Movie review: LBJ


Rob Reiner directed this 2017 biographical film about a complicated, crusty, sometimes ill-tempered, but very human man determined to make the dreams of his assassinated predecessor, John F. Kennedy, come to fruition.

The timeframe of the movie is short — but just long enough to get a feel for the man Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) was, and the mostly unsung impact he would have on history.   It begins just before Kennedy chooses Johnson (played by Woody Harrelson) as his Vice President, which comes as a surprise to him because they are really such strange bedfellows:  Johnson, a good old boy conservative Southern Democrat with a reputation for having been opposed to civil rights legislation, and Kennedy, a Massachusetts Catholic liberal from a long line of successful attorneys.    The movie concludes only a few weeks after Johnson takes on the Presidency after Kennedy’s death on November 22, 1963.

Johnson comes off sometimes crude and ill mannered on the surface (there’s a hilarious scene where he’s barking orders at his aides while sitting on the toilet with the door open), but soon it’s apparent his crusty and unpolished exterior hides a sensitive and often insecure soul within — and one with surprising depth.  After Kennedy finally asks him to be his vice president, Johnson’s personal insecurities and doubt in his own abilities become more apparent.   He isn’t sure he’s up to such a huge job, especially as the right hand man of a president who is both extremely popular and handsome, so he turns to his sympathetic wife, Lady Bird (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) for reassurance and encouragement.  These intimate moments of emotional vulnerability and insecurity humanize LBJ.  His emotional sensitivity is also revealed during an exchange with Kennedy’s younger brother, Bobby, who has always disliked Johnson and seems to look down his nose at him, in spite of Johnson’s efforts to be liked by him.    Johnson finally asks Bobby why he doesn’t like him.  The two never become friends, but later on, Bobby seems to develop at least a grudging respect for LBJ.

Politically, LBJ is constantly torn between two opposing factions of 1960s Democrats.  While he’s  learning the ropes of such a high profile job, he also struggles between not alienating his southern conservative supporters while at the same time going full speed ahead with the liberal dream of civil rights legislation which will please Kennedy’s eastern liberal constituents. He knows he must find a balance between both groups without alienating either.   As it turns out, compromise and legislation are both things he finds out he has a gift for.

Kennedy’s assassination is shown in a series of flash-forwards, with the doctor’s grim announcement of JFK’s demise at the hospital where they have been waiting the news, tying all previous action to that moment.   Suddenly someone in the waiting room addresses Johnson as “Mr. President,” and at first he seems taken aback.   He has grown close to Kennedy, and like all the rest of them, he needs time to grieve, and he does.

LBJ takes on the mantle of the presidency with humility and almost self-deprecation, but is determined to fulfill Kennedy’s dream of passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  By now, it has become his dream too, and you begin to realize he never actually changed — he was never against civil rights, but in earlier days had been afraid of displeasing his more racist constituents.  But now, Kennedy’s liberal dreams of a more egalitarian and just America have become his too, and the movie ends with a landmark speech that became one of the most memorable in American history.

Woody Harrelson does a great job playing the role of LBJ, capturing the man’s complicated nature, and Jennifer Jason Leigh does an equally good job with her smaller role as the supportive Lady Bird Johnson.    I wasn’t as impressed with Jeffrey Donovan’s JFK, who seemed wooden and unconvincing in the role, and Michael Stahl-David’s Bobby Kennedy came off as an insufferable spoiled brat, which probably wasn’t Reiner’s intention, but Bobby was also very young here, so perhaps his behavior wasn’t atypical for someone that age from the type of background he came from.

I don’t think a movie like LBJ would have worked until Trump took office and began systematically dismantling everything accomplished in America during the Civil Rights movement as well as the legacies of presidents ever since Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Johnson, remembered mostly for his acceleration of the war in Vietnam (he’s the only president in recent history who refused to run for a second term, perhaps because he realized his favorability rating had sunk so low) has never been held in high regard compared to other presidents, but in watching this movie, you begin to realize LBJ was a decent and basically humble man who was gifted at legislation and compromise, and who stood for many noble causes and passed laws that helped a great many everyday people.

There’s a poignancy in seeing what LBJ was able to accomplish, and how he was able to bring groups of disparate people together and solve problems diplomatically.  For all his  flaws, you realize that this is the way democracy is supposed to work, and LBJ was good at it.   It’s a bittersweet reminder of a time before Watergate when Americans still trusted their government and their leaders.  It’s sad that we now have a corrupt government that seems to be attempting to divide people and undo everything that’s been accomplished in the last 50 years.

My rating:  Four of Five stars. 




I’m taking myself to see “LBJ” this weekend.


I rarely go to the movies (the last movie I actually took myself to see was Inside Out), but I really, really need to see LBJ, the new dramatic biography about Lyndon Baines Johnson.    Johnson was the 36th president of the United States and served from 1965 to 1969.   I remember his presidency but was just a child so don’t remember too many details from that time.

Johnson (“LBJ”) is one of those presidents people always forget about.   If anything, he’s remembered more for sending thousands of young men to their deaths in Vietnam via the draft.  That hasn’t given him a great reputation compared with other past presidents.

But Johnson, a Texas Democrat, also did a lot of good things and cared about his fellow Americans, regardless of income, class or race.   He was involved in early environmentalism and gun control efforts.  He started Head Start, Medicaid and the Food Stamp program, all part of his far-reaching “Great Society” (much different in spirit than today’s War on the Poor).   He wanted to pass single payer healthcare.    He was a supporter of the Civil Rights movement, working toward more racial equality and passed the Voting Rights Act bill.


It’s timely that LBJ’s contributions are being given the credit they’re due and someone finally made a movie about this man’s life and why America was so much more economically liberal than it is today (Bernie Sanders only seems so left-wing today because we’ve moved so far to the right; even Nixon would seem like a progressive today).    I think the egalitarian and progressive values Johnson held haven’t been held in very high regard since the 1970s, with even the Democratic Party moving ever farther to the right, but I think the tide is slowly starting to turn back.

I actually remember this commercial.  I was around the same age as this little girl when it was first aired.

I think most Americans, even some Republicans, are tiring of the anti-poor, pull yourself up by your bootstraps rhetoric and the “solution” of trickle down economics, which has never worked and never will work for the majority of Americans.   Many people are realizing we began to go down a very dark path when Reagan was elected and unregulated capitalism and the trend toward blaming the most vulnerable instead of helping them became the norm.    It’s been this way for forty years now, and we’ve finally hit rock bottom with Trump.  Now we can see where we went wrong, and maybe someone like LBJ is needed again (but who will also keep us from fighting immoral wars).   So I’m glad a movie was made about him and his memory is finally being honored.

I’ll write a review of the movie after I see it.

Happy Groundhog Day!

In celebration of Groundhog Day, here are some of that comedy’s best scenes.  Enjoy!

A trip to Oz (narcissistic abuse).

Anyone who reads narcissism blogs has heard the term “flying monkey,” straight out the famous movie, The Wizard of Oz. But WOZ is important to narcissistic abuse survivors for much than just that. Tracy Malone takes us down the Yellow Brick Road and explains what we can all learn from the film’s iconic characters and their actions.

One way to peg a narcissist you probably never heard of.


It may sound ridiculous but I think this is a good way to judge a person’s character without their suspecting anything.

Chatter about movies, books, and other forms of entertainment is a standard ice breaker (and is part of the dreaded “small talk” we introverts hate so much), usually used to make polite conversation with someone you don’t know that well (of course, these things can be discussed more in depth too with closer friends and loved ones).    Movies, books, TV, and public figures are safe conversation starters.   You can talk to people about these things without seeming to cross anyone’s boundaries or getting too personal.

But such seemingly innocuous conversations can also help you peg whether or not a person is a narcissist or sociopath–without them suspecting a thing.  When you meet a new person, ask them the way you would ask anyone about movies they’ve seen and books they’ve read, and then ask them whose side they were on, or which characters they most identified with.   Of course, you must be familiar with the movie or the book, including its main characters.   Television personalities and other public figures will also do.

Narcissists can feel empathy for other narcissistic characters–characters that are like themselves.   I’ve noticed they will often feel empathy for the villain, rather than the hero/heroine.   A narcissist woman, for example, will feel simpatico with a villain like Beth Jarrett from Ordinary People, and think her behavior toward her son wasn’t that bad–she may even think he deserved it and find Jarrett’s justifications for abusing him valid.    My mother found nothing wrong with her behavior and was puzzled as to why I found it so triggering and upsetting.  (Of course I didn’t tell her why).

My mother also couldn’t understand why the the “Queen of Mean” hotelier Leona Helmsley was given such a hard time in the press over her arrogant statement, “We don’t pay taxes, only the little people pay taxes.”   She also identified with Sherman McCoy, the narcissistic, selfish, and greedy investment banker in the novel Bonfire of the Vanities, who wound up losing everything due to a chain of events stemming from a hit and run accident which McCoy was involved in.  I remember her lamenting almost tearfully about how “his beautiful life was ruined” by the events that played out in the novel.    She also couldn’t stand good, sweet Melanie, from Gone With the Wind.   I suppose Melanie could come across as a tad simpering and holier-than-thou, but my mother hated her.   The heroine of that same movie, Scarlett O’Hara, is more than a little narcissistic (or possibly Histrionic?)–charming, flirtatious, manipulative, entitled, and possessing very little empathy.  She didn’t even seem that upset when her own daughter, Bonnie, died after falling off a horse.    I never understood why Scarlett has been such a huge role model for generations of women.   She really didn’t have too many redeeming qualities when you think about it.

A  man (or woman) with NPD or psychopathy might identify or sympathize with any of Ayn Rand’s psychopathic heroes–Howard Roark from The Fountainhead or John Galt from Atlas Shrugged come to mind.   Of course, these are popular books, especially among conservatives–but holding these two highly narcissistic men up as worthy of worship might be a red flag.   Be wary of such a person.

My ex, a sociopath who has been diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder (but is really a malignant narcissist) always liked villainous characters, especially if they broke the law.  He often rooted for the bad guy (or sometimes, girl) and the more ruthless or cruel they were, the more they seemed to enthrall him.   He likes Charles Manson.   He watched South Park because he thought the sociopathic Eric Cartman was so cool.  He also rooted for the alien in Aliens.   In addition to that, he likes satanic and demonic imagery, which always disturbed me, even when I was agnostic.     We all have a touch of schadenfreude and many normal people (including yours truly) have a fascination with serial killers and other outlaws–according to Jung, that’s because we all have a shadow self that’s drawn to dark things.  But there’s a difference between fascination or morbid curiosity and actually liking these things or identifying with or sympathizing with villains, malignant narcissists, and antisocial people.

So if you’re on a date with a new person, have them take you to a movie (or take them to a movie) and see who they seem to identify with or sympathize with the most (or who they seem to dislike the most).   It could tell you a lot about that person’s character.

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.

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.”



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):

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


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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


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.