Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Ed Wood (ILE): Personality Type Analysis

Edward David Wood Jr., best known simply as Ed Wood, was an American film director, producer, writer, and actor, as well as the author of plays and many books, mostly novels. He has often been called the “worst director of all time”, having directed the supposedly “worst film ever made”, Plan 9 from Outer Space in 1956. Although he achieved little recognition in his lifetime, he later became a cult figure, a status consolidated by Tim Burton’s 1994 biographical film Ed Wood starring Johnny Depp. 

Ed Wood was born in 1924 in New York to middle-class parents. Already in his teens he showed enthusiasm for films and film-making. He served as a marine in WWII in the Pacific, seeing combat several times and being wounded more than once. Discharged as a corporal, he moved to Hollywood in 1947 to start working as a filmmaker. Although able to get work in the mainstream movie and television industry as a writer and director of commercials and very low-budget productions, from the beginning Ed preferred to work independently; a path he maintained to the end.

In 1953 Ed wrote, directed and starred (under a pseudonym) the semi-autobiographical, semi-documentary Glen or Glenda; it and his later Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 from Outer Space are today the movies most often associated with Ed Wood, but his total body of work, including movies where he just wrote or produced, is much vaster. Unfortunately, Ed never achieved critical or commercial success in his lifetime, sinking in the 1970s into exploitative soft-porn films and alcoholism, until his death in 1978 from a heart attack during an episode of binge drinking and depression.

We can get a first hint from Ed Wood’s Socionics type from a broad-brush look at his movies as a whole – at least those of the 1950s and 1960s, where they were still 'his' films, before he sunk into pure exploitation flicks. Their common traits are:

  1. a spark of originality, even in old genres, that make them somewhat innovative in relation to similar movies of the time; 
  2. usually plots that do make some sense and are often complex (even in implausible or absurd scenarios or premises); 
  3. awkward dialogue that sounds more like digressions on ideas or obvious tools to carry the plot rather than plausible portrayals of how human beings interact; 
  4. extremely low budgets with the cheapness of the sets and special effects being laughably obvious; 
  5. the use of stock footage to complement the story (or as padding); 
  6. very bad, wooden acting except when he had a truly good actor like Bela Lugosi.

Something revealing about the above traits is that Ed genuinely did not seem to realise the extent to which his awkward dialogues, extremely bad acting and obviously cheap effects and sets would detract from the audience's enjoyment of the often entertaining and original stories. He seemed to think that the audience would mostly overlook those 'details' in favour of enjoying the pictures as a whole (as he himself did). He obviously knew these movies were cheap; but he did not see the extent to which they came across as shoddy. I argue that that already points to Ed Wood having weak R, as well as E since he had extreme difficulty with convincing, realistic dialogues (showing a difficulty in understanding how people interact) but also probably weak S since he seemed to underestimate how his shoddy details would come across.

Ed's chief defining trait was an extreme self-confidence in being able to make movies single-handedly and in his ability to write original, interesting scripts in a variety of subjects and genres, as well as in bringing to production movies from nearly non-existing resources. This points to strong confidence in I as well as P, being naturally able to generate novel ideas and find the practical means of making his ideas work in reality.

Interestingly, Ed was far more focused on making the movies he wanted to make rather than making money from them, both in terms of not 'selling out' by trying to work as a hired hand for others, and in not really being very careful about protecting his interests when signing contracts and the like. Also, although Ed was depressed in the end due to the failure of his career, financial gain was never his chief motivation. That points to weak and subdued F as well as subdued P. It is useful to contrast Ed Wood with his near-contemporary, Roger Corman (LSE). Corman was in many ways similar to Ed in preferring to make his own movies independently and making them very cheaply. The chief difference is that Corman's ultimate goal was making profitable movies even at the cost of their originality, with Corman being far more a producer than a writer and creator of original movies he cared deeply about - that is, with P being a greater priority than I.

Ed's movies are also original and unconventional by slightly deviating from the norm in existing genres and movies, and he did that in a large variety of ways. He seldom, or never, went into truly 'experimental' movies that went deeply outside the norm or explored deep insights or inner demons, he preferred to explore ideas broadly while not going too deeply into them. That is consistent with being strong in I and preferring it over T for a filmmaker.

Taking a closer look at Glen or Glenda, which according to Ed himself is an accurate depiction of one aspect of his psychology and private life, we find an inclination towards cross-dressing. Ed Wood retained since childhood a liking for wearing women's clothes and a special liking for angora pieces. Yet, by all accounts, including of his ex-wife Dolores Fuller and his widow, Kathy O'Hara, this had no connection to homosexuality or transgenderism, but was a purely sensorial fetish, since his childhood when his mother used to dress him in girl's clothes, of angora in particular.

Ed's inner thoughts on the matter are probably illustrated by this passage of Glen or Glenda :
Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt or even the lounging outfit he has on and he’s the happiest individual in the world. He can work better, think better, even play better. He can be more of a credit to his community and his government, because he is happy".
This is a first-person description of S5, in particular blocked with E in super-id, and according to those who knew him intimately it accurately represents his reasons for his cross-dressing.

This all boils down to a man of very strong and valued I1, with strong but subdued P8, weak and valued S5 and E6 as well as subdued very weak R4 with likely F3. The type that fits Ed Wood best is ILE.

The Church of Ed Wood, established in 1996, is a legally recognised religious organisation in the US based on Ed Wood as the Saviour.

To learn more about ILE, please click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.

Sources: besides Wikipedia and direct observations of his movies, the documentaries Ed Wood: look back in angora  and the "Incredibly Strange" episode on Ed . 

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