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The Enneagram Movie & Video Guide

From the Introduction
Chapter: Threes
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From the Introduction

The premise of this book is that the Enneagram's nine personality styles are highly visible in certain movies, and that through study you can learn about them rather easily and enjoyably. The subtitle of the book could be "seeing the psychology in front of you." If you use the movie reviews to gain greater familiarity with the different "nationalities," chances are you'll recognize how visible they are in the people you interact with daily. Learning about the styles is like buying a new car -- suddenly you start seeing them everywhere.

The medium of movies provides an enjoyable way to learn and VCRs are widely available, even for rent. You can use the reviews to pursue whatever aspect of the Enneagram interests you. You can skip around the styles or work your way steadily through each chapter.

Some Enneagram workshops are taught by assembling representatives from each style. A panel of Sevens, for instance, will discuss their lives and perspectives, and it's fascinating to see how at once alike and yet different they are. The same themes and preoccupations will run through each panel member's life, yet they are all obviously individuals, each with their own identity and soul. With the Video Guide you can create your own panel of film characters for a similar result.

Friends and couples interested in the Enneagram can use this material to great advantage. You and a friend or an interested group could read a description of, say, Twos, then screen a film, eat popcorn, have arguments and learn a lot.

If you are new to the Enneagram and use the Video Guide, you'll recognize a core pattern and basic point of view for each style. If a movie character reminds you strongly of someone you know in real life, the chances are good that they share the same Enneagram number. The same may be true for you and movie characters that you personally identify with.

As a reference book, the Guide is deliberately dense with detail. It is designed to be useful for all levels of acquaintance with the Enneagram. You can dip into it according to need. If you are a beginner, I'd encourage you to go lightly and try to get the gist of the thing first. Go for a general comprehension of all the styles or of those you are especially interested in. You can always backtrack and later study finer distinctions such as wings, connecting points and subtype themes.

The Video Guide is a companion to my other book, The Dynamic Enneagram. The Dynamic Enneagram offers tools for changing and growing within the recognition of your Enneagram style. The Video Guide is designed to give you practice and skill at spotting the different styles in the first place. Vivid examples are as near as your favorite video outlet.


When I teach workshops, some of the nicest moments come when participants watch demonstration interviews and suddenly "see" a personality style in an indelible way. Someone will say, "I've read the descriptions over and over but this time I could really see and feel what Fives are like!" This is said in the astonished tone that comes with recognizing the obvious -- consciously seeing something you may have unconsciously sensed all your life.

Video is a logical medium to illustrate the Enneagram, but there's not much available for interested students. Accordingly, in workshops, I used to show movie clips to introduce the styles. Many students found it useful to rent movies for further study so, over time, I developed a list of films that illustrated each character type. I had always intended to do something more with the list but wasn't sure what.

Clarence Thomson, editor of The Enneagram Educator, attended one workshop and suggested a column about the nine types as they appear in films. The first few reviews I tossed off from memory based on the workshop list. Then I screened a few new movies and wrote about what I generally saw. I knew the Enneagram well and had always enjoyed movies, so the task seemed a pleasant, lighthearted thing to do.

Shortly, though, something changed. I rescreened some of the movies from the workshop list and realized that a few of the character listings were wrong. I thought I had seen something that wasn't there or I had confused one type of character with another. It also seemed that, in a given story, many secondary characters had Enneagram styles and that there were other levels of detail that I wasn't quite catching.

Then I noticed that there were routine tensions between similar kinds of characters in totally different movies. There was some kind of hidden architecture to film stories and it related to the Enneagram. I felt as if I was looking at something I couldn't quite see.

Eventually, I decided to disrupt my usual way of watching a movie. Like anyone else, I had always responded to them subjectively. I'd enjoyed stories and characters, the mood of a film and maybe its message. I decided to start watching movies with a narrow quality of attention, one in which I looked solely for evidence of personality styles. I began to look for the Enneagram first and let the story's mood, plot and message drop into the background.

This new perspective made it easier to screen a lot of films because I knew what I was looking for. I had a "half hour" rule: if there was no clear evidence of Enneagram styles after half an hour, I stopped the movie and went on to the next. Some films had it and some didn't.

Several friends of mine initially thought the idea of finding Enneagram styles in movies was a misguided, oddball enterprise. Some who knew the Enneagram said that a film story just couldn't show a character style with much accuracy or visibility. Others said that the collaborative nature of moviemaking would prevent an Enneagram style from ever being realized in the finished product. The idea was that a character would be written one way, interpreted by an actor differently, and the film's director would further alter how the character played on the screen.

As it develops, Enneagram styles are not only plentiful in films, but they are sometimes more obvious than in real life (Alfred Hitchcock once said, "Movies are like life with the boring parts cut out"). Stories are constructs based on human experience and one good way to propel a story is to give its characters vivid traits and attitudes.

A lot of movies with well-drawn characters take them through some change -- a "character arc," this is called. Thus it's possible to see someone initially mired in the traps and excesses of their Enneagram style. As the story progresses you see the style's higher capacities evoked as the character goes through experiences that help them change and grow. Another character could decline through the course of a movie, but either "arc" will be interesting for what it shows about an Enneagram style and core point of view.

Some film plots pit two characters with different Enneagram styles against one another for high contrast. Other stories are about people who set out to do something and get in their own way because of neurotic complexity. What a character wants can be a telling reflection of his or her inner psychology. In some stories a character's Enneagram style is revealed in how they respond to unforeseen circumstances.

When I first began this project I figured that movie stories were either plot-driven or character-driven and that the latter films were more likely to contain Enneagram styles. This has been generally true, though it has been surprising when certain stories that seemed character-driven didn't yield styles. Two excellent films, Mississippi Masala and Menace II Society, are like this. Both feature a small number of closely studied characters but somehow don't capture an essential something about them.

What the two films are really about is context. Mississippi Masala is about black and East Indian people trying to deal with oppression and culture shock in the USA's Deep South. Menace II Society is a heart-breaking story of a smart, sweet teenager who can't quite transcend his brutal urban environment. The context is Los Angeles ghetto life and it overwhelms the young man's character and is ultimately the film's subject.

Good storytellers have to be part-time psychologists. Screenwriters, directors and actors all must keep track of a character's motivation during the course of a story for the finished movie to be coherent. Core motivations are highly related to a character's Enneagram style and how that character sees reality. Writers, directors and actors are far more likely to agree about a character's core in a good film than in a bad one.

Sometimes screenwriters are biographers as well, basing a movie character on a real person the writer has known. If the real person had an Enneagram style unconsciously apparent to the writer, then it gets written into the movie role. At least one Hollywood screenwriter has said publicly that he and his writer friends use the Enneagram when constructing screen characters.

I've seen a number of film biographies where the movie's subject and the performer who plays the role have the same Enneagram style. Directors often know whether a role is right for an actor. The wisdom is that certain performers will bring a quality to a particular role that another won't. People in charge of movie casting are intuitively on the lookout for qualities of personality that they try to match to roles.

My contention is that Enneagram styles are a strong unconscious factor in how performers are matched to the characters they play. As we shall see, makers of movies often sort for the Enneagram styles without realizing it.



A few words about this book's layout. Each Enneagram style has its own chapter which includes a number of full-length movie reviews and additional listings of movie characters. Each chapter has the following sections:


These are examples of well-known people and their Enneagram styles that I've noted over the years. The list is fairly eclectic with an emphasis on actresses and actors. Some of the listings are of very famous people while others are quite obscure, but included in case they trigger recognition. The value of such listings is subliminal; you might realize the similarities between highly different individuals and maybe see a pattern that you have unconsciously sensed.

I've tried to make the lists somewhat international but probably haven't succeeded. For better or worse, though, American culture is exported all over the world, especially via our movies. The Cable News Network (CNN) is seen in about 210 countries. NBC is now all over Europe.

Generally, I've identified well-known people's Enneagram styles through watching filmed interviews, reading books and articles. A handful I have met. Unless someone was extreme within their real-life style, I usually needed three or four sources before their Enneagram number came clear. If I got an idea from another Enneagram author, I still needed independent confirmation as we didn't always agree.

Since there is an emphasis on real-life performers, there are some imbalances to the lists. It's probably logical that there would not be as many real-life performers who are Fives since it's a relatively shy style. I was also surprised by the number of Sevens who work in films rather than, say, Threes.



Each of the nine chapters begins with a brief overview of a specific Enneagram style. The sketches are only meant to set the context for the movie reviews and are aimed at people new to the Enneagram. As such, they are deliberately limited in scope.

Here and there in the Guide, I have used terminology from my other writings, specifically when I discuss healthy and unhealthy expressions of each style. I use the terms "awakened" and "entranced," as they relate to my thesis that having an Enneagram style is similar to being in a hypnotic trance.

For far more comprehensive descriptions of the styles, see The Enneagram by Helen Palmer, Personality Types by Don Riso and my own The Everyday Enneagram. If you are a sheer beginner, I'd highly recommend The Enneagram Made Easy by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele.



In this chapter section I discuss the types of roles that are often associated with each Enneagram style. Also included are familiar actresses and actors who have played roles related to the specific style. The intersection between performer and role is often fascinating.

As we will see, movie characters from each Enneagram style can be heroes or villains, although their motivations and actions will differ greatly. The same qualities that make a character virtuous can be magnified to villainous proportions.



The movie reviews are meant to speak for themselves and be companions to your viewing experience. A lot of people keep the review of a film handy while watching, reading it before the film, afterwards, or both. The reviews can also be read on their own as a collection of stories about people who have core similarities.

When I first began the column in The Enneagram Educator, I warned readers that if Enneagram styles proved to be scarce, they might have to sit through some really rotten movies. Fortunately, this hasn't proven necessary; Enneagram styles show up more often in good movies, usually because the filmmakers have paid extra attention to character development.

I've tried to indicate what a reviewed film's general quality is, although no movie is truly bad for our purposes. I think I have reasonably good critical powers, but you'll have to decide that. Professional critics disagree with each other all the time and there's no accounting for taste. The Dustin Hoffman/Warren Beatty comedy Ishtar was a notorious, reviled bomb. I thought it was a little dumb but also sweet and surprisingly funny.

If a film has steamy sexual content, I'll mention it. Otherwise I'm going to assume that you're adult enough to handle the sight of actors and actresses pretending to have sex. If a film is especially violent, I'll also mention that. A few of the reviewed movies are suitable for children and this is indicated when relevant.

This book works hard to offer a balanced presentation of each Enneagram style, including healthy and unhealthy examples. Since fictional stories are rooted in conflict, they often feature characters who are not so psychologically healthy. Sometimes a style is clearer in its neurotic expression, so this is emphasized in the reviews. The purpose of the Guide is to give you skill and practice at seeing the Enneagram, so sometimes the focus is on the exaggerated or pathological. Remember, though, that each of the nine styles has its healthy side and a certain unique set of advantages.

Some Enneagram numbers are barely represented in films while others are everywhere. Fives, for instance, are pretty scarce in American movies so I had to turn to Europe where character studies of shy, withdrawn people are much more common. I could have written entire books on the more "photogenic" styles. Eights, for example, are usually blatant and declarative in their behavior and therefore drive story lines. In movies, they show up everywhere.

It's also true what film actresses say about the dearth of good roles for women. It took extra research to find clear female examples for some of the styles. Lady Fives, for instance, are so unusual in movies that I wrote up nearly every one I found. Male Twos are not that common either, probably because screenwriters don't know how to draw people-oriented male characters without making them seem effeminate.


One theory of film says that it has to deal with the "apprehendable universe." This means that a movie can't really portray the inner life of a character because the nature of the medium shows us only external behavior. This theory says that fantasy and dream sequences that attempt to show us a character's inner thoughts don't really work because they violate the rules of the film medium. If filmmakers want to illustrate a character's inner life, they must find a way to dramatize it in external terms.

This has relevance to learning about the Enneagram because many people wrongly assume that the system describes external behavior traits. They could look at, say, the achievement-oriented behavior of American tycoon Donald Trump and assume he is a goal-oriented Three. Trump talks about winning and wanting to be the best, so this sounds like stronger evidence. Sometimes, though, you have to dig deeper. The Enneagram is not about traits, but about world views and core motivations. You have to look past a person's external behavior and ask what internal need motivates it.

In Donald Trump's case, the desire to win would be tied to a deeper need to seem and act strong, to dominate and prevail over events. This is a different motivation than a Three, who needs to win in order to know who they are. In interviews, Trump is often trying to seem invulnerable, which is not necessarily the same as being a winner. Though he has similar outward behavior, his inner logic and motivation would be very different. Trump is actually an Eight rather than a Three. This exact contrast between styles Three and Eight is on display in the movie Wall Street. The Michael Douglas character was modeled on Donald Trump.

For this book, I've handled this problem by reviewing movie characters whose Enneagram styles are flagrant. I've included characters who act out of their Enneagram styles and then talk about their motivations. They have to seem it, say it and do it.

As you apply what you learn to real life, remember that an Enneagram style is more than the sum of someone's visible behavior. You are looking for a basic inner stance and world view out of which someone's behavior flows. A person's traits can give you clues about their inner process, but there are no magic formulas or automatic equations. Although it's fun to figure people out, remember that the Enneagram describes something about us that is finally rather profound.



These film characters are included in case you want some additional possibilities for follow-up. Some of the roles are more vivid than others; some are large, some small. You may have seen some of these movies already. It's sometimes fun -- and very different -- to watch a film again with the perspective of the Enneagram.




Your core style has a built-in relationship to the numbered styles on either side of it. This is a part of the theoretical formulation of the Enneagram that I've found to be both accurate and useful.

So if Two is your core style, you will have an intuitive connection to Ones or Threes or both. Within being a Two, you would have a basic orientation to other people. This will be influenced and modified by a preoccupation with principle and idealism (1 wing) or an extra sociable, achievement-oriented drive (3 wing). These are inherent connections; they are just there.

If you know your core style and think about it further, you can usually identify a wing that you favor. The healthy qualities of your wings are available to you almost like talents. The unhealthy qualities exist as potential pitfalls. Depending on your focus, you can tap the high side resources of your wings or unconsciously fall to the unhealthy side.

Somewhere between 60 and 70 % of the population have just one active wing, and will have an obvious connection that they can identify. This means that their other wing is unconscious and latent. The remainder of the population have both wings active and will have a combination of motivations that reflect their joint influence.

Throughout the reviews, I discuss various characters who illustrate particular wings. At the end of each chapter is a reference section called "Finer Distinction Notes." This includes mini-profiles of wings, connecting points, and subtype themes as they influence the specific Enneagram style. These are written impressionistically, just to give the flavor of each.


CONNECTING POINTS (Stress & Security)

Within your core style you also have a built-in connection to two other Enneagram styles. These connections are often called stress and security points. Just as with wings, you can recognize an intuitive, unconscious link from your core style to your connecting points.

The words "stress" and "security" are used as neutral descriptive terms. When you are under pressure, for instance, you will tend to temporarily access the attitudes and motivations of your stress point. So under stress a principled One might begin to act like a self-pitying, melancholy Four. When relaxed, she would begin to manifest the attitudes of her security point, the playful high side of Seven. As a neutral description of what sometimes happens this is true as far as it goes.

A lot of writers have taken these connecting points to mean something more. In book after book, the stress point is called an unhealthy direction in general and the security point is portrayed as the general path to psychological health. The security point is called the direction of growth, integration, redemption, while the stress point is called the direction of decline, disintegration, breakdown, etc. These are presented as directions to avoid or cultivate when attempting to work on the dilemmas of your core Enneagram style.

I understand a teacher's desire to provide direction and a theorist's need to create a complete and unified theory. Unfortunately, unified theories about human behavior never hold together very long. Our personal psychology is a messy, complex process. Consequently, theorists usually have to ignore contradicting facts to keep their theories intact. It would be nice to think that within your Enneagram style there was one sure direction out, a royal road to health and well-being. It's just not what happens.

When people are unhealthy or under stress, they manifest the neurotic behavior and defenses of both their stress and security points in a kind of cycle. They will also manifest the unhealthy elements of their wings; not to mention their core style. These are the ingredients of being stuck or lost in a downward spiral and they all tend to reinforce one another. No one element offers a magic direction out and how people change and grow is a whole other subject.

The same is true when someone is healthy or relaxed within their being. The high side qualities of both their stress and security points will be evident and support a kind of upward spiral. The powers and resources of both wings are also be available as someone operates out of the healthy perspective of their core style.

Two films in the chapter on Ones put the case quite succinctly. Joan Plowright's character in Enchanted April is on an upward spiral and manifests the high side qualities of both her connecting points. Fredric March's character in Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde is sinking into decline and his two connecting points reinforce each other negatively. These generalized connections -- both healthy and unhealthy -- are evident in many, many films listed in this book and are discussed throughout.



The original formulation of the Enneagram states that within each style there are three possible suborientations that people tend towards. Your subtype is determined by whether you are unconsciously preoccupied with personal survival (self-preservation), whether you incline towards one-to-one relationships (intimate) or whether your style of relating includes a lot of people (social). Most politicians, for instance, would likely be social subtypes.

Author Margaret Frings Keyes describes these subtypes with the phrase "the One, the Few and the Many." The subtypes relate to three key realms of life -- how we take care of ourselves, the realm of close relationships and how we relate socially to the larger world. We all have portions of our attention and energy focused on these three realms. Within your core Enneagram style, however, you might habitually favor a particular realm more than the others.

As with wings, it's possible to have more than one subtype theme in your life. The content of the themes is different for each Enneagram style and explained both in the reviews and at the end of each chapter.

Subtypes are especially useful for recognizing what further motivates you within the core framework of your style. Movie stories favor some subtypes far more than others, as we shall see.



I want to mention a few odd discoveries I made about the relationship between performers' real-life Enneagram styles and the roles that they play. There are surprising consistencies that are very confirming of the system.

Years ago, leaving the movie MacArthur, a friend of mine remarked: "Well, that settles it -- Gregory Peck can't act." What he meant was that Peck had been unable to shed his usual screen persona sufficiently to play the character as written. Peck's usual character in movies was a principled One, although he sometimes played the persona for its dark side.

General Douglas MacArthur was written for the movie as an unhealthy Eight -- an aggressive egomaniac -- but Peck kept giving the character an honorable, principled aura. Thus after the film it seemed to my friend that Peck had been playing Peck rather than MacArthur.

The more I studied movies, the more I learned incidentally about real-life actors and actresses. After I began to identify their personal Enneagram styles, I was surprised to realize how many performers played their real-life Enneagram styles in movie roles. Gregory Peck turned out to be a real-life One. John Wayne was an Eight in real life and played an Eight character in probably every movie he made. Tom Cruise is a more current example. He is a Three in real life and in nearly all his movies, he plays Threes.

Other screen performers who have tended to play their real-life styles include: Woody Allen (Six), Gary Cooper (Nine), Harrison Ford (One), Tom Hanks (Seven), Katharine Hepburn (One), Charlton Heston (One), Diane Keaton (Six), Jack Nicholson (Seven), Dennis Quaid (Seven), Sharon Stone (Three), Kathleen Turner (Three), Robin Williams (Seven). Throughout the book I mention Enneagram similarities between actors and their roles and I've named this phenomenon "Enneatype casting."

When I was in college and took an acting class, the professor used to say, "If you play a role in real life, you won't be able to act." What he meant was, if you were image-conscious and had a social persona in real life, you would have a difficult time in letting yourself go and becoming someone else within a role. The idea was that the actress has to surrender her personal self and give herself over to a totally different point of view and way of being.

The professor was talking about what is called "character acting," where an actor seems to take on a new character with each role. He omitted what's called "personality acting," which is when a performer develops a persona that they essentially play from role to role. Huge film careers are built by personality actors and they almost always are considered movie stars rather than character actors. They also almost always play their real-life Enneagram style.

After I realized that personality actors tended to play their real-life Enneagram styles, I began to wonder if there was any relationship between the roles character actors played and their personal Ennea-gram styles. I doubted it -- the words of my college professor lingered. Character acting meant jumping completely out of your own skin and becoming a totally different person.

What I found instead surprised me at first but later seemed to have a natural logic. Character actors don't exclusively play their real-life Enneagram style the way personality actors do. Character actors do, however, routinely play their wings and connecting points -- Enneagram styles for which they have built-in affinities. Only once in a while does a performer play a style that is completely unconnected to their own. Movie roles are directly related to a performer's real-life Enneagram style even when it seems like they aren't.

This demystifies character acting a little; playing a character who has your wing or connecting point is not the same as slipping completely out of your own skin. People also have a built-in affinity to the Enneagram styles of their parents. We all carry our mother and father around inside us. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that character actors were playing a parent's Enneagram style in roles that otherwise have no connection to their core style.

These are subtle distinctions but you might find it intriguing to keep track of them as you use the Guide. The connection between performer and role is almost eerie in its consistency and I mention examples throughout the reviews. There are even consistent patterns to scripts that directors choose to film; they sometimes will make several very different movies that nonetheless contain the same Enneagram character tensions.



To get you started here is a list of ten "beginner" films that each feature several vivid Enneagram styles:

Batman Returns -- Four, Five, Six, Eight

Crimes And Misdemeanors -- One, Two, Six, Seven, Eight

Dangerous Liaisons -- Three, Eight, Nine

Little Murders -- One, Two, Six, Seven, Nine

Mermaids -- Four, Seven

Mr. And Mrs. Bridge -- One, Six, Nine

My Dinner With Andre -- Seven, Nine

Out Of Africa -- Four, Seven

Postcards From The Edge -- Two, Six, Seven, Eight

sex, lies and video --Three, Five, Eight, Nine

Note that examples of all nine Enneagram styles are available in just three films -- Crimes And Misdemeanors, Out Of Africa and sex, lies and video.



To follow up on the best Additional Listings, turn to the second index, "Movies With Multiple Enneagram Styles." The index will give you choices of movies with several characters who demonstrate the Enneagram. Sometimes a film will contain several of the Additional Listings and may be more worth your time and study.

The index also notes when there are typical dynamics or conflicts between styles. For instance, you can see a Four and a Seven in relationship in several different films. In some stories they might be in conflict, while in others they get along well. This is a useful tool for understanding your own relationships and also seeing the consistency of the Enneagram in movies. Most movies offer contrasting Enneagram styles to make the story more interesting. This mirrors real life, though -- long marriages between people with the same style, for instance, are relatively rare.

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