:
Jeff – NEGOTIATOR/Director
Jeff Winger is a leader who can rouse a small army (a Director quality), but what is his default mode? Silent and brooding and/or composing text messages. That is to say, he is most likely to be found lost in thought or figuring out the perfect way to put his words together – qualities typical of the Negotiator. Jeff's once and future career as a trial lawyer is an ideal Negotiator profession, as it requires strong oratorical skills. A way with words can be used for ambition (and Jeff does use it that way to a degree, corresponding with his secondary Director style), but most Winger speeches are utilized to make people feel better and find a solution that works for everyone – a "for the greater good" strategy typical of Negotiators. Even when Jeff's speeches are used for bullshit purposes, they are made up of meaningful, useful truths – a pattern that was established right from the pilot ("you are all better than you think you are," "I hereby pronounce you a community"). Jeff may be ambitious like a Director (he has a reservation for one at Morty's Steakhouse), but his more prominent Negotiator qualities (feeling a connection to everyone [it’s called chemistry – he has it with everybody]) has led to friendship sticking itself in the path of his ambitions.
Annie – DIRECTOR/Negotiator
Annie is the most direct and the most obviously ambitious of the group – classic Director. She also tends to be the most emotional, and emotion is typically associated with the Negotiator – but it is not so much that Negotiators are more emotional as much as they are more emotionally nuanced. Annie can have nuanced reactions to emotionally heightened situations, but she is more likely to scream, or scream and run through a glass door. Annie's secondary Negotiator side is more noticeable in her hopeless romanticism. You may think that that romantic quality is prominent enough to make Negotiator her primary style, but these styles are determined by ratios within the individual as opposed to compared to others. I.e., Annie might be more of a Negotiator than a lot of other people, but she is more of a Director than a Negotiator. You always know where you stand with Annie, and she demands the same of everyone else, a bluntness that not everyone is always able to reciprocate, as when Jeff can't give her a straight answer when she demands, "Either you want me or you don't. What's it gonna be?" Interestingly enough, this difference is actually what has attracted Annie and Jeff to each other. She admires his coolness, he admires her drive, and they bring out those qualities in each other – that's basically the premise of the debate prep scene in "Debate 109."
Abed – DIRECTOR/Negotiator
It has been speculated, though never confirmed, that Abed is somewhere on the autism spectrum, likely on the Asperger's end. Whether or not he is diagnosable, he does display several traits of spectrum, traits that are also related to being a Director. He has a singular way of living that he does not budge from. He filters everything through the lens of movie and TV, which is for him a lot easier to understand than the messiness of real people, as he makes clear when he zings Jeff in "Anthropology 101." But despite his disadvantages, he has a knack for making genuine connections with people, thus Negotiator is his secondary style. He may see his life as a movie or TV show, but he always focuses on the characters. He made his birthday an homage to a movie that was about two guys having a conversation, for crying out loud! How much more deeply emotionally connective can you get?! Abed and Annie, as DIRECTOR/Negotiator buddies, have had some attraction and a sweet friendship, but if stuck together for too long, they tend to drive each other crazy, as in "Virtual Systems Analysis." Perhaps unsurprisingly then, Abed and Annie have a similar connection with Jeff. Abed and Jeff have had some of the most profound conversations of any pair of the group, as seen most strikingly in "Contemporary American Poultry" and "Critical Film Studies."
Britta – EXPLORER/Negotiator
"That woman is a hurricane." Britta is the prototypical Explorer, impulsive enough to drop out of high school because she thought it would impress Radiohead. She is exceedingly liberal. This liberalness extends to her finances, as made clear in "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking." But that is not to say she is foolish, just perhaps a little excessively generous, unsurprising as Explorers tend to be champions of a host of social causes. With Britta, the range of her activism is wide to the point of parody. She is her own harshest critic when it comes to how successful an activist she is, but perhaps it is just that her Explorer side is tempered by her secondary style of the Negotiator. "Underneath all that clown makeup, she's a good kid." Despite often rubbing people the wrong way, she is ultimately a people pleaser.
Troy – NEGOTIATOR/Director
Troy Barnes is a leader, but a reluctant one. He was destined to be the repairman that repairs man, but he preferred to put off adulthood a little while longer and watch TV with his friends. In "Heroic Origins," we saw him as the football captain that everyone wanted to hang around, but it was clear on his face that such was not his natural state. Troy's default mode is having fun, and making sure everyone else is having fun, but if need be, he can take charge and spring into action when called upon, as in "Epidemiology," "For a Few Paintballs More," or even "Cooperative Calligraphy." There was a bit of a rivalry brewing between Troy and Jeff in Seasons 2 and 3, and perhaps that is because they are actually just so similar, and fit for the same roles. Although he does not get as many chances to show it, Troy can be as strong an orator as the other Negotiator in the group, with his pep talk to Annie in "Mixology Certification" more powerful than many a Winger speech.
Shirley – BUILDER/Negotiator
As the most outwardly religious and accordingly the one most concerned about following rules, Shirley is the Builder of the group. This goes along with her concern for public appearances and social standing, as when she attempts to hide her alcoholic past in "Mixology Certification" or when she complains that everyone is "judging her like Judy" when she reveals her secret in "Intro to Felt Surrogacy." Her Builder qualities almost take her to the point of proselytizing, but they are thankfully tempered by her Negotiator qualities. It may take a bit of effort, but she is willing to accept everyone's differences when she realizes that insisting on the morally right path is not necessarily the best idea if not everyone agrees what that right path is. This is seen most poignantly in "Comparative Religion" when she stops insisting on the traditions of Christmas and decides that she just needs to have Jeff's back in his struggle with Mike the bully and most hilariously in "Studies in Modern Movement" when she and Britta have another religion vs. atheism fight but ultimately find a common enemy. And the value of Shirley's morals should not be discounted, as they can be used to bring her friends back to reality, as when she keeps Jeff from going off the rails in his attempt to understand Blade in "Origins of Vampire Mythology."
Pierce – EXPLORER/Director
Pierce represents the restless spirit and curiosity of the Explorer, in his decades as a student at Greendale. He could have just lived off his money and done nothing, but instead he chose a path that most in his socioeconomic status would have never considered. He is gregarious and everyone's friend, or at least he tries to be. He has a taste for the avant-garde and the risqué (though he doesn't really understand them). I am not entirely sure about Pierce's secondary personality style. I'm leaning towards Director, as he fancies himself a leader of men, with a "look at me now, Dad" complex. But he occasionally breaks out a nugget of wisdom, displaying the wordsmith sytlings of the Negotiator ("Home Economics," "Beginner Pottery," "Herstory of Dance," "Economics of Marine Biology").
Dean – EXPLORER/Builder
"This better not awaken anything in me," Dean Craig Pelton says about a video of a person in a dalmatian costume, in only the tenth episode ever of Community. But it is clear by his delivery that he would be perfectly happy if something were to be awakaned. And by season's end – if not sooner – it does. The Dean's Explorer characteristics are most obvious in his enthusiastic array of costume choices and his expressive, unique sexuality. Judging by his crush on Jeffrey, one could assume that he is gay, but he is a prime example of a person whose sexuality is not so easily labeled (after all, he wore a wedding ring in the pilot, although that may just have been an abandoned characteristic). Vice Dean Laybourne came up with a potential solution to the label problem by coining the much more inclusive term "pansexual imp." The Dean has a unique mix of primary and secondary styles, as Builders tends to be incompatible with Explorers. But while he may flout tradition in his personal life, he is very concerned about when it comes to running Greendale. He is conscientious about being in good standing with the Greater Greendale Community, always certain to know where his school stands in its rivalry with City College. This thorough love goes to its logical absurd conclusion in "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux," but the nature of the Dean's breakdown in that episode is all Explorer.
Chang – DIRECTOR/Explorer
Ben Chang is a leader, and he is going to be a leader whether or not anyone else realizes it. As a power-drunk Spanish teacher, or a power-hungry security guard, or an insurgent ruler of Greendale, or a mole for City College, Chang is always in control, or at least, always trying to be. He is most like a Director in that he always does things his way, and if you doubt the truth of that statement, he will make it clear to you directly and straightforwardly. Like an Explorer, the things he does his way are completely insane – forcing his students to dress in ladies' pantsuits, painting his skin for an elf costume for Dungeons & Dragons when nobody asked him to, playing a keytar solo as introduction to a bomb explosion, Changnesia can perhaps be generously described as performance art. As Chang demonstrates, a DIRECTOR/Explorer mix can be quite explosive, as the Explorer side can be bizarre and off-putting, and the Director side will make no excuses for it.
Any thoughts or re-evaluations regarding my analysis? Any analyses regarding any secondary or tertiary characters at Greendale?