Take 1

Ayushi Y -

Hello Everyone!

This week I watched two movies which contained “psychopathic” characters and examined how they illustrated the stereotypes regarding mental illness. The most common stereotype regarding those with mental health disabilities is that they are violent. The media vastly exaggerates this and although anti-social personality disorder and some other psychotic disorders do have aggression as a possible symptom, recent research has shown that using alcohol and drugs is more likely to cause violent behavior than a mental disorder. By any measure, however, the vast majority of violent acts are committed by people without a mental disorder. 

In “American Psycho” (2000), Patrick Bateman, a wealthy and narcissistic investment banker living in Manhattan, descends into a spiral of violence and insanity, blurring the lines between reality and his delusional fantasies. These are some quotes that make the character come off as psychopathic and how they affect pre-existing mental health stereotypes:

  • “I have all the characteristics of a human being: blood, flesh, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust.”

   This quote from Bateman risks oversimplifying the complexity of psychopathy and contributing to a misrepresentation of those with personality disorders.

  • “If you don’t shut your mouth, I will kill you”

   Throughout the film, Bateman threatens many of those around him for trivial reasons. In this specific scene, he was yelling at his laundromat for not being able to get stains out of his sheet. His random fits of rage and overly violent behavior suggest that those with mental disorders are unpredictable. Psychopaths in real life tend to plan out their actions more carefully and maintain decent social relations. Such depictions of psychopaths incorrectly demonstrate their likely tendencies. 

In “Insomnia” (2002), seasoned detective Will Dormer travels to an Alaskan town to investigate a murder but accidentally gets involved in a murder himself. Walter Finch, the killer that the detective had come to town to catch, uses immoral techniques to hide his crime and tries to use Dormer to prove himself innocent. 

  • “Guilty conscience is a tough roadblock to get around.”

   In this situation, Finch was trying to manipulate Dormer using selective diction. This shows that he is an unreliable character but also highlight mental illness in a negative light by depicting them as controlling and manipulating. This may contribute to the stereotype that individuals with mental health challenges are more prone to engaging in morally ambiguous behavior.

  • “You know, I never understood that word, ‘sanity.’ I mean, ‘sanity’ is a crazy world.”

   This quote reflects Finch’s perspective on sanity, presenting it as elusive or incomprehensible. Such portrayals may contribute to the stereotype that individuals with mental health challenges have a warped sense of reality or lack a grasp on societal norms. 


To learn more about the consistency of the behavior of psychopaths: https://seedscientific.com/sociopathy-vs-psychopathy/


Thanks for reading,
Ayushi Yadav


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All viewpoints are welcome but profane, threatening, disrespectful, or harassing comments will not be tolerated and are subject to moderation up to, and including, full deletion.

    Melanie Murphy
    Ayushi, I have seen this topic discussed in broad, nonserious, even callous ways, but I have never seen anyone endeavor to dissect it and inspect the potential damages that might result from assumptions that viewers might tend to make based on inaccurate cinematic portrayals. I will stay tuned!
    Koushita Valluru
    Hey Ayushi! The movies you mentioned seem interesting, but I was wondering why you started with these two?
    Hi Ayushi! I’m intrigued by the portrayal of these two characters. Did you notice any similarities in the behaviors of Bateman and Finch or even the way they are portrayed as characters?
    Ayushi Yadav
    Thank you, Ms. Murphy!
    Ayushi Yadav
    hey Koushita! For this week I was focusing on movies between 2000 and 2005 and these were movies that had above 4/5 stars and 75% audience score. I aim to choose movies that follow these guidelines regarding ratings and audience scores.
    Ayushi Yadav
    Hey Nithya! There were many similarities in the way both these characters were portrayed in the movies. Both characters illustrated impulsive tendencies towards violence, lacked empathy, were obsessed with trivial matters, and even used manipulative diction.
    Ayushi Yadav
    Hey Koushita! For this week, I was focusing on movies between 2000 and 2005. I chose these movies because they had above a 4/5 star rating and above a 75% audience score. I aim to choose movies using the premise of their ratings and audience scores to ensure that they have had an impact on society.
    Ayushi Yadav
    Hey Koushita! For this week I chose movies between 2000 and 2005. I choose movies that have above a 4/5 star rating and above a 75 percent audience score to ensure that they have had an impact on society. American Psychopath had a 4.4 star rating and an 85 percent audience score. Insomnia had a 4.5 star rating and a 77 percent audience score.
    Camille Bennett
    Hi Ayushi, it seems like you are teasing out the actual symptoms of antisocial personality disorder from the villain archetypes that are often framed as psychopaths in film. Do you anticipate if any cinematic representations will be more accurate representations of this mental health disorder? Are you comparing your analysis with others' analyses of these films?
    Ayushi Yadav
    Hi Ms. Bennett, I'm anticipating that more recent films may have more accurate representations of ASPD. Every week I am watching films from a new range of dates. For this week both these movies were from between 2000 and 2005. I hope that the movies more accurately represent ASPD as I come closer to the current day. I do also plan to look at overall reviews of the films to see how others perceived them, but since most comments/reviews on films aren't really related to mental health, it n;t going to be a large part of my research.

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