Can You Add to This List of Famous Upholders, Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers?

Photo of four primary colored beach huts

I continue to be preoccupied with refining the framework of the Four Tendencies. In a nutshell,

Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense (my husband is a Questioner)
Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

To help clarify the categories—and to help us all understand ourselves better—I’m devising a reading list.

I want to provide examples of the Rubin Tendencies from well-known movies, TV shows, and literature, or from memoirs, autobiographies, or biographies.

I just started looking for these examples, and I could use many more suggestions. I highly recommend everything on this list, by the way, even aside from the light they shed on the Tendencies.


—Book: J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter books — the character of Hermione Granger. In particular, her campaign on behalf of house elves in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a good illustration of a classic Upholder looking for the rules beyond the rules.

—Movie: The Bridge on the River Kwai — the character of Nicholson


—No example yet. Help!

Rebel (these are both autobiographical, and I’m sure these two Rebels would be annoyed by the fact that I’ve slotted them into a category):

—Memoir: Geoff Dyer, Out of Sheer Rage

—Magazine article: Elizabeth Wurtzel, “Elizabeth Wurtzel Confronts Her One-Night Stand of a Life,” New York Magazine, January 6, 2013


—Novel: Laurie Colwin, Family Happiness — a brilliant portrait of an Obliger in full Obliger-rebellion

I think—but I’m way behind in watching, so this is very preliminary, and may be disproved by episodes that I haven’t seen yet—that in the TV show Girls, the four characters embody the Four Tendencies. What do you think, does this work?

Upholder: Marnie

Questioner: Hannah

Rebel: Jessa

Obliger: Shoshanna

NOTE: I’m using these terms with very specific meanings, so for instance, a person who is doing rebellious things may or not be a Rebel.

As you can see, this list is very preliminary. So your suggestions are most welcome.



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