What the Women of Fringe Taught Me

Fringe olivia nina astrid

I may have issues with what J.J. Abrams has done with the Star Trek franchise (sexism, ahoy!) but I love his brainchild, the five-season sci-fi series Fringe. It’s the kind of thinking-viewer’s show that makes me go into spasms of delight. It asks hard questions, it makes me think, and it gives rational explanations for its crazy science.

My reasons for loving it are multi faceted, but one of the primary things is its female characters – the tough but compassionate FBI agent Olivia, the sweet, brainy Astrid, and Nina, a formidable, often unethical CEO. Together, they taught me it’s okay to be emotional. It’s okay to be sensitive, and compassionate and… well, female. It doesn’t make you weak.

Why does that even matter to me?


I’m not your average girl. I’m too feminine to be a guy, and too prone to less emotion and logic to mesh well with most women. I lack most “female instincts” and “desires,” like wanting to have children or find a soul mate. (My reasons for considering marriage are purely practical!) That leaves me in limbo, since I don’t know where I fit in, or which traits to try and repress or bring out in myself. Men find me daunting; women find me un-relateable.

The female psyche naturally has more emotion (whether you argue it’s evolution or God, women are wired to be mothers), which means that even though I am a “rational decision-maker,” I have more emotion than I’m comfortable with. The inconsistencies in myself are not only apparent to me, but also frustrate me. Much of the time, I don’t “want” my emotions, since in my mind, they make me appear “weak” within my type. I don’t always want to be defined by my emotions, so I pretend to be less emotional than I am. And, it’s difficult to predict what will bother me and what won’t. It bothers me that I cry so much – out of compassion, previous experience, and frustration.

fringe nina olivia

Thankfully, I have Fringe to remind me that emotions can be an asset! Olivia and Astrid are “Feelers” who use logic as their secondary function (they are both sensitive and kind, but each one is also capable of doing whatever is needed). Their decisions are fully rational, but each is still a compassionate, warm, and loving person.

I assumed my capacity for compassion was a “defect” but it’s not; it’s an asset. I can use it to better my world. I’m aware of the feelings of others and careful not to hurt them.

So thank you, J.J., for reminding me that being a strong, successful, rational woman doesn’t mean excluding all emotions.

36 thoughts on “What the Women of Fringe Taught Me

Add yours

  1. I have never seen this series, but will check it out because of this article. I have to say, I’m very encouraged by reading some of your posts. I always felt different than most of my friends, but never really understood why. As a women approaching her 49th birthday, I wish I had understood some of these things sooner about myself. I did a google search on INTJ traits and that’s how I came across your blog, this is all becoming a bit of an epiphany for me and am excited to find out there are others who think the way I do, I may not be such a freak after all!

    1. You’re not a freak, Karen. You’re a very special person in a world full of other people who are feelers! You’re not alone! Other people — other women — go through the same stuff that you do. And yeah, that is an awesome thing to find out. 🙂

          1. Though I madly love Olivia and Walter and Peter and Astro/Ashram/Akbar, as well as Nina and Broyles and Lincoln and, indeed, their counterparts (especially Alt-Astrid), I must confess that September was my favorite character.

          2. It certainly was, indeed, it must have been to anyone who knew him before Fringe, because he’s usually bald in general. The first time I saw a picture of him with hair, I didn’t like it at all, but when I got to know him in season 5, I really liked the change. But it wasn’t great hair.

  2. “Much of the time, I don’t “want” my emotions, since in my mind, they make me appear “weak” within my type. I don’t always want to be defined by my emotions, so I pretend to be less emotional than I am. And, it’s difficult to predict what will bother me and what won’t. It bothers me that I cry so much – out of compassion, previous experience, and frustration.”
    Thank you for describing so accurately some of my internal struggles in three little sentences. I tend to want to be so much more strongly T and J than I am.

      1. I actually knew that. When we had cable, Jon and I used to watch The Mentalist. I went to watch it one night, and the show started off differently, but it wasn’t until the carnage in a diner that I realized I wasn’t watching what I thought I was. Turns out it was Fringe.

  3. Ah, what a lovely (and timely) post! Not too long ago I was remarking to my mother that J.J. Abrams’ television is so much awesomer than his films 😛

    I’m too feminine to be a guy, and too prone to less emotion and logic to mesh well with most women. I lack most “female instincts” and “desires,” like wanting to have children or find a soul mate

    While I don’t mind an entertaining love story, and enjoy some pretty darn romantic films–I never have gotten how it seems to be the focal point of so many girls’ lives. Especially today, where the prospects of an “old maid” are hardly as bleak as yesteryear! Yes, even if you do want to get married–what’s the point of thinking about it constantly from ages 12-30??? I remember a friend who told me that at ages 13-15, she and her sister would continually draw up lists of all the traits their “ideal” men must possess. Usually physical traits, and this was done on a daily or weekly basis. Both eventually met and married wonderful men–but only after they’d both put romance on the back burner for a while!

    Still though I’ve met both secular and Christian young women who continually talk about how the last guy “just wasn’t the one”–but they just met a great new guy and maybe this time–! Ask how these gals are doing, and the conversation’s bound to turn to guys, rather than work, friendship or any of the other things that make life so rich!

    Same thing with kids, I adore kids, but–I don’t get people who seem to think you aren’t “doing your part” if you don’t have/want children. I’ve even seen various blog posts by women who write things to the effect of “My kids will be working and paying into your social security. You’re welcome.” Basically those with kids are “giving back” to society…and the rest of us–are contributing to its collapse???

    One of the things I loved most about Fringe was–oooh–irony–the romance. Peter and Olivia falling for each other is hardly unexpected. But it’s a gradual relationship, built bit by bit over time. No cheap “let’s have our leads trip over a log, falling on top of each other, and cue awkward mounting sexual tension!” No instant smoldering when their eyes first met. Little in the way of sassy banter, more along the lines of sharp, but companionable exchanges on their missions.

    With some shows you can instantly tell the target audience based on whether it features hip 30 somethings, smart-aleck teens, cynical middle-aged veterans, or overly spry seniors. But Fringe gave us nuanced portrayals of characters from every age and background.

    One of my few peeves is that occasionally there were intriguing clues and plot threads they never quite resolved–but I also get annoyed when shows try to wrap everything up a little too neatly.

    Hmm…I can definitely see Nina as a Thinker, and an ENTJ at that. As for being nice, I think Nina is nice to two groups of people, A) People she cares for and respects, B) People she “has” to be nice to due to her job, on such occasions she slips into her nice manner as easily into her synthetic gloved hand.

    I am slightly surprised you pegged Olivia as a Feeler, although I can see how one can make a case for that. Watching the show, my Mom often remarked how Olivia showed a lot of insight into people’s emotions. This is true, but she also possessed the ability to reign in her emotions, and analyze others with objectivity. Even those subjects bound to inspire pity. So I was often uncertain if I’d label her as T or F.

    The series was also full of so many relationships beyond romance. Father & son–most obviously in Walter and Peter (and Walternate!). But also in many individual episodes, and of course in the last season with, well, I won’t spoil it for others reading the entry! Friendship, the bond that forms between colleagues, Bishop and Bell, Broyles, Olivia and the Fringe teams in both universes. Betrayal, forgiveness. So much awesome stuff, the stuff I wish more television series were made of!

    You actually remind me a bit of Olivia at times, dedicated, intelligent, compassionate, thoughtful, capable of grief, but not to the point of absurd angst 😉

    Men find me daunting; women find me un-relateable.

    Piffle. We all know that weak-willed men label any woman out of their league (due to sheer coolness and intellect mostly, rather than looks, income or any other worldly indicators of value) as being “daunting” 😛

    Un-relateable…that’s actually something I’ve chewed on, as I don’t consider myself a full fledged “tomboy” (hate most sports!), but know I’m nowhere near as “girly” as my friends or family. Ultimately, I think it might just mean one possesses certain traits not found (or encouraged at any rate) in the majority of women? At least, that’s all I can conclude for now!

    1. I JUST finished watching (and crying over) season five for the first time, so Fringe is fresh in my mind. I’m resisting the urge to watch it all from the beginning… but ain’t nobody got time for that!

      My practicality and information-gathering tendencies told me at an early age there’s no point in focusing on marriage. It’ll either happen or it won’t and with so few Christian men in the church now, fewer Christian women are going to get married, which means if their entire life was wrapped around the idealistic view of being a wife and mother… wow, disappointment.

      Women can be judgmental little things. It’s their way or the highway. How DARE YOU want kids instead of being in the work force. HOW DARE YOU not want kids! I actually had a girl one time tell me that she wasn’t going to talk to me anymore, since I was so “ungodly” in my lack of a desire to be a wife and mother. Well, excuse me… I guess God didn’t make us carbon copies of one another. Maybe He had something in mind for me that wasn’t what He had in mind for her! But did she think of that? NOPE. 😀

      Fringe, for all its scientific elements, was a feeler show… it was all about relationships. Peter and Walter. Olivia and Walter. Walter and Astrid. Astrid and Peter. Peter and Olivia. Nina and Peter. Nina and Walter. Nina and William Bell. It explored all kinds of relationships and did it well – friends, lovers, enemies. You’re right, it wasn’t a teenage show. It had people in different walks of life and different aspects of industry and business. It was universal in its appeal. It never condescended to us, it constantly challenged us, but it all hinged around that father-son dynamic. When I got to the end, and found out what Walter had done with the white tulip – I burst into tears.

      Yes, my pet peeve for the show was the “reset,” which meant never resolving certain issues and not finishing some plot threads.

      Olivia is a hard person to type, because sometimes she exhibits pure T (“don’t open that door! The virus will spread to all of us!” even though people are dying) but overall, her Feelings are what connects her to people. She seems to react a lot with her emotions over logic (like getting romantically involved with coworkers, or being so betrayed and devastated when Peter was with “Alternate” Olivia). Olivia has a really hard time forgiving Walter for what he did to her as a child… I tend to believe a Thinker would see the logic in it, as well as accept that it’s in the past and has to be moved beyond. But I could be wrong – I don’t know.

      I’m touched that you equate me with Olivia. Since she’s one of my favorite television characters, I’m honored.

      Some of my friends call themselves anti-feminists – as women, they hate women as a whole. I often get into arguments with them about that, but the truth is, some women drive me nuts. =P

      1. “My practicality and information-gathering tendencies told me at an early age there’s no point in focusing on marriage. It’ll either happen or it won’t”
        I like the practicality of this, and in the last ten years or so, the same sort of attitude has happened to me. I’ve always been a romantic and always wanted to get married (count me in with the group of young teenagers who had a List–I still secretly have something of a List in my mind, though it’s more along the lines of “He must like science fiction” than “He must be 5’9”). But as time has gone on and no one has shown much interest in me romantically, I’ve settled comfortably into my singlehood (even gleefully calling myself a spinster) and at 32 am at precisely the place you discuss above. It will happen or it won’t, and I’ll wait and see which and enjoy where I am in the meantime.

        1. Well, plus in my case, I saw 5 girls at church and 1 boy, and realized the odds weren’t good. It’s the same way now — way more single Christian girls than single Christian guys. (I’m learning why — read “Why Men Hate Going to Church” sometime. It’s real eye-opener.)

          All that’s on my list is:
          a) must be godly
          b) must be kind to animals
          c) must be conservative in his politics.

      2. Having watched the first six episodes or so now, I think I agree with you that Olivia is an F with strong T tendencies. She tends to be very, very rational and practical about many things that others would approach in an emotional way, but, as she tells Broyles in a very grand little speech at the end of the sixth episode of the first season, she does purposefully bring emotion into her work, because it helps her do it better. That sounds like a rational T decision, but an INFJ’s auxiliary function is Extraverted Feeling, as opposed to Introverted Feeling as a tertiary function for INTJs, and I think that suits her very well. I like her a lot.

          1. Hehe.

            I hadn’t ever “met” Spock when I was first watching Fringe, but even I knew who it was! Also, in one episode in the first season, J.J. Abrams basically gives away the plot of his first Star Trek movie in an interview between a sci-fi geek and Peter and Olivia. If you look, the dude has Spock’s musical instrument in one corner of his apartment, and I think his apartment number might also relate to the Enterprise

    2. Well, looks like I’m going to be watching Fringe now, since I’ve just finished with Warehouse 13 and Alphas.
      About Olivia as T or F: I don’t know her character (sounds like I’ll like her a lot, though), but I have personal experience with hovering right on the line between T and F. I’m an INTJ, but I can often behave (and feel) like an INFJ, because my F is so strong. When you’re right on the edge, it can be really difficult to decide which way you really lean. Just because you’re an INTJ doesn’t mean you won’t appear to some people like an INFJ, and the same is true if you are an INFJ. Many people might never guess I’m an INTJ. I doubted it myself for quite a long time.

      1. Fringe is good! Very mind-bendy. I spent much of this weekend rewatching the first season. Olivia is really hard to type, because she does sit right on the edge between T and F. She’s very kind and defends her emotions in the workplace, but makes mostly rational decisions. In the end, I decided she was an F, but by a small margin.

        Sometimes I wonder if I am an INFJ because I am thoughtful about other people’s feelings and I really hate conflict and arguments… but my F friends describe being an F as “being stabbed with a white-hot poker right in the chest if someone insults you,” which is so not me. My instinct is to react with “are they right? are my facts wrong?!” rather than “oh, that hurts!”

        1. I like mind-bendy.
          I identify with both the F and the T there, not in being insulted but in being questioned or reprimanded or confronted about anything. First I feel as if someone stabbed me, and then I doubt myself and my character and godliness and intellect and knowledge and everything. Eventually everything becomes reconciled, but not after much internal struggle, mental and emotional.

          1. … you sound a lot like me. My hatred of being questioned is all tied to my intellect and if I researched everything properly! 😛

  4. I agree that Fringe has very strong female leads. It stinks that the show is over! I always liked the fact that the females didn’t have to act “male” to be considered strong. To me, Olivia is one that functions based on her emotions. I think that both male and females do this. However, some people try not to let those emotions show because people think it makes them appear weak. I understand this to some degree, but at other times I wonder why emotions are looked down upon. We were born with emotions, right? We can either let them rule our lives or embrace them and let them enrich our lives. Thanks for the post!

    1. At least Fringe got 13 episodes to finish up the series, instead of simply being canceled like so many programs are these days. They were allowed to take all the characters full-circle, which I appreciated.

      Olivia is very emotional — it helps her connect to other people and get through to them where others can’t, but she’s also practical at times. I … really adore Olivia. I think she’s a great character. When I got to the end of the series last night (I hadn’t seen all of season five, and finally bough the set) … I cried with the realization that our journey is over. No more new adventures with Olivia and Walter, Peter and Nina and Astrid.

      I see emotion as a weakness in myself, so it’ll be hard overcoming that and seeing it as a gift instead. I don’t know that modern society looks down on emotions, though — they seem to encourage it. Instant attraction, instant love, abandon every promise you’ve made because your emotions lead you to another person…

      1. There are times that I try not to let my emotions get the best of me. Maybe when someone hurts my feelings or when I’m trying to be strong for someone else. However, I am ruled by my emotions most of the time and I’ve learned that it’s not a detriment to who I am just an emphasis.

Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: