Jeff Bridges, Tron and the Enneagram

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Jeff Bridges, smiling and friendlyJeff Bridges is probably an Enneagram Type Seven - the Enthusiast: full of energy, and always looking for a good time. Here’s a quote from him: “I had years of partying, and I was kind of surprised and happy I survived it all. Now, being a parent, I look back on it thinking, Oh God, the things you did!” Here he is, imagining the advice he’d give to a younger version of himself starting out as an actor: “Have fun. Don't take it too seriously. Don't mistake this for reality. Be sincere, but don't get too serious. But that's a life direction too, it doesn't just apply to movies.” (The Ennegram, in case you aren't familiar with it, is a personality type system, positing nine basic types)(Follow the hyperlink on “Seven” to get a fuller description of that type in general)(And see the end note here for more Seven-ish quotes to substantiate my claim of Mr. Bridges being this type)(it’s a dicey thing, typing someone without their corroboration - the best you can do is plead your case with good, solid evidence until someone trumps your argument with stronger evidence)(and if you have the idea that Jeff Bridges is another type, please get in touch with me (with better evidence)).

Although he’s played a diversity of roles in his four decades in the movies, there’s a certain Jeff Bridges-ness that comes out in interviews, outtakes and certain roles: the smiling, easygoing, funny California good time guy. Any movie star brings a fair bit of themselves to the screen. Their personal qualities affect the kinds of roles they’re offered. If they inhabit certain types of characters particularly well, those roles leave a lasting impression in the public’s perception.

For Jeff Bridges, one of those roles (in my consciousness, anyway, having grown up in the 80s) is Kevin Flynn, computer whiz, hacker and inadvertent digital grid adventurer in Tron (1982) and now, Tron: Legacy (2010)(In the special features on the Tron DVD, costar Bruce Boxleitner says that what you see Jeff Bridges do as that character is be himself). Get this - in Tron he lives above his own arcade! He joins in the fun with his teenage customers (with Journey on the juke box), setting new high scores on the world’s most popular video game, which he designed himself. Sevens are quick learners, and can become whiz kids: Mozart and Steven Spielberg, for instance. Also, healthy Sevens display the positive characteristics of Type Five (the Investigator) becoming focused, putting in many hours and completing their wildly Jeff Bridges and costars in Tronambitious projects (like... Mozart and Steven Spielberg)(and Kevin Flynn, who’d spent his evenings coming in late at Encom, the computer company where he’d worked, designing a bunch of new games, which got stolen from him, hence his attempts to hack into the company’s system).

In the course of breaking in to the company building to recover evidence of his original authorship, he smiles and cracks jokes. He flirts with the former co-worker who’s helping him and hides on her, coming out from around a corner when she’s trying to figure out where he went. He’s a big kid, even when the stakes are high.

Jeff Bridges in TronThrough the machinations of Encom’s malevolent Master Control Program, Flynn gets digitized and zapped into the grid - a microscopic physical representation of the universe of computer information, where programs have human form, their bodies covered in circuitry. Flynn has to fight his way out (having been sent to the video game grid like a Christian to the lions), and keeps cracking jokes (which it’s easy to picture him improvising on set or otherwise adding to the script himself) while doing so. And of course, he saves the day.

Tron: Legacy has Flynn’s son Sam as its protagonist, but it’s what happens with Flynn that I’m interested in here. We find out he’s been existing solely in the grid since 1989, a fugitive in the hinterlands of the computer landscape. He’d made a program in his own image (programs always bear the likeness of their creators) named CLU, for the purpose of creating “the perfect system.” CLU repeats this phrase a number of times in the film, having even wiped out a species of spontaneously evolved digital lifeforms, deeming these strange new creatures “imperfect.” CLU relentlessly refines the computer world to his liking, converting programs to a uniform type, producing a stern, conformist society (we see him give a speech to a vast multitude of perfectly aligned programs - a visual nod to a Nazi rally). It comes out that he intends to travel through the portal that brought Flynn to the grid, and enter the human world. When he finds the rampant imperfection of our physical world, he’ll eradicate it with the brutal mercilessness of a maniacal dictator.

Jeff Bridges as CLUPresuming CLU originally had Flynn’s personality as well as his physical likeness, his obsession with perfection fits with a specific aspect of the Enneagram theory, a mirror image to the one mentioned earlier. In an unhealthy state, a type will show the negative characteristics of yet another type. In this case, an unhealthy Seven acts out the negative aspects of Type One (the Reformer), becoming stern, angry and dogmatic, letting themselves be ruled by black and white thinking and moral absolutism. Ones know they’re right. They know what has to be done to make the world perfect. And they do it. And of course, their interpretation of what’s right, and who is on the side of right, rests entirely on their own personal development.

American writer Sherwood Anderson opened his best known novel Winesburg, Ohio with a chapter entitled “The Book of the Grosteque” in which he lays out the book’s theme: that people will prize a certain virtue - thrift, self-improvement or chastity - and devote their lives to it, pursuing it so unreasonably that they end up wildly distorting themselves and the original virtue in the process. In his harsh One-ness, CLU shows the unhealthy side of Seven, having made a grotesque of the healthy virtue of idealism. Flynn eventually leaves the grid’s outlands to protect Sam in his attempt to return to the human world. This leads to an inevitable confrontation with CLU, in which Flynn tries to tells him that his relentless quest for perfection is impossible and misguided. Life involves imperfection. It’s natural, and necessary. CLU accepts none of this, and fights to the end, trying to disrupt (or piggyback on) Sam’s return. Flynn somehow draws CLU into himself, and both are disintegrated in an explosion of radiant light. If we think of CLU as representing a part of Flynn, the film works as a look at what happens when one’s shadow side takes over. In the case of an Enneagram Seven, their inner battles not only centre on their propensity to be scattered and hedonistic, but can also involve a struggle against an unblinking adherence to rigid dogma.


End Note: Quotes from Jeff Bridges that substantiate the case for him being an Enneagram Type Seven

Sevens are famous for being bon-vivants: Jeff Bridges, smiling“I'm glad I survived the '60s. They were dangerous. Fun, too. Everything in your life teaches you something.”

“I had a great '70s. I survived it, and that's always good news.”

“The problem with the designated driver program, it's not a desirable job. But if you ever get sucked into doing it, have fun with it. At the end of the night drop them off at the wrong house.”

Sevens crave adventure, experience and variety:

“I don't think I ever went down that movie star path. I always enjoy taking a 90-degree turn from the last thing I did.”

“I've always tried to mix up my roles as much as I can.”

“I guess I'm not like Emily Dickinson who keeps things wrapped up in a ribbon in their top drawer.”

“And that's one of the great things about actors: their willingness to play and to do something.”

The north point on a Seven’s compass is Fun. They’re perpetually chasing thrills, whatever gives them their dopamine rush. Sevens are junkies for that stuff:

“Movies are like magic tricks.”

“A large part of acting is just pretending. You get to work with these other great make-believers, all making believe as hard as they can. What I learned most from my father wasn't anything he said; it was just the way he behaved. He loved his work so much that, whenever he came on set, he brought that with him, and other people rose to it.”

“When you start to engage with your creative processes, it shakes up all your impulses, and they all kind of inform one another.”

Sevens can coast through life, going from one interest to another, and never completing anything. But at their best, they can focus, like a Five, find a purpose, and stick to it:

“For a long while I wasn't sure I was going to make acting my main focus professionally. I was interested in music, painting and other creative pursuits. I did the movies with a little more capricious an attitude; I wasn't so seriously minded as a total professional. Then came The Iceman Cometh (1973). We had eight weeks of rehearsals and then we shot for two weeks. So it was almost the reverse of how most movies are made. During those eight weeks, I was sitting around with these great actors and this great director, just shooting the breeze and, of course, going over the material. I was also getting to know how other actors of that caliber work on things like this. It was very enlightening. After that experience, I decided, ‘Hey, I can do this. And I can do this for the rest of my life in a professional way’.”

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  • Comment Link Ginger Lapid-Bogda Friday, 31 December 2010 15:00 posted by Ginger Lapid-Bogda

    As an Enneagram author, I want you to know how much I appreciate the thought that went into this blog and the level of insight you share about type 7. You really did your homework!

    As a person, I grew up in Los Angeles and my very good friend's family was best friends with Lloyd Bridges and his children. So I hung out with Jeff and his brother, Beau, as a teenager. And I think you are spot on about him!

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Friday, 31 December 2010 17:59 posted by TJ Dawe

    I just fainted and picked myself back up. Validation from an Enneagram teacher who knows Jeff Bridges???

    Thanks so much for your comments. I've got more Enneagram articles planned - it's a major interest of mine, and was a huge theme in my most recent one man show. I'm also about to sign up for Level One training with the Enneagram Institute for this May in San Francisco. And, along with my girlfriend and our friend Jill, I'm working on a project that involves cataloguing the likely Enneagram types of different famous people, six for each type (three women and three men), backing up every claim with quotes and biographical details, and eventually working the whole thing into a fifty minute powerpoint presentation.

    I see the Enneagram as a potential means for individual development and peacemaking on a worldwide scale. Unfortunately it's not widely enough known yet, but I'll keep doing what I can to spread the word about it, and hope to do more work introducing it to as many audiences as possible.

    And I think using well known people can be a powerful means of teaching the system. Anyone who's a fan of Jeff Bridges, for instance, can use their love of him and his work to increase their understanding of Type Seven, and look further into his life and work, if they'd like to know more about that type. Enneagram books and blogs often list famous people who are various types, but rarely back up their claims.

  • Comment Link Bill Costello Friday, 31 December 2010 19:34 posted by Bill Costello

    I know nothing about Enneagrams but I have always just "liked" Jeff Bridges.

    One of the benefits of hanging out with kids is seeing movies you normally would not, one of my favorites being Surf's Up where Bridges is a cartoon penguin surfer dude. The animation is spectacular and the movie made me laugh. The california good time guy penguin surfer dude.

    Have a good new year TJ

  • Comment Link MK Friday, 31 December 2010 19:41 posted by MK

    As a Seven, I really enjoyed this analysis. Can't wait to see where you're going with this whole project. Happy 2011!

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Monday, 03 January 2011 21:47 posted by TJ Dawe

    Hey Bill - one of the reasons I wrote this post is to introduce the Enneagram to someone who might not be familiar with it, but likes Jeff Bridges. I've got another piece in the revision stage now which is about why someone should look into what their Enneagram type is, with links to websites that help explain what the darn thing is in the first place.

  • Comment Link Elise Tuesday, 04 January 2011 22:52 posted by Elise

    Fun analysis and spot on. A big fan of "The Dude", I reviewed his filmography (most of which I have seen) and would confirm that virtually all of the characters Bridges has played have been "sevens" also. Preston Tucker is a good example, Bad Blake, another.
    Enjoyed your intro to enneagrams at the Fringe and think the book idea is a good one. You could probably develop a casting program based on the enneagram of various actors and the success of their role playing. Good luck in 2011, a five.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Wednesday, 05 January 2011 17:12 posted by TJ Dawe

    One of my favourite books about the Enneagram is The Enneagram Movie and Video Guide, by Thomas Condon. He goes through a bunch of movies - mostly from the 90s - which feature good examples of the nine types. He also talks about how certain actors are often cast as the same type - either because they're that type themselves, or because they can play that type very well. Jeff Bridges playing many Sevens makes a lot of sense to me. The book even looks at Tucker - A Man and His Dream, opening with the line "Jeff Bridges is good in a role that glorifies Sevenness."

    I was just listening to an interview with Sofia Coppola yesterday on NPR Fresh Air, and some of the things she said about her father point to him being a great big ol' seven as well. He often worked on his film scripts in casinos. One time when she was sick, he made her every single ice cream treat he could think of, buying every single flavour.

    So I can imagine Jeff Bridges and Francis Ford Coppola must have gotten along great on the set of Tucker.

  • Comment Link Darshan Thursday, 06 January 2011 11:52 posted by Darshan

    Pretty sure "The Dude" is a nine.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Thursday, 06 January 2011 16:40 posted by TJ Dawe

    Darshan - can you back that up with a quote or two, or some moment from the movie that builds the case for him being a Nine?

  • Comment Link Tracy Allen Thursday, 10 February 2011 01:00 posted by Tracy Allen


    I agree with you. I believe Jeff is 9w8, but I type by "energy" or the feel of a person as I find it to be more accurate for me than typing by things people say or do. Jeff "feels" energetically similar to Ronald Reagan and John Corbett, both of whom I believe to be 9w8, though Corbett might have a 1 wing. JB's eyes and energy feel flat to me first and definitely body based (not live wire sharp like the head type of 7 can feel). JB feels flat and wide open with an indomitable core, all of which I associate with 9. Keanu Reeves has a similar "feel" as a 9 though I'd say his wing is 1 (i.e., I feel the tenser, tighter constriction of 1 from/in him). For Seven, look at Justin Timberlake or Richard Branson or Joan Rivers or Regis Philbin (pretty sure all are 7w8) or Cameron Diaz (pretty sure she's a 7w6) and you can feel the difference in the energy or "feel" of these types. Note the sharpness and the sort of poking domination of the 7w8, versus the flatness/groundedness and the passive domination of Jeff Bridges.

    I appreciate your efforts TJ and your realization of how difficult it is to type from outside. I agree with you on that but wanted to offer my non-data based approach as I end up experiencing and typing Jeff differently from the outside.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Thursday, 10 February 2011 18:40 posted by TJ Dawe

    Thanks for your insights, Tracy. The feel you get from a person is definitely relevant, but harder to quantify, and harder to present evidence for. Would you know of any clip of JB in a movie or an interview that you'd say captures this feel?

    A point I make in my more general piece about the Enneagram is that in mentioning famous people who are supposedly given types - and presenting quotes or biographical details in support of this - the usefulness of this approach lies more in the illustration of that type's point of view, rather than in trying to assert that such and such a person is definitely such and such a type. We just can't know. But even if a person isn't a Seven, or a Nine, a given quote might be a shining example of Seven-ness, or Nine-ness, and that has value in conveying that type. To get across the feel of a person for the same purpose would certainly require more photos and video clips.

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