Steve Becker raised the issue of psychopaths in movies a few months ago – I’d like to raise it again. I’ve been watching the second series of the TV show ‘Dexter‘. For those who don’t know it, Dexter is a serial killer who operates according to a code taught to him by his father. Dad, a cop, realised that Dexter was different (socially inept, blood lust, etc.) and so instilled in him the principle that he was not to hurt people in general, but to work at getting along with them. Dexter is permitted to kill only those who deserve it, e.g. killers who’s escaped justice.
Commentators automatically call Dexter psychopathic. That’s what these words seem to mean in the general public: psychopath = serial killer = psychopath.
Hannibal Lector seems to be the association. Either him or a character like Chigurh in ‘No country for old men’. In fact he’s portrayed like a schizoid automaton – where’s the famous psychopathic charm? Only in the scene where he verbally torments the old store-owner get a whiff of psychopathy. It’s not helpful; it’s just one of the reasons regular folks can’t/won’t understand what psychopathy is really like. (For starters, psychopaths aren’t by any means all killers.)
This despite the fact the Dexter himself feels most understood at a program for addicts. (To my mind he’s a pervert.) His girlfriend Lila, though, does seem to me to be a psychopath, though with a definite female bent. A clue, Dexter is wholly likeable whereas Lila is terrifying. A bit like Sante Kimes as depicted in ‘A little thing called murder’.
This public confusion occured around ‘The Sopranos’ too. Donna Andersen has argued that Tony is not a psychopath (she prefers the term sociopath). I agree. (My diagnosis: narcissist – not that it would matter if he had you in his sights.) To me his buddy Paulie ‘Walnuts’ is the true psychopath.
Lovefraud readers have earned the right the hard way to know what is and what isn’t a believably psychopathic. Which movies/shows/books do you think get the essential quality?