“It’s all happening.”

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In 2000, there was a little gem of a movie called Almost Famous.  I’ve watched it more times than I can count, and it may be among my Top 5 favorite movies of all time.

I remember the early-mid 1970s (when the action in the movie took place) and was around the same age as the under-aged Rolling Stone reporter played by Patrick Fugit (allegedly this character was based on director Cameron Crowe’s life).

One of the many things I appreciated about Almost Famous was how accurately it pinned down the look, feel and overall mood of the years 1973 and 1974.    Except for one thing:  I don’t remember anyone ever using the phrase “It’s all happening!”  The character Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) and her friends used this phrase constantly throughout the film.  I remember a lot of early -mid 1970s youth slang, but “It’s all happening!” wasn’t among them.

Do any of you old enough to remember the early 1970s remember this phrase being used among young people?  Maybe it was strictly a California thing (since the film took place there)?   Or maybe it was just made up for the movie (and seemed convincing enough — like something early ’70s kids would be heard saying).

I noticed another anomaly in the movie.   William’s big sister, played by Zooey Deschanel, at one point is admonished by their mother to “stop being a drama queen.”   Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the term “drama queen” was used until the 1980s or even 1990s.

 

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Gaston from Beauty and the Beast: Textbook NPD

A discussion of narcissism and Beauty and the Beast wouldn’t be complete without making mention of Belle’s suitor Gaston, who she understandably rejects. Gaston is Textbook NPD and seems to possess all 9 criteria. Unlike the Beast, there is no room in him for redemption. He’s way too far gone.

Check this out:

Beauty and The Beast: a metaphor for NPD.

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A few days ago, I was thinking about the wonderful 1991 Disney animated movie, “Beauty and The Beast.” I was always moved by the Transformation scene at the end when the evil spell on the Beast and his castle is finally lifted after he nearly dies and Belle finally declares her love for him. In my opinion, it’s one of the best moments in animated movie history. That scene has haunted me for a long, long time and the other day, I felt inspired to watch it again, and was as–or even more moved by it–than the first time I saw it. And this time I knew why–the entire story of the Beast in this movie is a metaphor for a man suffering from NPD–who healed from it.

As the movie opens, we are shown a series of stained-glass images telling the story of how the Beast became that way. He wasn’t always a Beast. His real name was Adam and he had been a handsome young prince, but extremely arrogant, entitled, and lacking in empathy (sound familiar?). One cold and snowy night, a beggar woman came to the castle begging for a place to sleep for the night to escape from the bitter cold. In exchange she offered him a single rose. Adam sneered at the rose and refused her a warm bed and coldly sent her on her way, but not before the beggar woman suddenly transformed into a beautiful enchantress, who in her righteous anger at the callous young prince’s heartless actions, put a spell on him, turning him into the physical manifestation of the Beast he had become inside, and at the same time transforming the trappings of his former grandiosity and entitlement (a well-appointed and beautiful castle and loyal servants) into a dark and frightening prison and common household objects. The rose she had left him–which I believe represents Adam’s True Self (and he had sneered at it because it represented the vulnerability he had rejected)–would continue to bloom for a decade. If Adam failed to learn to love another (and earn her love) in that decade, the woman had warned him the rose would die and he would be forever doomed to his fate (unable to heal from his narcissism, he would become malignant). Adam’s only window to the outside world was the magic mirror the woman had left him, but all Adam can see in it is his own hideous reflection.

The Making of a Beast:

No longer receiving any narcissistic supply, Adam falls into depression, despair, and self hatred. He attacks his own image in a painting and refuses to look at himself in the mirror anymore. He is consumed by anger and self-pity until the day a beautiful young woman (Belle) comes by the castle to rescue her father, who The Beast has imprisoned for trespassing.

Belle is the opposite of The Beast in every way. Not only is she physically beautiful, but she is poor, the daughter of the town eccentric who is a laughing stock and considered crazy, even though he is actually a brilliant inventor. Belle is kind and loving and has a high level of empathy. The first thing she does is offer to take her father’s place in the castle’s dungeon if The Beast will only free him.

The Beast takes her up on her offer on the condition she stay there in the castle with him forever. Belle reluctantly agrees, even though she is at the mercy of The Beast’s terrible temper and frequent narcissistic rages. Her father is freed, and Belle dutifully obeys whatever the Beast tells her to do, but because she is an empath, she can see through his frightening facade to the broken young man he really is.   Early during her stay, she is wandering around the Castle and comes across the enchanted rose under its glass dome.  The Beast catches her and quickly covers the rose (evidence of his vulnerability) and rages, bellowing “Do you realize what you could have DONE?? Get out!” But as the months pass, the Beast begins to look forward to their time together, and slowly learns some manners and social graces. Belle works on humanizing Adam and finds she is slowly falling in love with him, and as he begins to accept her love (mirroring), he reluctantly begins to reveal his true self to her.

Meanwhile, Belle is being pursued by a very arrogant and probably malignantly narcissistic young man from her town named Gaston. Belle can’t stand Gaston, and refuses his proposal of marriage in which she would be nothing but an object and slave to him. Consumed by rage over her rejection of him, one night Gaston and his buddies plan an attack on the The castle to kidnap Belle. In the ensuing battle, The Beast is falls to the ground from a high elevation and is left for dead. A grieving Belle finally proclaims her love for the Beast, just as the last rose petal falls.

The spell is broken and The Beast is transformed back into Adam, the handsome Prince he used to be–only with a difference–he is no longer entitled or arrogant and he is now capable of being able to love, thanks to Belle’s empathic kindness. The castle (which I think represents the quality of Adam’s life) is also transformed to its former glory and the household objects turn back into loyal servants (who can now be his friends too).   Note that a narcissist regards other people as mere objects and not human.

The Transformation:

When I talked to some friends about writing an article about this movie being a metaphor for healing from NPD, it was mentioned to me the dangers of making such a comparison. First of all, this is a fairy tale and in real life, things don’t normally work out this way. A woman who falls in love with a narcissistic man is far more likely to be abused and exploited than loved in return–and she almost certainly isn’t going to be able to “fix” the narcissist. Just as problematic is the idea that in order for a narcissistic man to change, he must earn the love of a woman. It was pointed out that this could be construed as sexist.

But because this is a fairy tale, the underlying moral is of course more compelling (and entertaining) if there’s a romance involved. I think of this romance as a metaphor for the relationship between a self-aware and willing narcissistic patient and his or her therapist. Belle’s looks don’t actually matter–her beauty is a metaphor for her pure soul and empathetic nature. She is giving the Beast the reparenting he probably never got from his own family. The Beast’s ugliness is a metaphor for his narcissistic personality, but in this case, it’s not so deeply ingrained in him for it to have become malignant–which is why the enchanted rose is still alive until the spell is broken. The rose represents The Beast’s true self, which is integrated back into the Beast’s psyche during the Transformation.

A malignant narcissist’s rage in action.

I’m not going to review the movie “Boogie Nights” here but there’s a scene I want to talk about because of how powerful it is.

“Boogie Nights” is a 1997 film that starred Mark Wahlberg as Dirk Diggler, young man who fled his mother’s abuse and became successful as an adult film star during the late Disco era. The soundtrack consists of disco and dance hits from the late 1970s and early 1980s.

This was actually a very good film, and the acting by his mother (Joanne Gleason) in this scene (set in 1977, when the story begins with Dirk leaving home), is terrific. She is like a lower-middle-class version of Mary Tyler Moore’s character in “Ordinary People.” She shows more “emotion” because of her social class, which doesn’t require her to “stuff” over-the-top emotion, but she’s every bit as malignant as the mother in “Ordinary People,” and Dirk is obviously her scapegoat. She may have BPD rather than NPD, but it really doesn’t matter either way, because sociopathic, soul-murdering behavior like this is possible with either disorder.

Notice the way she gaslights and blame-shifts, while at the same time is freaking out because Dirk is refusing to provide her the supply she needs and is leaving her. This is one of the things that can happen when you inflict injury on a high spectrum, malignant narcissist. Wahlberg’s character is a somatic narcissist himself, but it’s hard to see that in this scene.

“Risky Business”–another 1980s hit that glorified psychopaths and narcissists.

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A while back, I wrote an article about the 1980s teen hit movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and how its title character–the hero of the movie–was actually a raging (but extremely charming) psychopath who scored high on Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist.

I realized that most of the movie hits marketed to teens in the 1980s also idealize narcissism and psychopathy/sociopathy. One of the must successful movies of that era was a movie starring a then-unknown young actor named Tom Cruise (who I highly suspect of being an extremely malignant narcissist and probably a psychopath himself). I had a huge crush on him; many of my friends did too. But what was it about Joel Goodson (Cruise) that made him so attractive, that set the stage that turned Tom Cruise into a megastar and cultural icon whose fame (or infamy?) is still growing to this day?

I think one of the reasons these films were so popular was because the implications that sociopathy was A-okay came at the perfect time–when material values like wealth and power were beginning to be idealized over the humility and idealistic values of earlier generations. The fact that the movie starred people just entering young adulthood (and was marketed to a teen audience) made sure the next generation of adults would get the not-so-subtle message that psychopathy and narcissism are necessary to be happy and succeed in life.

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The now iconic “dancing in underwear” scene.

The protagonist, Joel Goodson, was a studious, vulnerable, somewhat nervous kid, not much unlike Cameron in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” He studied hard, made good grades, and obeyed his parents. He was naive and unassuming and just a little nerdy. But he was nice and seemed fairly popular in the low key kind of way enjoyed by smart, good kids who don’t make waves, especially when they’re as adorably handsome as Cruise was.

But Goodson was being tainted by his charming but sociopathic friend, an unattractive but uber-cool, edgy kid named Miles (Curtis Armstrong). Miles was the Ferris Bueller to Cruise’s Cameron, and his main goal was to “reform” him of his prosocial ways. His main advice (and the most important as it turned out) was his mantra “Sometimes you just have to say what the f*ck” (in this sense meaning not giving a damn and doing what you want).

Goodson’s parents go on vacation, leaving him in charge of their stately suburban Chicago home (why are these movies always taking place in upper middle class Chicago suburbs?) Miles encourages Joel to loosen up and have fun and not worry about consequences. He raids the Goodson’s parents’ liquor cabinet, gets Joel to smoke pot, and cons him to take part in antisocial escapades. He also invites prostitutes and other unwholesome types of people to Joel’s home while his parents are away.

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Rebecca DeMornay as Lana.

One of the prostitutes is a gorgeous blonde named Lana (Rebecca DeMornay) who seems to care about Joel in a maternal, nurturing way. Despite her questionable profession, she seems to be the best thing that could happen to Joel. She’s the empathetic mother Joel never had, whose own mother seems almost as cold as the mother in “Ordinary People.” Lana listens to him. He confides in her. She’s using him–but he’s too naive to know it yet.

Joel’s falling helplessly in love, but Lana has her own agenda. She invites (without asking Joel’s permission) some of her other prostitute friends over to Joel’s house, including Vicki, who is Lana’s best friend. They all go out to party along with Miles and a few of Joel’s other friends and get so stoned that they forget the put Joel’s new Porsche in the right gear when parking and it rolls down the hill into a lake. The car is filled with water and must be pumped out. Joel panics–he can’t afford the repairs but his parents will kill him if they find out. What to do?

Lana comes to the rescue. She talks Joel into having a party, in which all her friends will be there and take money for sex with all Joel’s friends and he can earn enough from the proceeds to get his car repaired before his parents come home. Plans are made for it to happen.

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Miles advising Joel.

Meanwhile, Lana’s pimp Guido (Joe Pantoliano) is causing more problems for Joel. He’s stalking her for money she owes him and Joel is caught in the fray. Lana doesn’t seem too worried about it though. As a narcissist herself, she doesn’t worry about much of anything. Joel falls more deeply under Lana’s thrall. But she has other plans. Guido keeps stalking Joel and Lana, demanding his money.

Party day arrives, and is more successful (and makes more money) than Joel could have dreamed. The only low point was when an officer from Princeton’s School of Business Administration decided to show up randomly at the door at the party’s high point, with everyone drinking and having sex in every room and bills exchanging fists. The interview ends and the officer appears to leave.

Joel’s in an awkward position, but tries to enjoy the rest of the party. Meanwhile, the Princeton officer has never left. He’s in one of the rooms having sex with one of Lana’s friends.

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The “new and improved” Joel Goodson.

After the party, Lana and Joel make love on an empty Chicago “El” train. Moody music plays and their lovemaking is tender and romantic–for the moment it seems like this hardened prostitute could be falling for Joel as much as he’s fallen for her.

When Joel returns home, he finds his parents’ home has been cleaned out, including his mother’s rare and expensive Steuben glass egg. His parents are due home in hours. Panicking, he calls Lana but gets Guido, who informs him the only way he can get the furniture and the egg back is by buying them back. Joel gets his friends together and they all go to Guido’s house where Joel’s parents’ possessions are being held hostage in the back of a van. They manage to get everything back and have it in its proper place just as Joel’s parents return home, to find their house looking as if it’s never been touched–except for one thing: a small crack in the Steuben egg.

In spite of that, Joel’s father tells him he’s proud of him for being so responsible and being accepted into Princeton– it turns out the officer who wound up bedding a whore was impressed with Joel’s enterprising nature and thought Princeton “could use someone like Joel.” He and Lana remain friends, but Joel’s changed. His attitude is a lot more cocky and confident than before. His reticence but also his conscience seem to be gone.


Official Trailer.

So I’m going to see “Inside Out” and it’s pure serendipity.

I decided I spend enough time every weekend holed up in my small dark house blogging like a maniac like some sort of avoidant Aspie hermit (which I kind of am!) Suddenly the idea came to me that I wanted–needed–to spend part of today doing something different. It’s too cloudy for the pool or lake, and I have no one to go with anyway, so I decided going to the movies would be a good idea.

Here’s an example of the wonderful and mysterious ways God sometimes works. When I Googled movies in my area the first one I saw was the popular Pixar cartoon, “Inside Out.” Yes, it’s a kid’s movie but seems to have a very profound message of empathy–and it appears to be a girl who shuts off her true feelings following a traumatic event for any child–moving away. Anything sound familiar to those of you who read about narcissism? 😉

I am posting both the description of the movie as well as the Google results “Inside Out and Empathy.”

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Click to enlarge.

It’s almost surreal the way this happened. I mean, I almost NEVER have the idea to go to a movie, because I never have enough money–but this week I do.

Something similar happened with the comedy-drama “Welcome to Me,” which I saw in May. I had no idea before I entered the theatre that it was about a woman with BPD, which I was reading and writing a lot about at the time.

I can’t believe I’m this excited to see a children’s movie, but I think it’s going to have a lot to do with what I have been focusing on in myself and on this blog–empathy. I will be writing up a review tonight, when it’s still fresh on my mind. I also need a good cry and I have a strong feeling this movie will be making me bawl. Should I come armed with a box of Kleenex? Sometimes emotional music and movies are the most effective ways for me to get the tears out.

“The Narcissist”–NOVA interview with director Eric Casaccio

The Northern Virginia International Film Festival just posted a new interview from the Northern Virginia Annual Film Festival, where film director Eric Casaccio talks about his short film “The Narcissist,” a drama about a man named Evan (Hunter Lee Hughes) who falls in love with a charming but highly manipulative man named Rob (Brionne Davis) who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and nearly destroys Evan.

So far, “Narcissist” has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from film critics.

My earlier posts about this film (the first one includes the trailer):
https://luckyottershaven.com/2015/01/05/narcissist-the-movie/
https://luckyottershaven.com/2015/04/01/watch-campaign-video-for-narcissist-the-movie/
https://luckyottershaven.com/2015/01/08/interview-with-eric-casaccio-about-his-film-narcissist/

“Welcome to Me”–a darkly humorous look at borderline personality disorder

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I’ve been wanting to post a movie review (which I haven’t done in a while), and also something about borderline personality disorder. How serendipitous that the “chick flick” my daughter and I decided to see this afternoon is a movie about a woman who has borderline personality disorder! I had no idea! It’s a good movie (and it’s directed by Will Farrell, who I love).
Here is my review of it.

Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig) is a 40ish divorced woman who lives off the disability benefits she gets for her severe case of borderline personality disorder, which keeps her nearly unable to function normally due to severe depressions, self-destructive behavior, and general inability to regulate her emotions. Alice is quirky–obsessed with Oprah, hasn’t turned off her television in 11 years, and she’s addicted to buying lottery tickets. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Moffatt (Tim Robbins), is nearly at his wit’s end with Alice’s erratic mood swings, uncooperative behavior, and refusal to take her medications (prescribed to help regulate her moods). She has stopped taking her Abilify, and right after that the impossible happens–she wins 86 million dollars in the California State Lottery.

That’s when things get really crazy. A series of events leads up to Alice demanding her own show in the same vein as her idol Oprah. She acts crazy enough the television producers don’t take her seriously, until she writes them a check for 15 million dollars. The show, “Welcome to Me,” is on, and of course it’s all about Alice.

On her show, she demands a swan float to transport her onstage at the beginning of each episode, diva treatment, and she throws tantrums when things don’t go her way. She drives everyone around her crazy. But people are watching because they never know what poor crazy Alice will do next, and the show’s bringing the studio money so they can’t cancel it.

Alice decides she wants to re-enact scenes from her own life, using sets that are exact replicas of the places where they occurred. Actors are hired to play the roles, but Alice is never satisfied. She screams, yells, verbally attacks everyone (and then wonders why they pull away), and constantly cries on set. No one knows what to do with this apparently insane woman who can’t seem to control her impulses and emotions.

On the live show, Alice dresses in ridiculous, over the top attire, insists on singing the theme song herself (she can’t carry a note), bakes a meat cake with sweet potato frosting and spends most of the show sitting there eating it, neuters dogs onset (she used to work as a vet nurse), and throws a lot of temper tantrums. She’s also sexually promiscuous.

Things keep getting worse, and she alienates her long-time friend Gina (Linda Cardellini) by depicting her as fat in one of the sketches. Other people from Alice’s past who were insulted by the re-enactments (where even their real names were used) decide to sue the television studio.

Alice’s unpredictable, out of control and untrustworthy behaviors also anger Dr. Moffatt, who fires her as his patient and tells her point blank, “I think you’re dangerous.” In typical Borderline fashion, Alice cries and pleads with him, “don’t leave me!”

It takes a near-disaster for Alice to realize her out of control behaviors are eclipsing any ability she has to care about others and be a true friend to others. She’ll have a lot of amend-making to do if her broken relationships are ever to be repaired. Will it be possible for her to fix what she has destroyed or to ever really care about others? I won’t answer that here: you’ll have to see the movie for yourself.

I noticed some interesting parallels between BPD and NPD in this movie. Alice is quite narcissistic, grandiose, completely self-centered, and totally oblivious to the needs of others. But there’s something charming and quirky about her too. She’s never deliberately malicious–she’s impulsive and selfish and her obliviousness keeps getting her into all kinds of trouble. What keeps Alice from being a narcissist is that she actually has a conscience and the ability to feel badly when she realizes she has hurt so many people.

Kirsten Wiig is convincing as a severely Borderline patient, but while she can be funny, her insane behavior made me squirm in embarrassment. She’s uncomfortable and awkward to watch, but that can be the case in a BPD patient who’s completely out of control of their impulses and emotions.

I recommend this movie to anyone interested in Cluster B disorders, especially BPD, and how it can create disaster not only for the people their lives touch, but for themselves. Unlike NPD, there is nothing adaptive about borderline personality disorder to its sufferers.

Ferris Bueller, Psychopath.

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One of my favorite 1980s movies (which I have probably watched at least 50 times, because it’s always on TV) is John Hughes’ humorous 1986 study of teenage narcissist Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) and his plot to gallivant about Chicagoland with his girlfriend and his nervous, codependent friend Cameron in hopes of getting him to loosen up and live a little.

Ferris Bueller is a likeable character, who certainly doesn’t seem like a psychopath, only because his intentions are generally good (or seem to be), but the way he goes about achieving his goals flirts with lawbreaking and causes a lot of other people an awful lot of trouble. Ferris, for his part, seems too good-hearted to qualify for malignant narcissism or psychopathy, but given that this is a movie that was made in the Reagan era–the beginning of America’s love affair with narcissistic and psychopathic behaviors–its narcissistic hero must be likeable, while its real hero (Principal Rooney) is portrayed as a foolish villain with an extremely unlikeable personality. Then again, many psychopaths have considerable charm, and Ferris can shovel on the charm with the skill of a cult leader or a used car salesman.

Ferris is the most popular kid in school, because he’s just so cool. He’s not afraid of anyone or anything. He’s not a jock, so the geeks and nerds like him. He’s not a great student, so the troublemakers don’t mind him. He’s not enough of a dork or a geek to be disliked by the cheerleaders and football stars, so they like him too. Ferris has no enemies among the student body and offends no one–except the school’s staff, who see the psychopathy and narcissism behind Ferris’ outgoing, friendly, slightly eccentric but cool persona. They know he’s really just a spoiled brat who cares only about his own self-gratification.

Ferris is almost cloyingly nice, lies constantly, cons his friends, and is generally full of shit most of the time, but you can’t help liking him, even with all his over the top narcissism and psychopathic behaviors. He drives all his teachers insane. His principal Edward R. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) hates Bueller so much that a large part of the movie’s plot involves his quest to “get back at” Ferris for being truant yet again (apparently truancy is a bad habit of Ferris’s), chasing him all over the Chicago suburbs, and of course, failing miserably and looking like a pathetic fool by the film’s end for even trying. Ferris Bueller always wins.

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Ferris Bueller, psychopathic hero.

Back at home, Ferris’ family is clearly dysfunctional. His mother (Cindy Pickett) is an ’80s-style malignant narcissist who has chosen Ferris as her Golden Child. In her eyes, Ferris is perfect and can do no wrong, even when the evidence to the contrary is right in her face. Ferris’ sister, Jeannie (Jennifer Grey), always gets the blame for everything that goes wrong and takes the punishment for Ferris’s shenanigans. Their mother obviously hates her guts. These two women are both as evil as they come, and I would bet that’s the reason they can’t stand each other. The mother obviously sees her daughter as competition.

While Jeannie is a nasty piece of work and an envious, spiteful malignant narcissist not much different from her mother, she’s clearly the family scapegoat so you can’t help feeling a little sorry for her in spite of her repellent personality and plot to destroy her brother, who she envies and hates with the white hot heat of ten thousand suns. Mr. Bueller (Lyman Ward) barely has a personality at all. As is typical of these kinds of movies and television sit-coms, Mr. Bueller is a slightly bumbling one-dimensional background character who always submits to his wife’s iron-fisted will. Clearly he’s codependent, but we don’t find out much else about him, except that he holds some sort of high paying white collar job, given the sort of upper-middle class neighborhood the family lives in.

Bueller’s best friend is the highly neurotic, schizoid/avoidant and obsessive-compulsive uber-geek Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck), a kid who’s so tightly wound you’re afraid just watching him might cause him to blow a gasket. Ferris only means well for poor Cameron, and takes on “rehabilitating” his jittery, schizoid friend by convincing him to skip school for a day for a wild joyride through downtown Chicago, in (what else?) Cameron’s psychopathic dad’s brand new red Ferrari. (We know his dad is psychopathic even though he’s never on screen because of Cameron’s visible terror over the prospect of his dad finding out there were additional miles on the Ferrari at the end of the day). One can be pretty certain that Cameron is the scapegoat of his dysfunctional family. In addition to what seems to be severe OCD and schizoid traits, Cameron seems like he may be suffering from severe PTSD as well. The kid just isn’t right in the head.

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Cameron, Ferris’ schizoid/avoidant codependent friend.

Ferris’ day begins with an elaborately feigned illness set up so that he doesn’t have to go to school, and of course his adoring mother believes his bullshit and even starts talking baby talk to him. Ferris plays the part of the adored infant, making cute faces and noises for his mother’s benefit as he lies “sick” in bed. This is an adolescent who is still his mother’s “baby.” He never has to grow up or take responsibility for anything.

Ferris sets out to “rehabilitate” his nervous, paranoid friend Cameron, by convincing him to take the day off school and cons him into borrowing his father’s brand new expensive red Ferrari. He arranges for his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) to get out of school too by pretending to be her grandfather, telling the school that she has to attend her grandmother’s funeral.

And off they go. It’s hard to imagine how these three teenagers could get so much accomplished between 8 AM and 3 PM–attending a baseball game at Wrigley Field, dining at an expensive French restaurant (and enraging the snobbish maitre’d in the process), attending the Chicago Art Museum, and finally a huge parade through downtown Chicago, in which Ferris, naturally, steals the show by lip-synching the Beatles while dancing on a float. Like many skilled narcissists, he has irresistible charm and endless charisma. He’s an anti-hero for the Reagan era.

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At the museum.

As the day nears its end, the kids lounge by the poolside. Cameron asks Ferris if he checked he miles on the Ferrari, and the bad news is that there’s no way to hide the number of miles they used from Cameron’s psychopathic father. Cameron blows a gasket at the news and enters a catatonic state of terror, while Ferris and Sloane go skinny dipping in the pool.

Feigning concern and empathy for his friend, Ferris talks Cameron out of his catatonic fog (which may have been feigned since he admitted he saw Sloane nude in the pool) and tries to roll back the miles on the Ferrari by running it in reverse. It doesn’t work, and Cameron loses the last shred of composure he may have had and throws a tantrum, ranting about his cold, unloving father and how he only cares about his car and wealth and cares nothing for his son. He begins to kick the Ferrari, which becomes loose from its anchors (it has its own private house), and the kids watch as the car crashes through the plate glass windows, and speeds off the hillside into a ditch below, becoming a smoking, totalled hulk. This is the only part of the movie that’s somewhat serious, and it’s hard watching Cameron realize just how abused and unloved he is. You worry what might happen when his father finds out his car has been totalled, but for Cameron, his rage was cathartic and he assures Ferris and Sloane that “No, it’s good.”

Meanwhile, Principal Rooney is on a quest to find Ferris and make him pay for his truancy and glib lies. Although possibly the only character in the movie with the slightest sense of morality, Rooney is made out to be a bumbling and spiteful fool who himself breaks the law by trespassing on the Buellers’ property and eventually breaking and entering.

Rooney, enraged by Bueller’s continued truancy, leaves the school for the entire day to stalk Ferris, even going to his house, where the Bueller’s dog attacks him. Meanwhile, sister Jeannie is on her own quest for retribution, but upon finding Rooney in their house, screams and runs to the police station to report an intruder. While there, she recruits a stoned juvenile delinquent (Charlie Sheen) to help her in her plot to exact revenge on Ferris. Of course it turns out that Sheen is another one of Ferris’ best buddies.

Mrs. Bueller, finding her daughter at the police station, flies into a rage and drags her home, berating Jeannie the entire time. As hateful as Jeannie is, her mother is more so. When questioned why she wanted to get her brother in trouble, Jeannie’s answer is, “why should HE get away with everything? I would get caught.”

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Jeannie Bueller, envious malignant narcissist.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is uproariously funny, but the dark truth is that it’s also a movie glorifying narcissism and psychopathy. It’s a movie about two disturbed boys (one probably psychopathic, the other codependent and probably suffering severe PTSD), and their dysfunctional, abusive families, with a subplot about incompetent school staff who break into students’ homes.

In 2009, Ruthless Reviews wrote an article, “Ferris Bueller, Psychopath,” which describes exactly how Ferris fits the criteria for Dr. Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist. Pretty fascinating stuff here.

Only Rooney recognizes Bueller as a pernicious force that will certainly create great suffering and perhaps death later in life. A lone crusader, Rooney goes well beyond the duties of his job in an attempt to hunt down and destroy a budding monster. He is the Van Helsing to Ferris Bueller’s Dracula, the Dr. Loomis to his Michael Meyers. That’s because Bueller is a textbook psychopath. Let’s use the esteemed criteria of Robert D. Hare, the man who largely fathered the modern diagnosis and study of psychopathy.

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Edward R. Rooney, the “villain”: lone crusader against psychopathy.

NOTE: The PCL-R is a clinical rating scale (rated by a psychologist or other professional) of 20 items. Each of the items in the PCL-R is scored on a three-point scale according to specific criteria through file information and a semi-structured interview. A value of 0 is assigned if the item does not apply, 1 if it applies somewhat, and 2 if it fully applies. In addition to lifestyle and criminal behavior the checklist assesses glib and superficial charm, grandiosity, need for stimulation, pathological lying, cunning and manipulating, lack of remorse, callousness, poor behavioral controls, impulsivity, irresponsibility, failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions and so forth. The scores are used to predict risk for criminal re-offence and probability of rehabilitation.

I have copied Ferris’ psychopathy scores here; read the linked article for detailed descriptions of why Ferris fits all these criteria. The articles’s too long to reprint here. It’s a great read.

Factor 1: Personality “Aggressive narcissism”

Glibness/superficial charm: score 2/2

Grandiose sense of self-worth: score 2/2

Pathological lying: score 2/2

Cunning/manipulative: score 2/2

Lack of remorse or guilt: score 2/2

Shallow affect: score 2/2

Callous/lack of empathy: score 2/2

Failure to accept responsibility for own actions: score 2/2

Promiscuous sexual behavior: score 0/2 (This is the only low score in the “aggressive narcissism” factor)

The fact that Bueller scores so highly on the first factor, aggressive narcissism, tells us that he is probably a case of primary psychopathy, meaning psychopathy is his root condition and probably biological, as opposed to being caused by other disorders or a poor environment.

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Ferris Bueller, pathological liar.

Factor 2: “Socially deviant lifestyle”

Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom: score 2/2

Parasitic lifestyle: score 1/2

Poor behavioral control: score 2/2

Lack of realistic, long-term goals: score 0/2

Impulsivity: 2/2

Irresponsibility: 2/2

Juvenile delinquency: score 2/2

Early behavior problems: score 1/2

Revocation of conditional release: score 1/2

Traits not correlated with either factor

Many short-term marital relationships: score 1/2

Criminal versatility: 1/2

Total Score (for psychopathy): 31/40

ferris_bueller_hero

Bueller’s score is impressive. A score of 30 is considered clearly psychopathic and, from what I can gather, is pretty uncommon. Erase the ease and privilege of his environment, and his young age, and he might score even higher in categories like “parasitic lifestyle” and “criminal versatility.” Rooney might be kind of an authoritarian prick himself, but then so was his doppelganger, Dirty Harry. Only Rooney can see the danger Bueller poses, especially as he has established a strong influence over other students. I’ve already mentioned it, but Ferris seems like a natural for politics (especially in Illinois) and the idea of him holding a powerful position is terrifying.

While Bueller cavalierly risks life, limb and jail for his own gratification, Rooney does the same in order to thwart and stifle a young psychopath. He would have succeeded too, if only Bueller’s dingbat sister hadn’t caved in at the end. Now Ferris will continue unimpeded and, by 2014, he will be voting to escalate drone attacks because of campaign contributions from Lockheed Martin. And he won’t lose a wink of sleep over it.

Watch campaign video for “Narcissist” (the movie)

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“Narcissist” is a short film about a toxic love relationship between a narcissistic man named Rob (Brionne Davis) and his victim Evan, played by Hunter Lee Hughes. Eric Casaccio is the film’s director.

You can see the trailer here: http://www.narcissistthemovie.com/ It looks like a great film!

For anyone in the Los Angeles, California area, “Narcissist” will be playing at North Hollywood Cinefest on Tuesday, April 14th @ 9:30pm.

Preliminary reviews have been positive. 🙂

You can read more about “Narcissist” on the Internet Movie DataBase (IMDB)