Left of Center
We recently completed mini-“personality type” assessments at work, sort of Myers Briggs Light. The assessment grouped us into four broad categories that corresponded to the Meyers Briggs acronyms. One group consisted of innovative rule breakers, another of detail-oriented rule followers, another of analytical loners, and a final group of gregarious harmonizers. (I fell nowhere near that last group, by the way.) While the survey painted a surprisingly accurate picture of our work and interpersonal styles, it didn’t delve into the descriptions we think of in our day-to-day, away from the workplace, sense of the term “personality;” descriptions like cheerful, moody, somber, and—my favorite—quirky. While writing about dysfunctional protagonists for yesterday’s post, I thought about my favorite characters, the ones I love, who jump out at me from the page or screen, who stick with me long after I leave the theater, turn off the TV (or exit the streaming app), or close the book covers. I realized they’re all quirky. Some are more unusual than others but they all peg out somewhere on the positive end of the quirk scale. Bobby Goren, Mike Shepherd, Hercule Poirot, Nero Wolfe—they all exhibit unusual traits, odd characteristics, or strange habits that endear them to me. The quirks themselves are part of the appeal. They serve as mnemonics. He’s the one with the clockwork schedule, he’s the one with the outrageous mustache, he’s the one with the knack for ferreting out obscure patterns, he’s the one who talks to corpses. But, mostly, I’m drawn to unusual people, real and fictional. Remarkable people. People rooted left of center with peculiarities born of riveting backstories.
I have noticed that, unlike in life, my favorite fictional quirky characters are all male. No quirky female characters come to mind as I write this. This is not a good thing. Female characters are allowed to be kind, supportive, devious, competent, or manic pixies but not quirky. Or are they? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe quirky women hide in the pages of books I haven’t read yet or in scenes of movies not yet seen. I hope so. How would you describe the personalities of your favorite characters?