solace in the most beautiful form

About some of the infp representation in the media

Or gentle characters in general. What really bugs me is that these characters are a) usually, overwhelmingly absent from epic good vs. evil stories, and b) in many stories they are used as symbols of what is “too gentle”, what is destroyed in war (I’ll always remember the description of Rían in the Silmarillion). I’ll give some examples of the latter (the first is very much worth talking about too, but it would be too much for this post. It’s that general tendency of having more and more badass characters.).

In my experience, INFPs tend to get the feeling that they don’t belong in this world, because of their idealism, because of their sensitivity. So the last thing we need is INFP characters who literally or not-so-literally die of that. This is why I’m so unhappy about Frodo leaving for Valinor at the end of Lord of the rings. I know it’s not supposed to symbolise him being too weak to keep on living, but both as a parallel to people who suffer from PTS (and that parallel really is obvious) and people who are highly sensitive in general, his inability to return to a normal life or to make a new life after the events of the War of the Ring, is just tremendously disheartening. He’s the one, he’s THE gentle hero. Surrounded by warriors and wizards and powerful people, but he, small, gentle, and afraid, is the main hero of this epic saga! And then? Then he found the pain unbearable and went to a place of peace and no sorrow? Oh. Well, I guess that’s nice for him.

Another example is Beth March. I know the books of Little Women are mostly based on Lousia May Alcott’s own life, but even so I will never reconcile with Beth’s death in Good Wives, and not just because she is one of three characters I love more than any other. The negative symbolism of her death is easy to experience with a simple search for her on tumblr or any other place in the Internet. As with many other characters, people seem to remember only her death about her (seriously, what is that about?). If she is mentioned at all in reviews, it’s about her death. People say that it was clear all along that she would die because she was so fragile. Little girls don’t want to be told that they are like her, because she died. It’s like there’s some sort of taboo or bad luck on her. Everything else this character symbolised, all of her personality gets eclipsed by her death.

And then there was Sybil Crawley. She had sensitivity, she had spirit. She was shocked and horrified by war, and she went and helped people! She fought against the system, she defied her family, her class, to be with the man she loved! And then she died. Downton Abbey started to become more and more of a crackfic after that.

I know these three examples all aren’t meant by their authors to symbolise any inherent weakness in the characters (Sybil’s death was due to her actress, Jessica Brown-Findlay, wanting to leave the show, just like Matthew’s actor). But their “deaths” still leave a bitter taste in your mouth. It just happens to often with sensitive characters, and they are so rare.

So let’s have a look at positive examples. You get Sara from A Little Princess, whose character traits are all but glorified in the story - but it is still adamant about her being just a little girl and no angel (the same as Beth), and it shows her flaws just as well. Sara’s gentleness, imagination, and idealism are admired by everyone, be it with love or envy. She is torn from her world, left an orphan, reduced to nothing, both physically and emotionally. But she persists. She endures, like Frodo, and in the end she finds love and acceptance again, in a very physical, realf-life way (the characteristic INFP’s need for substantiality is beautifully depicted in her).

As a last example, there’s Anna from When Marnie was there (though all INFP heroines from Ghibli are worth mentioning, they all face the hardness of life, in one form or another, and find their own way of overcoming it. Or all Ghibli heroines and heroes, to be honest. This is one of the things that makes Ghibli movies so beautiful). She’s socially anxious, has no friends, and hates herself. She finds solace in an imaginary friend (yes, I know it’s more a sort of “ghost visit”, but let’s face it, probably all or most INFPs will understand this through their own experience of preferring to get close to a “non-material” person than anyone around them) and through her comes to find her own identity, self-acceptance, and new friends.

So what I’m saying is that not just the world at large needs more gentle heroes, it’s an existential need for INFPs. Having a character, who is like us and who doesn’t give up, who isn’t depicted as “too gentle”, on the contrary, who rises because of their gentleness, may well be the one thing that makes a person hold on. Fictional characters mean the world to us, and we instinctively internalise what they teach us, intentionally or not. Storytellers have a social responsibility. It’s not even about the question of what is realistic, it’s about what is a thousand times more important in my opinion, it’s about giving people hope.

I don’t think I’ll ever love a show more and I’m heartbroken it’s time to say goodbye; but I take solace in this truth—We’ve become more than a fandom. 

This show has accomplished something few others have or ever will. Over the last three years this beautiful and flawed television show and the love we share for it has cultivated true friendships. Although I am by no means the most vocal or visible member in our little fandom, My Mad Fat Diary and the connections I’ve formed as a result of its potent and often painful depiction of a teenage girl’s struggles with mental health and body image issues and her triumph over them, leaves me feeling a wave of gratitude toward every—single—person who played a role in the telling and sharing of this important story. 

Please know when I say I love you guys I mean it genuinely and I feel so lucky to have shared this experience with you all. A better fandom doesn’t exist.

Don’t be strangers.