Thanos is Not an NTJ (or an INFJ for that matter)
There is a general obsession with characters in books or films being INxJs. If you look up a list of your favorite characters of all time, there is a good chance many of them will be listed under the INxJ personalities.
Is it simply the case that INxJs make the best characters and we should expect these rare types to dominate cinema and story as a result? Or is there something deeper at play? Perhaps . . . fundamental misconceptions? I vote an emphatic “YES!”.
One of the more memorable villains in recent history, Thanos falls into the same mire that dozens of other characters share. Compelling heroes and “mastermind” villains are often stuffed into the overcrowded INxJ bin. Sorry to the MBTI aficionados — and the INTJ “master race” — but not all masterminds are INTJs.
What this points to is not an obsession with INxJ types, but a basic misunderstanding of what drives human beings, and the careless blurring of stereotypes and reality. Even the elusive “T” types can be sympathetic. And perhaps, they can be the most caring of all.
All that to say that things are not as they seem and Thanos is NOT an xNTJ (or an INFJ).
Job 1: Demolition
Like a structure with a crumbling and unstable foundation, our first step is to tear down the old, ugly, and — in this case — wrong building so that we can lay a proper foundation and build a correct building on top of it. Grab your hardhats and let the demo begin!
Let’s start with an easy one. Why is Thanos not an INFJ? Or, we might simply ask: Why does anyone think Thanos is an INFJ?
Because he seems empathetic? Because, as far as we can tell, his motivations are altruistic? Because he’s very focused on his goal — are we even sure it’s desire that is driving him to accomplish a goal? Because, despite his apparent external in-humanity, we can relate to him? Because he’s thoughtful and reflective?
If these are sole reasons used to justify anyone’s type, we have demonstrated only a mastery of shallow stereotypes. Trying to determine someone’s type by justifying their actions with general observations only reinforces the stereotypes your using to begin with! And that wall you’re reinforcing? It’s made of weaksauce. This will not do. Next!
Wait, a bonus reason! INFJs have Te-Trickster. They are notoriously bad at making plans. Sure, they can create an amazing vision for their own future, but they struggle immensely to form comprehensive plans and to organize other people within those plans. An INFJ would be incapable of forming a plan to nearly the magnitude and extent that Thanos did. Thanos is not an INFJ.
ENTJ & INTJ
We will dial up the difficulty slightly for this one. Why is Thanos not one of the xNTJ types? Or, a better question: Which of the many tools provided to us via Chase’s Type Grid should we choose to knock over this house of cards with? Let’s dip a hand in and see what we get.
Thanos is not an ENTJ because he is clearly not an extrovert. He rarely initiates and he naturally spends time formulating careful responses. He has an unmistakable magnetic pull of calmness to him that is indicative of his true type. The fact that his ideal life is one lived in isolation as a farmer further demonstrates that he does not have a need to be around other people.
The many references he makes to his past indicate his personality type uses the Si/Ne axis. This is the opposite axis of the ENTJ, who has the Ni/Se axis in their core cognition. Thanos is not an ENTJ.
Thanos is not an INTJ, either. Yes, yes, I know. Thanos is introverted. Yes, he is very good at forming plans — something that Extraverted Thinking types, especially the two systematic xNTJ types, are notoriously good at. But we could dismantle Thanos’ INTJ myths with the same argument against the ENTJ — that Thanos is not an Ni/Se user in the least — and stop there. But let’s make things interesting and try another way.
What are some of the personality characteristics of Thanos? What does he care about? He certainly cares about his self-imposed mission. He cares about his daughters. And he cares about balance. He consistently values fairness. And particularly external fairness.
What is fair to the collective is very important to Fe-users when making decisions. Thanos’ appeal to “chance” being a mitigating factor in the moral capability of his genocide points to the behaviors of an Fe-user. He has considered what the fairest way to carry out his mission is.
The NTJs, as well as the other Fi/Te-users, are more concerned with personal than collective fairness. In addition, all the Fi/Te users value status and reputation extremely highly. They actively use status and reputation as a vector to help them make life decisions. NTJs typically value credentials and their position as necessary parts of their career and life. They want to be notorious.
Thanos does not care what other people think about him. You could argue that he wants to be valued, but he does not seek fame. He wants to accomplish his mission and then disappear to an obscure planet. He doesn’t want “credit”, he doesn’t want a statue to be made for him, and he certainly doesn’t want a promotion for what he’s done. He’s content to live a quiet life, not terrorizing the masses or ruling the universe with an iron — or golden — fist.
Thanos values fairness. This is indicative of Thanos’ personality type being one that utilizes the Ti/Fe axis. Extraverted Feelers care immensely about what is fair. Thanos is not an INTJ.
Job 2: Rebuilding
We have traversed the first part of the journey; hopefully, you dodged the rubble. We have laid a path of breadcrumbs that lead to Thanos’ true personality type. Let’s follow those clues and see where they lead us.
- We established that Thanos is not one of the extraverted types.
- We have argued through the evidence of the references he makes to his past that he is an Introverted Sensor (Si). This puts him on the Si/Ne Cognitive Axis.
- We have argued that his clear concern for fairness indicates that he is an Extraverted Feeling (Fe) type. This puts him on the Ti/Fe access.
Before returning to the technicalities of his type, let’s explore Thanos the man for a moment. Being an Si and an Fe-user could explain Thanos’ self-imposed solitude, perhaps pointing to the natural guilt that would result from executing his plan?
Also, consider that we never see him enjoying the taking of lives. We don’t see the triumph of achievement every time he gets closer to his goal. In fact, he often grows quiet the closer to his goal he gets. By all appearances, he is simply carrying out his self-imposed duty, bearing the weight of it every step of the way.
From the above points about his personality, what conclusions can we draw?
Using just the Cognitive Functions — Fe/Ti + Si/Ne — we see that Thanos is one of the four Crusader Types. The Crusaders are the SFJs and NTPs. But, using the Type Grid further, we see that Thanos is one of the two responding Crusaders.
The Two Choices
These then are our two choices for Thanos’ personality type:
Now, we can easily find out what his type is right now with the above information. But let’s use a couple more aspects of the Type Grid to drive the point home.
There are four classes of types on the Type Grid:
- Structure Types
- Starter Types
- Finisher Types
- Background Types
Because Thanos is an introvert he is automatically one of the Finisher or Background types.
The fact that Thanos is content living a hermit-like lifestyle is indicative of a type of introversion that is extra-intense. This likely puts him in one of the Background types. If you are well-versed with the Type Grid, you already know he must be a Background type, based on the two available types.
Another aspect of the Type Grid can help us confirm this. There is a binary of differentiation between Outcome and Progression types.
Outcome types put so much energy into planning, and then execute the plan after. Whereas Progression types spend all their time making progress — they often immediately jump into the action — then make their plan based on how the action unfolds.
Finisher types are progression, Background types are outcome.
Thanos is very patient. Not only is this an indication that he is an Introverted Sensor (Si-users have bigger wells of patience to draw from than Extraverted Sensors), but also that he is likely one of the Outcome types. He has planned, he knows where the stones are, and has strategized on how to obtain them. The reason he always appears to be one step ahead is because he is one step ahead. His Extraverted Intuition sees into the future and his planning is thorough, precise, and deadly.
Lastly, there is another binary on the Type Grid between Abstract and Concrete types. There should be no dispute that Thanos is an abstract type. The level of Thanos’ philosophical abstractness is high. Reality is often disappointing. And he consistently speaks conceptually about “balance”. Speaking in concepts is a telltale sign of an abstract type.
If you ever run into someone who has composed a thorough plan reaching years into the future, relating to genocide or world-takeover, balancing the population, etc., chances are, they are one of the eight abstract types.
To our list of facts about Thanos, let us add these:
- Thanos is likely a Background Type
- Thanos is Outcome-focused, placing more of his energy into the initial plan and then acting out that plan after it is complete.
- Thanos is one of the Abstract types
With these six total pieces of information — six what you say? — we can easily determine his personality type. Thanos is not an ISFJ simply because he is abstract and not concrete. And he is also a pragmatic type — another aspect of the Type Grid. Genocidal Malthusianism is a pragmatic solution to a global problem, not an affiliative one. All of this leaves us with one personality type.
Thanos is an INTP.
Thanos’ Personality Type
Logical, visionary, driven by duty, cares strongly about fairness, pragmatic to the core, these characteristics alone that Thanos exhibits are strongly associated with the INTP. On top of the seven points we have laid out, we have rebuilt the tower and found his type.
For all of you shrieking right now that Se-Trickster can’t fight, please be advised that Si can be trained to fight at an elite level, so long as Si-users put in the time. Just ask another Crusader, Bruce Lee. Do you think that NTP could fight?
The next question is, “What is Thanos’ Cognitive Focus?” Thanos is Shadow-Focused, pulling-doubly on his ability to form plans, make decisions pragmatically, have access to some Ni, and be content in going it alone. Those who are Shadow-Focused tend to be more mature and have greater wisdom than their Subconscious-Focused counterparts.
Say what you want about Thanos, but to even consider the solution he proposes requires maturity. Before his home planet was destroyed, it is likely that most of the population was not even willing to acknowledge the shortage of resources. At least Thanos had the courage to look the problem in the face.
Thanos is not after happiness, he is seeking to fulfill his duty — or what he perceives as his duty.
A Subconscious-Focused INTP — with their ESFJ subconscious — would care far more about having others share their ethical vision with them. They care more about being on a mission together and are more inclined to fulfill a caregiving role. Thanos was content in pursuing his duty in isolation.
We see several moments of Thanos’ softness with his daughters and even with his enemies. He is not vindictive towards his enemies, even acknowledging their effort and extending his respect. He has a natural inclination for gentleness and caring. This points to his Fe-Inferior and the presence of his ESFJ Subconscious. But this is not his Cognitive Focus.
The amount of suffering he has endured and the presence of a wiser — though malicious — perspective on life indicates the strong presence of an ENTJ Shadow. Thanos has endured immense pain and carries a tremendous burden.
His Shadow is evident and is partially captured by how we, the audience, are pulled in to his depths, wanting to spend hours exploring what the products of his suffering are. Despite his villainous ways, we are captivated by his wisdom, and this is what makes him an enduring character worth psychoanalyzing. Thanos is an INTP!