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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF FAMOUS FICTIONAL CHARACTERS



From The Nutty To The Genius


We all know eccentric and enigmatic characters from fiction.

Whether it be television, cinema, books, or video games, these personas make us love, fear, hate, and every emotion in between.


And while television, for sure, exaggerates certain qualities of these characters, and one shouldn’t draw conclusions relating to real-life mental disorders from fiction, their personalities are still based on some actual psychological phenomena.


Let’s have a look at our top 3 fictional characters and their psychology!


#1 Thomas Shelby


In the TV show Peaky Blinders, Cillian Murphy plays gangster and Great War veteran Thomas Shelby.


He is beloved and feared in equal measure for his characteristic confidence, cold-heartedness, and working-class charm, as well as tolerance for extreme violence.


Aside from the very clear PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) the character exhibits, which back then was dismissively called “shell shock” from the loud shelling of artillery in the trenches, he is a tried and true working-class man.


Shaped by the poor and dangerous streets of Birmingham, England, Thomas’ upbringing and experience both with gang warfare and World War 1 have detached him from human beings and left him with a ruthless pragmatism that people who haven’t experienced these horrors fear.


#2 Sherlock Holmes


Fiction’s most beloved detective, aside from maybe Poirot, Sherlock Holmes is a mastermind of solving criminal puzzles.


We can inquire from the many stories written about him and the various retellings of the classics that he’s inquisitive and curious to a fault person.


Certain versions vary on the other details, though, while the original, as well as silver screen versions like the one played by Robert Downey Jr., portray him as charming and talkative with the suspects…


Others, such as Benedict Cumberbatch one make him out to be rather cold, with borderline sociopathic symptoms, viewing each murder case not so much like a tragedy but as a fleshy puzzle waiting to be solved.


#3 Thanos


Recently exploding on the big screen, the Mad Titan from Marvel’s comics is distinctly different in his cinematic personality compared to graphic novels.


For the purposes of this article, we’ll be taking a look at the movie Thanos, from Avengers Infinity War, rather than the comic book Thanos, who’s driven by his obsession with the literal personification of death.


Thanos is what we would politically call a utilitarian, stemming from the main goal of this type of philosophy - utility.


The movie Thanos’ plan entails killing half of the universe's sentient lifeforms randomly in order to free up space and resources for everyone - everyone surviving, that is.


Not only is this type of thinking disregarding what people may call the ‘specialness” or “sanctity” of human life, but it is also looking at pure statistics and literally nothing else.


Thanos is also displaying very strong symptoms of sociopathy or anti-social personality disorder, indicated by the fact he is willing to kill billions, even his own daughter.


Although an interesting point here is that he is proven to love his own daughter (by the movie’s own rules), which might indicate a theory leaning more on narcissistic personality disorder, rather than emotionless psychopathy.


Final Thoughts


So, what can we learn from all of this? It seems that people are drawn to characters with both positive and negative qualities.


We like to see our own traits in others, even if they are fictional.


And sometimes, we absorb characters' traits...


This may be why these characters have remained so popular for so many years.


What do you think is the key to a character’s enduring appeal? Let us know in the comments!


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