Take 2

Ayushi Y -

Hello Everyone! 

I spent this past week watching movies from between 2005 and 2010. I watched Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006), Zodiac (2007), and The Dark Knight (2008). 

In Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a man born with an extraordinary sense of smell, is obsessed with creating the perfect scent and resorts to murder to find it. These are some movie quotes that may affect pre-existing mental health stereotypes.

  • “I feel nothing. Not the slightest twinge of fear. Not a shred of remorse. No, I don’t feel a thing. I live in a world of insatiable desires. My senses are in constant affront. I am a monster.”

Although lack of empathy is a common symptom of ASPD, in this case, the character realizes that what he does is wrong but still isn’t empathetic. This may exaggerate the lack of emotions of a psychopath by explicitly stating their emotions. 

  • “When I was a child, I almost died. But I still remember what it felt like to want to live.”

In this case, Grenouille uses selective diction to control those around him. This demonstrates his lack of reliability and paints mental illness in a derogatory light by portraying such individuals as manipulative. This could reinforce the myth that people who struggle with mental illness are more likely to act in immoral ways.


David Fincher’s 2007 film Zodiac is based on the real-life Zodiac Killer, whose cold-blooded killings and cryptic messages spread terror throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The film examines the disturbing psychology underlying the killer’s unrelenting desire for fame and power through violence, while authorities and the general public struggle to understand his motivations and identity. 

  • “I am waiting for a good movie about me.”

The Zodiac Killer is portrayed as a cold and detached individual who lacks empathy and isolates themselves from societal norms. While such actions align with symptoms of ASPD, they may exaggerate and/or oversimplify the symptoms of ASPD. 

  • “I like killing people because it’s so much fun. It is more fun than killing wild game in the forest because man is the most dangerous animal of all.”

The film portrays the sadistic nature of the Zodiac killer in a manner that contributes to the stereotype that violent impulses solely drive individuals with psychopathic tendencies.


In the 2008 film The Dark Knight, the anarchist Joker takes great pleasure in subverting social conventions, testing Batman, and highlighting the frailty of the law.  

  • “Why so serious?”

The Joker’s unpredictable behavior may contribute to the stereotype that individuals with mental health issues are inherently dangerous. The constant emphasis on his madness might reinforce the misconception that mental health disorders always lead to criminal tendencies.

  • “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

The intense focus on the villains’ psychopathic traits in the movie may overshadow a nuanced understanding of mental health. This emphasis on extreme behaviors could contribute to an oversimplified view of mental health challenges.

Thanks for Reading,

Ayushi Yadav

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    Hey Ayushi! As you have been watching these movies from different time periods such as from the early 2000's to the mid 2000's, have you seen any trends in the way that psychopaths are depcited on screen? For example, has their portryal been shown in a more positive light or vice versa?
    Hi Ayushi, I love seeing the other movies that you are bringing into your research. You use the dialogue and quotes to describe the representations of psychopathy very well, but I wonder if your research should also encompass physical depictions in film, like choice in costumes, make up, or facial expressions. I feel like especially in the case of the Dark Knight, the villainous portrayal of the Joker is even more extreme when we include his physical characteristics.
    Hey Sinchana! Unfortunately, the change in time period has not shown much change in the way that psychopaths have been depicted on screen. This may be because I have chosen a small time frame to study in my research project. If I was studying movies from the 1950s to now, I probably would have been able to see more of a trend in the portrayals.
    Hi Ms. Bennett! That is definitely a new point of view that I can look into for future movies. It may help illustrate the over-exaggeration of mental illnesses. Thank you for the idea!

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