Mary Jane or Jean Valjean? Take the quiz!

So, there’s a new quiz going around Facebook, sponsored by the Scottish Book Trust, in honour of “Book Week Scotland 2013.” You answer a couple of demographic questions, and then a few Myers-Briggs style questions, and the quiz tells you which literary character you most resemble. I got Coraline. And then I started noticing the results popping up on Facebook. One friend got Mary Jane from Spiderman. Another got Alice (from Alice in Wonderland). And then, the first of my male friends to do so took the quiz and got Atticus Finch. Atticus, I thought. He’s a grown-up! And kind of a hero. And that’s when I realized that the M or F question in the demographic section was actually affecting the results in a way that, for instance, the age range question wasn’t. (I’m 44, but this didn’t stop me from getting Coraline.) So, I tried taking the quiz with all the same answers, but answering M instead of F. I got Hercule Poirot. Now, I’ll grant that Coraline is smart and capable, but she’s no Hercule Poirot. I know I’m gonna piss off Gaiman nerds here, but no smart, capable lonely child quite measures up to one of literature’s most brilliant detectives.

So, I urged others to take the quiz both ways. One friend who’d gotten Mary Jane as an F got Jean Valjean as an M. So, as F she got a spunky, attractive love interest (Blergh. Now I’m pissing off the Spiderman nerds.) versus a rich, complex, grown-up, noble hero type character. Huh. I got my daughter to take it both ways. She got Hermione Granger and Dr. Watson. Prompted by my challenge on Facebook, another friend took it both ways and got Albus Dumbledore and Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird.

I don’t have anything as robust as a hypothesis about this yet. Scout’s a pretty good character. So are Coraline and Hermione. And Watson is clearly sidekick rather than a hero. So, I’m not claiming that the female characters are worse than the male ones. I’m a little worried that slightly more of the female characters are children/youth, or from fiction aimed at youth, or from books with pictures rather than just text (And *now* I’ve pissed off the graphic novel nerds. So sorry. I get that they’re genuine literature. Really, I do.)

And, I get that the canon (at least the well-known mainstream canon; we probably can’t expect Scottish Libraries to use Fun Home in their public outreach, alas.) isn’t an embarrassment of riches when it comes to awesome, well-rounded female characters. So, I’m not bummed at Scotland or anything.

But, I’m really interested in some of gaps between outcomes attendant upon a mere M/F. Choice. At this point, my sample is too small to draw any conclusions. But if you’re interested in taking the quiz and sharing your results in the comments below, that would be kind of cool. And, if you have any reflections on the results you’re seeing, that would be cool too!

(What better way to celebrate Book Week, right?)

23 thoughts on “Mary Jane or Jean Valjean? Take the quiz!

  1. Mma Ramotswe from The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (I’ve never read that book so I don’t know anything about that) and Atticus Finch. At least they’re both adults?

  2. George Smiley and Clarice Starling. These seem reasonably of a piece with each other. It is interesting and tiresome (at the same time) that apparently men can only be like male characters and women like female characters.

  3. Albus Dumbledore and Batgirl. Barbara Gordon is much less of a manipulative jerk, so there’s that. I noticed that the questions were different, too, which suggests that the tree of possibilities is different for M and F.

  4. Simon, I got the same two characters: Clarice Starling and George Smiley. I wonder if that means we answered exactly the same.

    The questions were the same for both of my genders, but they weren’t in the same order.

    I have a hypothesis: the people who made up the quiz don’t know a whole lot of grown up female characters, or anyway they couldn’t think of any when they were picking ‘answers’.

  5. Got the same results as Simon and Slideraway (and ditto the questions weren’t in the same order for both genders though they were the same one).

    Clarice Starling (Silence of the Lambs)
    George Smiley (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

  6. John Watson… or Hermione Granger. I think M got me more questions?! and F was the same questions but fewer. Or I could have just felt like it was fewer for F since I did M first, and was just remembering what I’d answered the first time to plug into the second.

  7. I got the same results as Stephanie Hull (Mma and Atticus). I had different order of questions each time I took the test (twice as F, once before the game of switching was announced then again to make sure I gave the same answers each time, and once as M).

    I have also read some people getting Clarice Starling and Atticus Finch, so clearly the answers are tabulated differently depending on whether you put in M or F.

  8. I really dislike how it seems to place you by gender and age right off the bat…it narrows the possibilities.

  9. So having thought about the pattern in these answers, I have to wonder: Did the quiz-designer(s) set up the answers so that men would feel flattered by the heroic-ness of their results? I mean, a lot of us women got characters who are just kids, little girls. Men get MEN. Or is it, rather, that there are more well-known girl-characters than there are heroic adult women — that is, in the really well-known books people would enjoy being placed in?

  10. Mma Ramotswe from The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

    “Mma Ramotswe relies on her intuition and understanding of people, rather than attention to the details of the law, to help her solve cases. Her rare insight into how people work is something you share.

    Your quest for finding meaning in life draws you towards jobs that help you make the world a better place. Although you’re generally calm and laid-back, on bad days you can become introverted, stubborn and inflexible, and you have a strong dislike for conflict. Yet you are capable of achieving so much, including great writing, if you’d only give yourself more credit.”

    (I swore I gt Elizabeth Bennet the first time I took this quiz, but I can’t recreate that result, so oh well.)

    And Pi Molitor from The Life of Pi

    “A deeply thoughful person, your calm, relaxed manner in the face of adversity makes you a strong friend and valued colleague. Even though you often enjoy the company of others at parties you need time alone to process your emotions, often with zoo animals or by the ocean.

    With a sensitive heart, you are likely to put a lot of effort into the happiness and well-being of others – even man-eating Bengal tigers. On bad days you may become stubborn and undemonstrative but on good days you make others feel very special, loved and cared for.”

  11. I got Clarice Starling and George Smiley, like Simon and Slideraway and Rrede. The questions were the same for both sexes, and on all but one the answers were in the same order.

  12. (was there an earlier version of this? I took one of these last week and got “Hermione”??)
    At any rate, for this one: Scout for female, Dumbledore for male. I have to get a turkey in the oven, or I’d test variations on answers to questions (in addition to male/female) but I wonder what’s making the difference here (total rank speculation: preferring to work with others reads as young for women, adult for men. because sexism.)
    perhaps more later when turkey is in oven and house is marginally clean…

  13. I got Scout and Dumbledore, giving the same responses to the questions (which were in reverse order). I know who Scout is, but haven’t read Harry Potter. Both children’s lit? The questions seem to be intuition vs logic, empathy vs task orientation, interest in others vs getting the job done, sharing vs solitary reflection, etc. I venture the comment that many of the strongest female characters are in children’s lit., and pre-adolescent. After that it seems to be more complicated for female characters and their authors. I hope no-one got Emma Bovary.

  14. Well, I don’t know what to make of this, but it was easy to do (and the turkey is in the oven, so…):
    positive answers to the empathizing questions, but working on one’s one: Hermione, Dr. Watson
    working with others, but detached/non-empathizing answers to those questions: Batgirl, Aragorn
    working on one’s own, detached non-empathizing answers to those questions: Coraline, Hercule Poirot
    Maximally gender-stereotyped answers (female stereotype when answering for female, male when answering for male): Holly Golightly (from Breakfast at Tiffany’s), George Smiley from Tinker-Tailor, Soldier Spy
    Feminine Stereotype answers for both male and female: Holly Golightly, Dean Moriarty from on the Road
    Masculine Stereotype answers for both male and female: Clarice Starling (from Silence of the Lambs), George Smiley from Tinker-Tailor, Soldier-Spy

  15. I received George Smiley when I filled out the questions as M and Clarice Starling when answering as F (I am a female ftr). I agree with the previous commenter’s assessment that both of these characters have qualities that are generally seen as “masculine” in society.

  16. Darcy/Everdeen. The same characters keep showing up. How large is their database of fictional characters?

  17. As a female, my result is Emma Morley from One Day, and as a male, I am Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Like @Alpha.

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