Introverts in Popular Culture

Oxford dictionary defines “stereotype” as, “A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” Stereotypes have always been around and we somehow accept it like a fact, even though not all of them are true. Moreover, you may not notice it but we all have stereotypes, we apply them all the time without knowing it. Introverts, in current society, are often wrongly perceived as nerds and that they have no life. I am an introvert myself, I am proud of who I am and I can say that these stereotypes are not true. Nobody should be ashamed of who they are just because society doesn’t consider them to be “the standard.” Why does describing someone as “outgoing” carry a positive vibe, while describing someone else as “shy” is considered a character flawed? To explain this, I will use Napoleon Dynamite, a Ted talk by Susan Cain, and a YouTube video to further support my claim.

Napoleon Dynamite is a 2004 comedy movie directed by Jared Hess and is about a socially awkward 16-year-old boy from Idaho, how he gets bullied in school, daydreams about fantasy creatures, and his relationship with his friends, Pedro and Deb. Throughout the movie we can see how Napoleon has changed not only his own life but also others’, helped Pedro to win the class president position, was in a relationship with Deb, or changed the whole school’s perspective with his dance performance. The movie not only portrays Napoleon as the only introvert but also his brother, Kip, Pedro, and Deb. Napoleon is portrayed like a typical nerd anybody would imagine: skinny, big glasses, not so many friends, and he is always in his own imaginative world. His brother Kip, who is 32, is unemployed and does nothing but chat with girls, he eventually met a girl and later moved to Michigan. His best friend, Pedro, is a quiet yet bold transfer student from Mexico; he has a hard time adapting to the new environment but later decides to run for president of the school. Deb, our last piece of the puzzle, is a shy girl who sells key chains and glamour shots to raise money for college. Even though they all have different personalities, something in common is their talent and that they all are unique in their own ways. The characters may seem like a typical nerdy type we usually see portrayed by the media but this movie is actually different, showing that even though they may be a bit socially awkward and not good with communicating, they all have inner personas that only get to shine when the right moment comes. For example, the highlight of the movie is when Napoleon decides to break out from his shell by dancing in front of the whole school after Pedro’s speech has failed. It’s interesting that he has never danced before and all the moves he learned are from a VCR footage, which shows that he can learn new skills very quickly by paying attention to the details.

Napoleon

The movie is a good example to show introverts are just like anybody, they are capable of everything and can do them even better than extroverts, all they need is a “catalyst” and a right moment to shine. I don’t consider myself a nerd just because I like to be on my own, I don’t mind socializing or go out of my comfort zone, but I can see a little bit of myself in Napoleon. One of the reasons why introverts are falsely portrayed are because of the stereotype media has made. It’s really easy to find a show with nerds being antisocial, collecting comics, and staying indoors all day. Introverts aren’t necessarily nerds and it also doesn’t apply the other way around.

The next source I want to share is a TED talk by Susan Cain. She is a co-founder and Chief Revolutionary at Quiet Revolution, an author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and an introvert herself. The talk was given in 2012 and has got more than six million views on YouTube, one of the most watched TED talks ever. In the beginning, she talks about her summer camp experience as a kid, how she was told to be outgoing, has to put her books away, and “socialize” with other kids, even though deep down inside she just wants to read books. I can totally relate myself to her, I was told to socialize as a kid as well even though I really didn’t want to, but what else could I do? My dad always wanted me to be the socialized kid, like himself, but he doesn’t understand that I can’t be someone who I am not. Furthermore, she also talks about how people tell her all the time that she needs to change her introversion, that being quiet is not a way to go, even though her intuition tells her that it is not right. I have always thought that there are people like me out there but not many compared to extroverts, but I was wrong after watching the video; introverts make up a third to half of the population, that means one out of two or three people you know.

Introvert-meme

Furthermore, she also makes a point that shyness and introversion is different—shyness is about fear of social judgement while introversion is about how do you response to the stimulation. In a society where extroverts are often looked upon as superior to introverts, it’s difficult for introverts to be themselves. You can easily find introverts being portrayed as shy, anti-social, and not “having a life” in the media. A few examples can be Raj from The Big Bang Theory or Gale from Breaking Bad. They’re consider introverted and only feel comfortable around their close group, or mostly by themselves, something not necessarily true. Moreover, “introverted leaders often deliver a better outcome than extroverts do,” Cain says, and the reason is because they listen to his/her employee’s ideas and are more likely to let them go with it, whereas extroverted leaders can easily get excited about things and often times forget about others’ ideas and therefore the ideas are not accepted. Some examples of excellent leaders in history are Eleanor Roosevelt, Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, they are introverts and they are the best at what they are doing.

At the end of the speech, Cain calls for three actions: do less group work, go to the wilderness, and take a good look at what is inside your suitcase. The first action doesn’t mean that there should be no communication at all, but workers and students also should be given more privacy and freedom, and extroverts can learn how to work independently as it is an important skill to have as well. The second action means that we need to take a break once in a while to get inside our head, to understand your body and mind. The last action, looking at your suitcase, means that introverts need to open up some more, to share their thoughts with others so the world would know how they also have brilliant ideas. As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has said from his book The Systems Model of Creativity, creative persons “can be both extroverted and introverted depending on the phase of the process.” This means normally we see ourselves more introverted or extroverted than the other, but we can actually be both depending on the situation. The point of the speech and the book is not to position introvert as superior, but to point out that we are all the same even though you may not know it.

The last artifact I want to share is a YouTube video from a channel calls TheDaydreamSound. The speaker is an African-Canadian and he talks about his experience being an introvert and how does it affect his life. One time he went to a festival in downtown Toronto with his friends, and there were lots of people there gathering around. After a while being surrounded by lots of people and noises, he and his friends decided to go back because it was too intense and too much to handle. It was then he realized that those kind of environment is not for him, that he prefers somewhere where his mind can rest. I can relate to him because I hate places with loud music and noises like bars, I try to avoid it as much as I can, those places drain my energy. He also talks about how from the outside he and his friends look just like anybody else and there is no way to tell if one is introverted or not, which lead to an assumption that everybody is the same, that introversion is not real when in fact they made up half to the third of population. He goes on to explains how introverts always are in their heads and that “external stimulates really messed up the balance.” One of his statement I find true is “we avoid situation of high stimulation to retain our vitality,” it means introverted people enjoy being by themselves, that it doesn’t mean they are shy, extroverts can be shy as well, it just means they don’t want to spend much time socializing, too much stimulation can drain their energy.

social

In conclusion, it is fine to be who you are, introverted or extroverted, you just need to accept who you are and everything will be much easier the sooner you realize it’s just a tag that doesn’t mean anything. Being introverted also doesn’t mean that you are “less” compared to extroverts, you approach and do things differently but you are capable of everything just like anybody else. The ideal world I want us to live in is when introverts and extroverts work together to achieve a common goal. An example of such partnership is extroverted Steve Jobs and his partner, Steve Wozniak, different personality but together they changed the world.

Learning moments

Two moments during the course I find most the interesting are how students believe anything from any websites with .org at the end of their domain, and the lack of diversity in Hollywood’s movies. I personally have visited many websites with .org domain with the content is not that great, but it never crosses my mind that they are not 100% reliable. I often time don’t take everything for granted so before trusting something, I always do intensive research on the subject in order to come to my own opinion. It is the same with mainstream media nowadays, you don’t see much diversity but because those movies are overwhelmingly presented, we take it for granted and never really thought why shouldn’t there be more minorities actors/actresses. It is important for each of us to process information critically by themselves, especially in these days when false information is out there with real facts and there is nothing you can do but to do your own research to figure it out.

Sources

Cain, Susan. “The Power of Introverts.” TED. Feb. 2012. Lecture.

Coon, Jeremy, Chris Wyatt, Sean Covel, Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess, Jon Heder, Jon Gries, Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez, Tina Majorino, Munn Powell, and John Swihart. Napoleon Dynamite. Beverly Hills, Calif: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2004.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. The Systems Model of Creativity. The Collected Works of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 2014. Print.

TheDaydreamSound. “What is it like to be an artistic introvert?” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 18 Oct. 20015. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.

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2 thoughts on “Introverts in Popular Culture

  1. Hi Minh,
    First of all, I like how you described yourself as a ping pong master! That’s pretty interesting to know. Additionally, your blog post was well written with multiple sources that can back up on what you want to say. I would say that I am an introvert myself, I am not the person that raises their hand to answer questions and participate in class. I wouldn’t say I am actually the nerdy type either, even thought that would be a great trait to have. I would often have to push myself to talk to people and to socialize more.
    I like how you included some personal experience of your dad wanting you to be the “socialized kid,” and I agree that not everyone can be the “socialized kid” in a classroom or workplace. You even had the statistics that introverts makes up one third of the populations. Do you have any date on when the data was collected? It would have been cool to compare the number of introverts today and the number of introverts maybe 20 years ago. Overall, your paper was enjoyable with really good sources to back up on what you want to say!

  2. Hello Minh!
    Great post! I also identify myself as an introvert. It is unfortunate that introverts are portrayed in a more negative light compared to extroverts in the media. It truly does convey some kind of message that there is something wrong with being an introvert, and people in the real world are prone to believe such representations that circulate the media. Extroverts are more comfortable expressing themselves freely at anytime, while introverts are very selective with their self-expression. I liked the Napoleon Dynamite artifact that you selected to explain how we choose our moments to shine when the timing is right because I can definitely relate to that. Another good point you brought up was the concept that introverts can be seen as “less” compared to extroverts. This was a really good issue to address because people really shouldn’t devalue themselves for being who they are. Overall, you had great sources to back up your thesis and your post was an interesting read!

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