Typing Doctor Who: Rose Tyler

Rose Tyler ESFP

(N.B. If you’re confused about the odd MBTI terminology throughout this piece (“Extraverted Sensing”, “Fi”, etc.) this link explains it pretty clearly and succinctly. I’ve tried to make these posts as readable and comprehensible to those uninitiated with MBTI as I possibly can, but some use of theoretical terms and concepts is unavoidable. There’s no need to be intimidated, though, the concepts are actually really easy to understand, and the link above explains it all well.)

The first companion of the revived series of Doctor Who, the most beloved and arguably New Who’s archetypal companion is, to my mind, a classic ESFP. In my post on Clara Oswald (another ESFP), I characterised ESFPs as the adventurous, fun-loving thrill-seekers of the world. ESFPs are ruled by their need for sensory stimulation, which they seek out in the world of experiences, people and things. Unlike introverts and even many extroverted types, ESFPs are typically not drained by constant social interaction and activity—as SPs it’s what they thrive on, and much of an ESFP’s life is an unending search for novelty and stimulation. They’re always doing things, seeing things, experiencing things, having fun. ESFPs are the people who make life fun for everyone else. They also have a deeper, passionate side, and they feel very deeply and have a strong sense of who they are and how things should be. They’re very fluent with people, very warm, and sympathise with others easily.

Rose fits this characterisation quite well, I think. She decided to travel with the Doctor because she felt unsatisfied with her mundane, boring ordinary life and the mundane, boring trappings of that life: her job, her home life, her boyfriend, her future. Against this unsatisfying reality, she found irresistible the idea of leaving it all behind, relinquishing all her responsibilities and attachments, to travel in time and space with the Doctor, a free and unbound spirit. Nor can she keep away from it. Unlike some later companions, the Doctor isn’t her hobby, it’s her life, and a life of travel and adventure is just what every ESFP dreams of. It’s clear that Rose can’t stand the idea of leaving the Tardis behind and going back to her old, mundane life. She was thoroughly depressed when Nine sent her back home in The Parting of the Ways about having to return to her ordinary life of sleep, work and chips; and she couldn’t comprehend how others—Mickey and especially her mother, Jackie—neither wanted to join her in the Tardis nor felt happy for her travelling with the Doctor.

empty child

The above is basically a description of the way Rose’s Extraverted Sensing (Se) manifests, the dominant cognitive function of ESFPs. But more specifically, we see Rose’s Se in the way she likes to immerse herself in the new places she visits. Compare the way she reacted to visiting Satellite Five to the way Adam (probably an IxTP) did: Rose immediately took to interacting with her new, strange surroundings, buying a strange alien drink to share with Adam, while Adam felt overwhelmed by it all and needed to go clear his head and take it all in. See, too, how Rose loves to try on new pretty clothes to fit in with her surroundings: her pretty Victorian dress in The Unquiet Dead, her cute 1950s garb in The Idiot Lantern. She has a great dress sense in general, and, like Clara, her outfits are always distinctive and stylish. Rose also has a keen eye for a pretty face—although she’s theoretically tied down to a relationship with Mickey, she can’t help flirting and showing interest in every pretty boy who crosses her path: Adam, Captain Jack, and even the Doctor himself; and she doesn’t seem to feel very committed to Mickey. That’s a trait I’ve noticed in the ESFPs I’ve known, a manifestation of their dominant Se: they just can’t resist pretty things.

ESFPs also have auxiliary Introverted Feeling (Fi), which makes them deeply, internally sensitive about things. They have feelings, man. They have clear ideas about what’s good and bad, right and wrong, and a strong sense of who they are, or who they want to be. Rose’s Fi is illustrated perfectly by her famous, character-defining outburst at Jackie and Mickey in The Parting of the Ways when the Doctor sent her back in time to protect her from the Daleks. She was overcome by emotion because one of her strongly-held principles was being violated by her having to sit safely at home while her friends fought for their lives in the far future. You could practically feel the Fi spilling out of her. There are other instances of this in other episodes: the way she sympathised with the Dalek in Dalek in defiance of the Doctor, and the way she stood up for Gwyneth against the Doctor and the Gelth in The Unquiet Dead.

idk

But I also see Rose’s Fi manifested in the way she treats Mickey. For example, in Boom Town, she returns to her own time and sees Mickey again, and expects Mickey to return to her side at her beck and call like a loyal lapdog, and even feels indignity and confusion when Mickey tells her he’s seeing someone else. She’s snarky and mean to Mickey about it before Mickey expresses how Rose made him feel betrayed and belittled, which snaps Rose into realising, finally, how badly she’s treated him and how she’s made him feel. Rose was totally oblivious to the way her lifestyle and her choices make Mickey feel, because she’s led by what feels right for her, not necessarily taking account of the needs and feelings of others. The same goes for the way Rose treats her mother Jackie, who worries deeply about her, although Rose is dismissive of the anxiety her lifestyle causes her mother, and rarely checks back in with Jackie to reassure her that she’s alive and safe.

Rose’s character arc in Series 2 was characterised by the under-the-surface romance between Rose and the Tenth Doctor. Rose grew to become deeply in love with the Doctor, and she came to see her future, the rest of her life, to be spent with the Doctor, as illustrated by the dialogue in the opening to Army of Ghosts (“How long are you going to stay with me?” “Forever.”) What I think is happening in MBTI terms here is that Rose’s auxiliary Introverted Feeling (Fi) and inferior Introverted Intuition (Ni) are working together. Rose has fallen hopelessly, romantically in love with the Doctor, and her Fi has idealised a life and a future with him. Her Fi has created a picture of what she wants her life to look like—a life with the Doctor. Her Ni has gone ahead and told her that the Doctor is her future, but her inferior Ni is weak and unreliable, and it doesn’t raise the warning signs that should tell her that this vision is never going to work out, and that holding to it will end in tears. She becomes upset and angry when the Doctor suggests that she can’t stay with him forever, or that she’s not necessarily special to him, as in School Reunion.

army of ghosts

So that’s Rose. She’s not a character without her flaws and weaknesses, and no personality type is without its flaws and weaknesses, but she’s undoubtedly one of the best ESFP characters in television. Rose sort of set the template for modern Doctor Who companions, and as such the default archetype for a companion is an ESFP—Clara and arguably Donna were also ESFPs, and Bill looks like she’s going to fit into that general mould (although, from what we’ve seen, Bill looks like she might be an ENxP). Nevertheless, I like writing about ESFPs because they’re some of my favourite people. I’ve had the privilege of knowing some fabulous ESFPs in my time, and I think they make for great people, friends and characters.

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