Unhealthy Relations : Another Phoebe Movie Lesson


Phoebe here – with a giant whopping hangover and a Screaming Trees CD that keeps on skipping that’s irritating me because I keep having to manually reboot the player.

Thanks for all the comments on my interview with the sexy-as Michael C.Hall, about “Dexter”, the sixth season of which comes onto DVD in a few weeks.

I notice many comments posted at the tail end of the interview, regarding just how realistic Hall’s interpretation of a psychopath is to someone in real life. Seems most that suffer from some sort of mental condition, like Dexter does in the show (and Lila did – she was the dangerous and manipulative compulsive liar that he got to know in season 2), think the show’s writers are pretty spot-on when it comes to accurately portraying sicknesses.

As part of my nursing degree a couple of years ago, for psychotherapy tending, we were asked to write a paper on various psychopaths in film – their portrayal, accuracy and so on.

The topic of the paper was slightly changed and thus was this version never submitted so I could, I think, freely run it here.



When Alarm Bells Ring in the Movies

Darian (“The Crush”)

Mr Alex Creen, a recovered BPD sufferer who spoke to class 3b in the Spring of 2009, tells us that “People want what they can’t have – but never is that statement truer than in the case of those with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Those with the disorder will do anything to  catch their prey – even if it ends in the destruction of themselves or others. The movies may play it up a little, but in broad strokes the way they represent the BPD’s keenness for the thrill of the chase, the love of chaos, and their uncanny ability to carry on a lie or deceive… is pretty spot-on.

“I, when untreated, ruined a five-year relationship because I imagined myself in his place, got into deep debt from a hidden drug habit, took money from my brother-in-law that he had been saving for something much more important than what I needed it for, and foolishly passed on an STD to the woman I loved by having unprotected sex with an ex-girlfriend on the side… and never admitted to any of these things. Not until years later. Even after I was caught in bed with another woman, and later, my drug stash was discovered in an unstitched cushion of the couch, I continued to twist the truth. Not until I was better did I really know I’d done wrong.”

The young lady who causes similar damage in “The Crush” (1993) is, like Mr Creen, addicted to the chase.  When she gets her catch, she’s happy – for a while. When she loses it – regardless of whether it’s a healthy catch for her to have, she wants it back – at any cost (cue the best friend and ex-lover getting hurt).

A 14-year-old, suddenly coming to the conclusion that she can wrap men around her little finger by flashing her pretty little body and tricking them into believing her extravagant lies?

Sounds like your typical teenager – but then, what typical teenager goes so off-the-rails her temper ultimately kills her best friend? And know anyone that has seriously injured a love interest’s ex-girlfriend because of insecurity and jealousy issues?

Me either. But she deserved that punch in the mouth she got at the end of the movie.

Suffers from : A lack of clothing, Borderline Personality Disorder, Oversized headphones.

The critics said : “Her unnatural obsession drives her to extraordinary — and unbelievable — lengths. She kisses Nick, taunts and teases him, seductively strips in front of him, steals his used condoms from the garbage, and tries to kill his girlfriend. And that’s only for a warm-up…” (ref : James Berardinelli, Reel Views, recovered March 1, 2009).

HOW DOES IT END UP? : After she kills her best friend, puts his ex in hospital and makes up things that destroy his career, she fortunately gets found out… and put in a mental hospital.


Will Benson  (“I Still Know What You Did Last Summer”)

Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) has recently broken up with Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr), after one too many  arguments over their  long-distance issues and other various disagreements.  Enter Will (Matthew Settle), a charming student who not only says the right things, but is terrific at hiding his real personality – the lying, not-who-I-say-I-am scoundrel who merely wants to get you into bed (or a coffin).

When Ray gets wind that his ex-girlfriend could be in trouble, and that the new boyfriend who he has long suspected is a screw-loose has come undone, he sets off to save her… just as all partially-imperfect former movie boyfriends do.

Suffers from : Psychosis, Sociopathy, Selective amnesia

The critics said : ” He slams her in the gut and starts hauling her along again, allowing the conversation, momentarily interrupted, to resume. “Tell me why?” Julie wails. “Why?” repeats Will. “Come on, Jules, think about it! You’ll get it!” When she doesn’t, however, he actually releases her – and she just stands there – as he says distinctly, “Will Benson.”  (ref :  http://www.aycyas.com).

HOW DOES IT END UP? : The sane ex-boyfriend comes to Julie’s rescue just before the newly-discovered nutter she’s dating can lunge! Ray and Julie are reunited and, in movie lore, live happily ever after.


Rose (“Color of Night”)

The very young, very attractive Rose (Jane March) falls for the comforting new therapist (Bruce Willis) that’s overseeing her mysterious infliction. There’s snakes, sex and soapy bubble baths.  Basically, whatever it takes to rope him into her game.

Unlike some of the other movie psychos, Rose is a victim. She has dissociated herself from several painful memories and dove into a relationship and new life to help block out those bad times. But with dissociation comes confusion for the partner – in this case, the loving therapist, who begins to realize that the woman in his bed isn’t who she says she is and even wonders whether his life is in danger.

Note : Despite their differences in age (She’s 19, he was pushing 40), Rose and her adored therapist are one of the few couples in this paper that actually do make it – largely due to his continuing support, insistence on helping to heal her, and her ultimate confession and journey to self-awareness. Happy! Happy!

Suffers from : Dissociative Disorder, Obsessive-love-of-bathing.

The critics said : ” Cheerfully referring to herself as “the old fender-bender,” Rose shows up in a variety of get-ups, like the ruffly apron she wears around his kitchen, sans other clothing. In a more level-headed film, Rose would strike any psychologist as A-plus patient material, but here she manages to pass as reasonably normal.” (ref : The New York Times, ref : May 1, 2010).

HOW DOES IT END UP? : After he comes to her rescue, and she acknowledges her condition and secret, Young Rose and her much older beau are reunited and by the looks, live happily ever after. Nice ending, actually.


Hedra (“Single White Female”)

As the Needing Understanding Tenderness and Support Group (2010) states, Borderline Personality Disorder comes with the suggestion that those suffering from it have no sense of self-image, as such they copy – or ‘mirror’ – a chosen friend or partner.

“People with BPD are quite intuitive and have the ability to read others very well. In the presence of others, the person with BPD is able to fit in much like a chameleon by assuming a similar position and mirroring similar feelings and behaviors. Self-image is based on the people around them. This allows the person with BPD to feel in control and liked by those present. The person with BPD tends to go in whatever direction the wind is blowing. There appears to be no depth of identity or individuality to their own thinking.”

Sometimes, the mirror can be a beneficial thing – mirroring someone with positive morals, healthy personal and professional goals, a socially-acceptable etiquette and sense of style – but sometimes one with BPD can choose to mirror someone unhealthy to their well-being, resulting in a huge backwards step for the sufferer.

“Single White Female” doesn’t address these concerns in full, but does reiterate that mirroring is a large part of the illness.

Hedra may be out of control, and it may be the illness that’s the cause of what she does, but sadly the film’s anti-heroine’s actions result in death, serious injury and many broken relationships and friendships.

Suffers from : Borderline Personality Disorder, Too much red hair-dye

The critics said : ” Hedy presents herself as someone who likes nothing better than doing for others. She’s self-effacing to the point of frumpiness, though she could be as pretty as Alli. With no particular aim in life, she works at a Rizzoli bookstore and soon comes to focus all her attentions on Alli, who is delighted at first.

Hedy takes up the space that Sam once occupied. Hedy also cooks, cleans, buys a dog for Alli and is there to watch late-night television movies with her. Little by little, though, Alli realizes that Hedy is beginning to emulate her with scary adoration. The last straw is when Hedy emerges from the beauty parlor with her hair cut and dyed to look so much like Alli’s that the two could be identical twins. (ref : The New York Times, ref : May 2, 2010).

HOW DOES IT END UP? : Bad. The SWF and her uncontrollable jealousy isn’t happy until she’s destroyed most elements of her roommate’s life. But she gets her comeuppance.


Annie Wilkes (“Misery”)

She’s lovely at the beginning; she helps the injured author in the movie and seems to genuinely care about his recovery from the car accident she plucked him from. But then, Annie begins to show her neurotic, controlling and scary side – switching from happiness to anger at a fly’s buzz, and making up lies in order to keep the man with her.

“Misery” is, as Creen said earlier, movies “playing up” the condition.

Suffers from : Mills &Boone-itis, Borderline Personality Disorder.

The critics said : “Annie is severely mentally disturbed (very possibly suffering from borderline personality disorder), and she prevents him from leaving or contacting the rest of the world. Once Annie finds out Paul has killed-off the titular character of his novels, Misery Chastaine, in his latest published book, she flies into a rage and nearly kills him. She also coldly tells him that she never called the doctors, Paul’s agent or his daughter, as she’d previously said she’d done. After leaving for a few days, she forces him to burn the manuscript he had carried with him and write a new “Misery” story, Misery’s Return, in which Misery is somehow brought back to life.  Paul eventually escapes from his room. He finds a photograph album with newspaper clippings of Annie’s history; she had been acquitted on charges of infanticide while serving as head maternity nurse in a hospital. She has also killed several other hospital patients over the years, and also killed her father and college roommate. Annie discovers Paul’s forays into the rest of the house and, to prevent further ones, cripples (or “hobbles”) him in the infamous “sledgehammer scene” by breaking his ankles with a sledgehammer and a block of wood.”  (ref : Demonoid, recovered March 1, 2009)

HOW DOES IT END UP? : Paul escapes Annie… and never looks back! (Though is seemingly inundated with nightmares forever)


Alex Forrest (“Fatal Attraction”)

Recovered BPD sufferer Stacy Pershall, says she recognized she had the disease when she continuously “wanted so desperately to be loved, validated and saved from my loneliness that I latched onto a string of partners who showed intense initial interest, and I promptly scared them off with the depth of my neediness. Learning that this particular brand of self-destruction was a hallmark of my disorder gave me hope…”

“It’s not until later that those with Borderline or Bipolar recognize that the one they should have stayed with, instead of jumping into excursions of lust and chasing for the unattainable, was that healthy, patient, stable and supporting partner who had stuck through them through thick and thin”, Creen said. “I was lucky enough to recognize that the person who could save me, and my life, was the one in it… and not the young woman I had been seeing for a few weeks on the side. She was as messed up as I am, which might explain that immediate attraction; but I know it wasn’t love … or good for either of us.  Despite what I did, my partner chose to stick with me. She was never possessive, obsessive, controlling, impatient or anything but loving… I nearly exchanged all that for fleeting lust, some attention from a stranger and self-destruction. It’s the Fatal Attraction story”.

Many Zanarini of McLean Hospital in Massachusetts believes, with the support of a loving, patient, understanding and stable partner, there’s a huge chance of recovery from BPD.  Had Alex in 1987’s “Fatal Attraction” been able to hang onto Nick, without losing out to her disease, she may have been able to get a grip on her illness – he being the financially-secure, loving, considerate patient and, most notably, stable person in her life. Instead, she opted to go crazy on him – – and he had no choice but to rain, and ultimately, shield his family from her dangerous grasp.

Sexy, charming and free of boundaries, Alex is over excited when business colleague Nick decides to spend the night with her.

The next day, ashamed of her behaviour , lying and grasping for attention, she decides to cut herself at the wrists. Nick doesn’t expect it’ll get any worse – until his daughter’s pet rabbit is found boiled in a pot!

Suffers from : A Michael Douglas obsession, Frizzy hair, Borderline Personality Disorder.

The critics said : “As EVERY mental health professional with all the sensitivity of a brick has felt the need to point out, [Alex] had borderline personality disorder.  The attention Close has recently attracted to mental health issues has naturally raised questions about her ability to reconcile her role in the movie with her current anti-stigma efforts.  According to NAMI, Close acknowledges the negative impact of her role, but also defends the integrity of her character.

Fatal Attraction is one of my all-time favorite movies.  I think it’s a masterpiece.  And I personally don’t feel like Glenn Close owes anyone an apology, or even an explanation, for her role in it.  Frankly I’m glad she isn’t willing to cave to whatever pressure there might be to regret any stigma she might have caused.  I do think the morons who thought it gave me any perspective on my illness or benefited me in any way to compare me to one of the most notorious characters in cinematic history owe me an apology.  Obviously Fatal Attraction portrayed mental illness in a very negative light, but it was also well written and well acted, and though the extreme manifestation of Alex Forrest’s illness isn’t true for most persons with BPD, it was true for that particular character.” (Ref : The Other Side of Madness, recovered : March 2009)

HOW DOES IT END UP? : Not good for Alex. She gets progressively worse as the movie goes on – her shame leads to cutting, her jealousy leads to killing family pets, and ultimately, she takes a knife to his loved ones. He has no choice but to… end her.


Ingrid  (“White Oleander”)

“You can’t believe someone with Borderline Personality”, Doctor Raymond Barrieta told us in his guest lecture at Southern Health.  “Even they don’t trust their words.”

Barrieta would explain that compulsive lying is a skill that those suffering from the affliction have learnt how to perfect over time. Those who are aware of their condition can control it to an extent, but by and large, “It’s something they just do. They don’t mean to. They don’t want to. But they do it anyway. They may feel shame for telling those lies – especially ones that have ended up in someone being hurt, injured or have resulted in a very negative outcome for themselves or someone else… but they have developed methods to continue concealing the lie. Be it by self-injuring, which helps divert the emotions of shame, or convincing themselves that the lie is what it real, it’s a cycle that doesn’t end without serious self-awareness and reflection.

“Whether they’re responsible for a fire in someone’s kitchen, cheating on an exam, sending out poison pen letters, or have been juggling multiple lovers – they will always masterfully swindle you into believing they didn’t. You believe it; they continue on that path. The goal is to catch them out on those untruths and stop being an enabler”.

Astrid in “White Oleander” stops enabling Ingrid -the lying, deceiving, dangerous BPD sufferer in her life.

The simple story of a psychopathic mother who, through her many creative means, manipulates, deceives and ultimately destroys the life of her child – and those that get close to her.

is a master of deception (“of course I didn’t like to you; I would never do something like that”) , exceedingly self-involved, and a pro at twisting words.

The character has been widely recognized as one of the most accurately portrayed narcissts and BPD-sufferers in film history.

Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance has been banded brilliant by many critics, and medical professionals.

Though somewhat disturbing (Ingrid tells so many lies and hurts people so badly that one of them in the film, the big-hearted and extremely loving Claire, commits suicide. Ingrid, as many people with narcissism and BPD don’t, has no empathy or remorse) it’s an excellent depiction of the affliction.  The lies, the inability to admit to or accept responsibility for the hurt, pain and even crimes she’s done, and the self-importance seem as close to a real untreated BPD and narcisst as possible.  They will hurt you, they might even twist truths, cover up crimes, lie about important things that could undo their image, and also, they’ll never accept responsibility or turn a conversation back to you; Pfeiffer clearly did her research.

Is Ingrid self-aware? She does seem to be to an extent – she admits she was jealous, and that that may have had a part to do in Claire’s downfall; she also gets very upset and angry when confronted about the lies she’s made up about Astrid’s father. So yes, she’s great at covering up her tracks, but she’s also somewhat aware of her dark side within.

At the end of the day, Astrid has no choice but to walk away – she has caught her significant other out on too many lies, been brainwashed, has no self-esteem left, and has seen her mother physically and mentally destroy some of the closest people in her life due to her own insecurities and jealousy issues. For her own safety, the young girl was forced to live a life without her.

This is an uplifting story – one that reiterates that nobody is trapped in the life they fear they’ve been summoned.

When Claire asks Astrid, who has temporarily escaped the confines of the BPD in her life and started to find her confidence and a sense of happiness again, what was the best day of her life… she confidently answers back “Today”.

Astrid made the change from that day and continued on that path.

Suffers from : Narcissism, Borderline Personality Disorder, Feline Flu

The critics said : “Because Ingrid doesn’t see what Claire has to offer Astrid she pushes her towards committing suicide to make it so Astrid would yet again be moved to a new foster home. The final criterion that Ingrid meets, sealing her diagnosis of being a narcissist, is her lack of empathy towards other, especially Astrid. In almost every scene where Ingrid and Astrid meet in the Jail yard Ingrid fails to be able to put herself in Astrid’s shoes and just talks about how terrible she has it. Even when Astrid is doing well, all she can do is complain about what situation she is in.

” We see her breaking the law several times, all of these times she fails to find her self-guilty for what she has done. Examples of this include breaking into Barry’s house and deleting his hard drive of all the work he had been doing, and finally resulted in the murder of Barry.”

HOW DOES IT END UP? : Astrid walks away from her overbearing, life-destroying mother. A sense of relief washes over the audience.


In the space of the last few years since I wrote the paper I imagine there’s been a few more characters who suffer from such things as Bipolar and Narcissism and so on? Can you think of any? And do any of you suffering from these things think movies do a good job of portraying them?

Much love to the people that suffer from these things, their partners, families and, of course, the sexy-sexy-sexy Dexter!