Classic, Despicable or Comic? 4 Narcissists from G-Rated Movies

T
oo often these days we hear people confusing the psychopath and the narcissist.

While I understand it is tempting to call someone who callously broke your heart the worst name you can possibly think of, I wonder if comparing selfish marriage partners to serial killers is really going to help us recognise and understand the narcissistic personality better?

Let’s see if we can end the confusion . . .

Narcissism blog Gilderoy LockheartThe Classic Narcissist:  

Gilderoy Lockhart  from  “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”. Gilderoy’s character (played by Kenneth Branagh), authored numerous books (all about himself and his own adventures) and also entertained hoards of adoring female fans. 

While his lies and eventual cowardice did put lives at risk and he did wipe people’s memory (if their memories did not serve his fantasy portrayal of himself) showing no empathy or remorse for his actions, his main motivation was to be loved (rather than feared) and his only sadism, perhaps his bad habit of relentlessly boring people.

Narcissism-Blog-Angelican-HustonBaroness Rodmill De Ghent in Andy Tennant’s 1998 movie “Ever After”.  

Anjelica Huston brought to life a sensational portrayal of the female narcissistic character.  More sadistic than Gilderoy certainly, while also more abusive, controlling and conniving – but still not a psychopathic killer like Joran van der Sloot (who journalists also dubbed a narcissist) or Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs.  

“Ever After” is a moving version of Cinderella (which I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it).

Narcissism-Blog-Matt-Ross-as-Hunter---Just-visitingAnother great actor playing The Despicable Narcissist is Matt Ross  as ‘Hunter‘ – in the movie “Just visiting”.

Another gem of a movie you really shouldn’t miss, particularly to watch as his wife learns to stand up to him. 

This is a fairytale style story – but the cheating and exploitative side of Hunter’s narcissistic personality is all too close to reality. “Just visiting” is also a side splitting comedy that is suitable for children.

Narcissism-blog-Miss-PiggyFor comic relief, Steve’s choice is always Miss Piggy – but before you laugh – how about those karate chops and the depth and breadth of her put-downs (when anyone comes between her royal pigginess and what she is after)!

We have all wondered for years why Kermit puts up with her, but then she can be so sweet and does have star quality . . . 

But Miss Piggy a psychopath? . . .    I don’t think so.

Lazy Criminal Profiling Only Benefits Criminals

It was Sam Vaknin (whose credentials have been discredited) that first confused Narcissistic Personality Disorder and psychopathy (now called anti-social personality disorder).

These are in fact quite different.

The psychopath tends to be a powerless and socially isolated individual whose motivation is getting people to fear them so they can feel they have some power in their life.

A person with NPD on the other hand primarily wants to be loved – but doesn’t know how to express or deal with their own guilt and shame, and so projects these onto other people. Psychopathy is so rare that it is hard to even measure as a percentage of the population; in comparison NPD is very common. 

Every kind of hurtful or evil behaviour tends to be blamed on psychopaths these days, for instance; I often hear politicians and bureaucrats labelled psychopaths in the media, when in reality they are usually narcissists or pedophiles (alarmingly estimated to be up to 10% of the population).

If you are living with a selfish marriage partner who is making your life hell, we truly sympathise and want to help, but confused criminal profiling only benefits criminals.

If you are interested our definition is here  🙂  . . .

Definition of Narcissistic 

This Post Has 16 Comments
  1. I do not agree with your comment that “The psychopath tends to be a powerless and socially isolated individual whose motivation is getting people to fear them so they can feel they have some power in their life.” In fact, criminal history would not bear this out to be true. Moreover, I question how you set yourself up as more knowledgeable on the subject than the now “discredited” Sam Vaknin.
    NPD may be a separate and distinct psychology from Psychopathy. However, minimizing the destruction of both the psychopath AND the NPD is no less dangerous than your notion of “confused criminal profiling.”

    1. Hi Alicia, I have worked helping people overcome the narcissism and codependence in their marriages for over 8 years full time, have researched and written 7 books on the subject and have consulted with many other professionals on NPD and codependence in that time. To date we also have close to 2000 testimonials including ones from hospitals, aid agencies and even senior management of corporations who use our material (some on a daily basis). Sam on the other hand got a PHD (in economics not medicine) and wrote his one book while in jail primarily from studying himself.

      The latest DSM also states that more research needs to be done on NPD – and so I would say my hands on work in this field makes me as qualified as anyone in the current mess Sam Vaknin’s writing has created on the subject of NPD. I do not feel that I am minimising the destruction – just clarifying terms whose confusion is doing damage to society that cannot be calculated. Like pedophiles for example. They are rarely profiled accurately in the media, allowing them to live among us holding positions of authority, while they continue to rip the foundations of our society apart.

  2. I just finished reading The Narcissist Next Door by Jeffrey Kluger, expecting to read another book explaining what narcissism is all about….all the while….hoping for ANY helpful ideas with actually living with one. It is a well written, very insightful work. Totally not expecting to have much empathy for the narcissist….this book shifted my perspective on the malady we so are so quick to label narcissism. I found it very helpful and it is giving me renewed optimism for my relationship with my husband. Just differentiating between “incapable of empathy” and “not empathetic” (but capable of learning to be makes the case for my continued efforts when the going is rough.
    Mr. Kluger also has a chapter on the relationship between narcissism and psychopathy, which you might find interesting.

    1. I disagree. I have been tormented by 2 psychopaths in my life. they are not all murderers. the ones who are smart enough, can completely fly under the radar. they know from childhood that they have to mimic normal human behavior and that if they want to get away with their despicable desires that they have to be very sneaky and masters of deniability. they can appear to simply be narcissists, because they are trying very hard to be normal, they are acting all the time. I don’t know why you think that you would be able to TELL. it is only the stupid ones who end up in prison or the rare ones who get caught, like Madoff, who give away their secret. after knowing 2 of them, I can see the “tells” and I’m telling you, it’s not rare. the children can’t hide well yet and they demonstrate stalking and bullying behaviors and they look at others with a cold stare. I know this because my mother TOLD me what she is. she told me what she knows she is capable of. and I could tell she wouldn’t hesitate if she thought she could get away with it. these people keep others around them because they are obsessed with issues of power and control. they mimic love in order to keep those others bound to them, and the way they do it is similar to the way cult leaders act. being in relationship with them is like being a member of a cult. getting out is like being deprogrammed. being with them can be like being on a drug because they are such good actors, they can mimic that true romantic love that you always wanted, more perfectly than the real thing. that acting is all they have ever known, so they can suck you in time and again. my advice would be to stay away from people even remotely like this. it destroys lives. mine is destroyed by it. my entire marriage was a fraud. I don’t believe these people can learn empathy. but they will really really try to make you believe that they can. that is one of their favorite lies. they are so good at pretending to have it, because they have been studying you obsessively, in order to mimic you. they do it in order to retain control over you. don’t fall for it. the point I’m trying to make is that they will intentionally try to confuse you, to make you think they are “just” a narcissist. don’t think you will be able to tell. it’s all a game to them.

      1. Hey DW, You hit the nail on the head when you say “I don’t know why you think that you would be able to TELL”. This is exactly what we don’t do. Instead of getting worked up and incensed analysing what “they” do to torment you, if you are dealing with a cruel or exploitative person I would suggest working on your own boundaries and defense strategies rather than sending yourself crazy trying to analysing the supposed craziness of someone else’s mind. At the same time I would also suggest that killers or not – if you are truly dealing with psychopaths, call them what they are and don’t confuse this with another person whose husband’s NPD symptoms may derive from defensiveness because he is hiding a credit card he is extorting money from the family to repay. I don’t under estimate the damage this later person can perpetrate BTW – but my point is in this case, for example, leave the diagnosis to someone else while you get down to the bank and separate your bank accounts and protect yourself!

      2. To DW…Excellent post. I think you actually have to have the personal experience of dealing with the full spectrum of Narcissists, as well as dealing with one single Psychopath to know the horrific, under the radar devastation of the latter, and the difference between the two. This life experience cannot be explained in words, and can only be differentiated with personal one on one with both types of personalities. Every single thing you do or say is fuel for the psychopath to break through, and they are super intelligent and academy award winning performers…all the while digging secret tunnels right underneath your well defined boundaries, without you knowing it is happening. Personal experience is the only way to know this kind of devastation.

      3. In our extended family we have a psychopath who presents as a narcissist. This person would never murder anyone else but instead instigated the murder of his best friend by continually taunting another friend to carry out the killing. And he got away with it. He often goads his 2 cousins into stabbing each other all the while laughing and acting as if it is huge fun and nothing to do with him. Your statement about a cult leader is so true. I have just been through a very dangerous time with a man who comes across as a narcissist ie totally absorbed with himself and showing great malice towards anyone he perceived as rejecting him or his ideas. But there is a great deal more going on in this being to such an extent that I am obliged to bypass “psychopath” and use the term “possessed”.

  3. Hi Kim. I love your point, above, that – “Narcissist” or “Psychopath” – the ways to defend yourself in a relationship context can often look the same. The boundary-setting actions you set out in Back From the Looking Glass are life-changing, and they don’t call upon the other person to be on board at all. Whether our partner is capable of empathy or not at that stage is not relevant to our own actions. One of the most compelling things about your programs is that by the time we are taking all the required steps, a partner who IS capable of empathy is likely to be behaving better, feeling themselves to be more secure, as we claim our positive strength. They may even find themselves able to trust enough to start to release all the false pride that keeps them imprisoned. AND taking those same steps will also put us in the best position to have the strength and wisdom – and practical know-how – to get ourselves out and safe, if that is ultimately what is needed. I think in some ways, as well as providing a way through the nightmarish relationship situation, your strategy also provides a litmus test for what is really happening with our partner. We crave labels because we want the certainty about what we are dealing with, but sometimes, we just need to turn to ourselves and our own action to create that certainty. What are your thoughts?

    1. Thanks for expressing my exact point so clearly Dallas, I get upset when I see so many articles these days titled things like “How to spot a predator”. The truth is that by their very nature true predators are nearly impossible to spot. Their whole purpose in life is to hide in just the perfect place to catch their prey unawares. If we want to survive in this life we can only look at our own behaviour and make sure we are well protected and not open to exploitation or harm. Just as we wouldn’t walk the streets at night in a bad part of town – we also must be savvy at protecting ourselves closer to home.

      On the other hand I get upset when I see the total lack of compassion in society for men. Society does nothing to prepare them for fatherhood or to live a stable meaningful life. Instead they are targeted from day 1 as consumers or workers to exploit. This happens to woman as well but not nearly to the same degree. Women are still allowed many interests that are not 100% based around consumption or labor. All men are encouraged to care about is womanising, booze, guns, sport, their house, their car and their job. Then when our husbands fall down in their role as husbands and fathers (which is hardly surprising under the circumstances) the lynch mob enters the picture labelling them as insane and demanding we cut them loose to continue in these same consumer based pursuits. In my case I said no – in his heart I know that is not what Steve really wants. I am going to stand up for myself sure, but I am not going to let society tell me I must tear my family apart. All of society tells men (and many women now too) that their bliss and rewards in life will come to them outside their family. Our work shows people how to turn that conditioning around.

  4. Had I continued to accept the current press on Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I would not be experiencing incredible improvement in my relationship of 25 years with a narcissistic man. In the past, our marriage was fraught with anger, control, manipulation and brain-twisting verbal abuse. My health had declined and I felt like my head was trapped in a vice.
    When it was suggested to me that my husband had this disorder, I studied everything I could get my hands on, including viewing many videos by Sam Vaknin. I was left with tremendous fear and hopelessness and concluded that these were basically soulless, evil-intentioned people.
    But then I ran onto a couple books suggesting that narcissists aren’t inherently depraved and that tremendous work can be done by the partner to protect themselves, to draw nonnegotiable boundaries against abusive behavior and to take other steps to stabilize and sweeten the relationship.
    Kim Cooper presents the most comprehensive body of work offering hope that I’ve discovered and even though she doesn’t have a mental health degree, her relentless research and personal experience make her uniquely qualified to speak on the subject in my opinion. I’ve learned that my own co-dependence doesn’t make me solely responsible for the problems, but it has kept me trapped in a victim position and the more confident I become, the less turmoil we have. Vilifying the narcissist isn’t the solution, but empowering the partner can be.

  5. Here’s my short summary of the distinction between a psychopath and a narcissist:
    A narcissist grooms selected mirrors while a psychopath grooms selected tools.

  6. Dear Kim,
    I was sent your site info from a very dear, intuitive, concerned friend and. Colleague, Dr. Susan P. I have been reading your site for the last 24 hours. Taking notes as I go.
    I have been involved in a relationship with a man, who lives with me, as a promise of marriage,initially, for the passed three years. He has gone from loving and considerate to sneaky, manipulative, controlling, verbally and , on occasion, physically abusive. He is angry, fearful, resentful, selfish and inconsiderate. I have always treated him, as a husband, since the beginning. He takes continually and gives very little. Everyday is a fearful waiting game, as to what mood will he be in today. What abuse will he spew next? Wants to ruin everyone else’s joy, if possible , because he is so unhappy with himself.
    All this being said, we had a undeniable intense chemistry from the first moment! Everyone saw it. We have some many interests in common. Dancing, working out, golf, cooking/grilling, .. However, as a control mechanism, there is no romance or physical relationship since he decided that I did not make enough money and I had too much stuff in my house. Small home, that I am grateful for, and very little closet space.. I have struggled, financially, for years. Widowed young, with a daughter I raised alone. I went back to school to make a better life for her and myself.. I have supported her through college ( she just graduated last weekend!! With a four month old baby boy!!) I’m so proud of myself and her, but have not been able to find the funding to open my own practice.. And Randy has put me down for years about that.
    I have always tried to be very supportive of him but he does not reciprocate. I fear that I may now have some serious medical issues due to a very toxic, negative emotional life with him.
    I love him and we were great together in the very beginning! The passion was incredible! He’s in pain, emotionally and extremely bitter and angry at the world. He agitates everyone around us. He drinks too much on days off. I hope to get our love and joy back ASAP!
    Please help us.
    God bless,
    Donna P
    Help us, please.
    Everyone has told me to run for my life! Yours is the first advice that I have ever gotten that said that we could fix this mess and hope to make it better than ever.

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