§ Patrick Bateman
Wikipedia: Fictional Portrayals of Psychopaths
Psychopaths in popular fiction and movies generally possess a number of standard characteristics which are not necessarily as common among real-life psychopaths. The traditional "Hollywood psychopath" is likely to exhibit some or all of the following traits which make them ideal villians.
§ High intelligence, and a preference for intellectual stimulation (music, fine art etc.)
§ A somewhat vain, stylish, almost "cat-like" demeanor
§ Prestige, or a successful career or position
§ A calm, calculating and always-in-control attitude
§ Unrealistically exceptional skill at killing people, especially with blades or household objects; said skill can sometimes overpower multiple assailants with superior armament.
These traits, especially in unison, may not be present in real psychopaths/sociopaths.
Portrayals in Film
Psychopathy in film is often portrayed in haphazard or exaggerated fashions to enhance the dramatic properties of a character or characters to render them memorable. Typically, a psychopathic character in a film is often designated in the role of a villian, where the general characteristics of a psychopath—lack of empathy, remorse, and oftentimes impulse control—are useful to facilitate conflict and danger, usually involving death and destruction on varying scales. Because the definitions and criteria for psychopathy have varied over the years and continue to change even now, many characters in many notable films may have been designed to fall under the category of a psychopath at the time of the film's production or release, but may have changed in subsequent years.
Early representations of psychopaths in film were often designed with a poor or incomplete understanding of a psychopathic personality: they were often caricatured as sadistic, unpredictable, sexually depraved, and emotionally unstable (manic) characters with a compulsion to engage in random violence and destruction, usually with a series of bizarre mannerisms such as giggling, laughing, or facial tics. The public's overall unfamiliarity with mental illness or psychological disorders made this depiction acceptable and even perceived as "realistic" at the time of release. Up until the late 1950s, American cinematic conventions usually relegated the psychopath to roles of genre villains such as gangsters, mad scientists, supervillians, and many types of generic criminals. Even homosexuality was displayed as a type of psychopathic behavior in films such as They Only Kill Their Masters (1972) prior to the removal of homosexuality from the DSM in 1973.
Famous examples of psychopaths of this type are Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark) in Kiss of Death, Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) in White Heat, and Antonio 'Tony' Camonte (Paul Muni) in the 1932 version of Scarface. One rare exception to this depiction during this period is the character of child murderer Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) in the 1931 Fritz Lang film M. Lorre portrays Beckert as an outwardly unremarkable man tormented by a compulsion to ritualistically murder children, a substantially more realistic depiction of what would eventually be known as a serial killer.
With the 1957 arrest of Ed Gein in Plainfield, Wisconsin, and the national attention it received, the portrayal of a psychopath in film changed and found itself rerouted into an almost entirely separate and exclusive genre of film: horror. The exploits and details of the Ed Gein case — including grave robbing, cannibalism and necrophilia — became a broad template for the characteristics and activities of what was considered to be psychopathic behavior. Two notable divergences in the typical portrayal of the psychopath emerged: the socially functional misfit with a (usually) sexually-motivated compulsion to kill, and later the violent, chaotic mass murderer with idiosyncratic behaviors and appearances. Characters such as Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) in Michael Powell's Peeping Tom and most famously Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho are examples of the former; characters such as Leatherface of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Jason Voorhees of the Friday the 13th film series are examples of the latter.
The exploits of many real-life psychopaths and serial killers during the 1960s and 1970s led to the increasing amount of information concerning the behaviors of psychopaths with ritualistic methods of murder into the public knowledge. Motion pictures began to incorporate the graphic and widely misunderstood practices of these behaviors into sensationalistic theme films that eventually became known as slasher films. Bearing a strong resemblance to the Grand Guignol theater of Europe, slasher films consisted of a recurring idiosyncratic villain with a signature modus operandi, weapon, and in particular, visual appearance — most often a distinctive mask — in a story involving the sequential slaughter of many innocent adolescents in a number of spectacular and grotesque fashions. The advent of latex prosthetic appliances in special effects makeup allowed for more graphic on-screen kills in a single shot rather than separate shots cut together, adding to the spectacle-driven allure of the films. While many films that can be characterized as prototypical slasher films originally began as stand-alone films commenting on the nature of morality and human nature (The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes), the slasher film subgenre came to dominate the tone and design of the psychopathic model for decades, mostly due to the sensationalistic aspects of the films and the extreme marketability of the villains with iconic and trademarked costumes and masks.
While the psychopath remained a staple of many other traditional genres of film, the more sensationalistic aspects of the past were toned down or abandoned entirely to avoid association with slasher films, and the popularity of the psychopathic character waned in favor of characters who often represented the "banality of evil," to mirror the cultural events of the 1970s. For a duration, psychopathic models were typically restricted to crime films, psychological thrillers and erotic thrillers.
The arrests and popularity of notorious serial killers John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Ted Bundy and the eventual formation of the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) in 1985 led to an additional increase in the way psychopathy was both perceived and portrayed in film. An increasing interest in realistic depictions of psychopaths led to the formation of a new hybrid of traditional psychopaths from early film and late-19th Century literature with the high-functioning behaviors detected in psychopaths such as Bundy and Dahmer, leading to the popularity of the "elite psychopath", or a psychopath exhibiting exaggerated levels of intelligence, sophisticated manners, and cunning, sometimes to superhuman levels.
Perhaps the most famous example of this type of psychopath is that of the cannibalistic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter, as portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in the acclaimed, Academy Award-winning 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs. As portrayed by Hopkins, Lecter is an exceptionally intelligent sophisticate and socialite, whose disarming charisma, erudition, civility, and wit disguise his true nature as a psychopath who murders people and makes gourmet cuisine out of their flesh. He spends the duration of Silence in a prison cell, taunting protagonist Clarice Starling with clues to the identity of another serial killer, "Buffalo Bill" (modeled in part after Ed Gein) in exchange for intimate details of Starling's troubled childhood. The film was a massive success and cultural sensation, and the juxtaposition of Lecter's sophistication with his animal savagery during his escape served as the template for the "elite psychopath," a learned, well-spoken and intelligent predator who derives pleasure by torturing his victims through chase, hunt, or elaborate battles of wits. Like the slasher genre, the "elite psychopath" became a very lucrative and easily replicated template, leading to an increase of psychological thrillers and dramas revolving around them for some time.
Variations on the non-manic psychopath began to emerge from the same sources in different genres with varying levels of success. Frequently, the success of a particular model of psychopath depends on the skill or iconic qualities of the actor portraying them in a particular film. The variations of "elite psychopath" have become less mannered and more subdued over time, leading to characterizations that are more clinical and motivated by lack of empathy and occupational requirements rather than abundance of dysfunctional behaviors. Notable examples of the "elite psychopath" variations:
§ Tommy DeVito and "Nicky" Santoro (Joe Pesci) in Martin Scorsese's films GoodFellas and Casino respectively.
§ Bridget Gregory/Wendy Kroy (Linda Fiorentino) in The Last Seduction; a femme fatale who sexually manipulates men for her own purposes.
§ Charles Bushman (J. T. Walsh) in Sling Blade; a mental patient who brags about kidnapping and murdering women.
§ Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) of The Vanishing; a mild-mannered chemistry teacher and family man who buries a woman alive to see if he is capable of "the ultimate evil".
§ John Doe (Kevin Spacy) in David Fincher's Se7en; a religious fanatic who murders people according to the Seven Deadly Sins.
§ Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Geller) in Cruel Intentions; a socialite who exploits sexually naïve people for her own amusement.
§ Neil MacCauley (Robert DeNiro) in Michael Mann's Heat; a professional thief with no personal attachments and a penchant for violence.
§ Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) in Quentin Tarantino's 1992 film Reservoir Dogs; a career criminal who murders a room full of people with casual disregard.
§ Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormarc) in Fargo; a taciturn thug who speaks little and kills reflexively.
§ Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) in Antoine Fuqua's Training Day; a corrupt detective who believes he is above the law.
§ Vincent (Tom Cruise) in Michael Mann's Collateral; a professional killer with no compunctions about killing anyone.
§ Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis of Paul Thomas Anderon's There Will Be Blood; a paranoid oilman with a pathological ambition and seething hatred of people.
§ Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) in No Country for Old Men; a hitman who kills virtually everyone he encounters and flips a coin to decide the fate of some of his victims.
§ Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds; a jovial SS officer who visibly delights in toying with and killing people.
§ Similarly, the titular characters were shown to be visually delighted in killing people.
§ Eddie Biasi (Stanley Tucci) in It Could Happen To You; an out-of-work actor with a slick tongue and ability to lie easily who maxes out his wife's credit cards. When she wins the lottery, he returns to manipulate her into giving him more money.
§ Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, a ruthless and manipulative businessman who seeks to destroy piracy no matter the cost, even going as far as to publicly condemning to the gallows hundreds of people (even children) in order to awaken the hatred of the pirates to generate war.
§ Peter Creedy (Tim Pigott-Smith) in V for Vendetta, a cold blooded, power-hungry politician who has no qualms about releasing a viral epidemic on his own country in order to usher in a dictatorship.
Remnants of the manic, uninhibitedly impulsive psychopath still remain in film, although the model varies depending on the intention of the filmmaker and the requirements of the project. Some of the manic psychopath tropes remain consistent with real-life examples of serial killers (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Kalifornia) while others tend to be intentionally unrealistic and sensationalized for satirical or comical effect (Natural Born Killers). A moderate balance of all familiar models of psychopathy has been found in recent years in cinema with psychopaths occupying roles in films about characters who are products of harsh environments, post-traumatic stress disorder, or personal ambition and cultural influence. Oftentimes the films will emphasize the nature of dissociative properties of the local or national culture and its influence on the dissociative, narcissistic, and remorseless selfishness of the characters.
§ Patrick Bateman
§ Patrick Bateman
Portrayals in Literatures
§ The Japanese novel Battle Royale features a character named Kazuo Kiriyama who appears to suffer from a form of Pseudopsychopathic Personality Disorder - psychopathic tendencies due to physical brain trauma.
§ Dan Wells' young adult novels that feature protagonist John Wayne Cleaver (I Am Not a Serial Killer and Mr. Monster), a clinically diagnosed sociopath who has created for himself a rigid set of rules designed to deny his violent impulses. He is nevertheless subject to strong homicidal urges which become harder to control as he becomes more and more involved in a serial homicide case.
§ Alex from Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange shows many of the psychopathic tendencies shown above — sadism, delusions of grandeur, and a total disregard for the rights of others.
§ The main character in the Japanese manga Death Note, Light Yagami, develops psychopathic tendencies through his use of the Death Note, becoming the mass murderer Kira, with the goal of eliminating criminals. Over the course of the series he becomes more and more evil until he loses sight of his original goal and becomes obsessed with becoming a "god". The series' spin-off novel,Death Note Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases, also includes a character, BB, or Beyond Birthday, who is presumed to be a psychopath.
§ Cathy Ames from John Steinbeck's East of Eden is literally described as possessing a "malformed soul", pathologically incapable of feeling anything for anyone, even her own children. She swindles and manipulates virtually everyone she comes in contact with, and as a young girl murders her own parents.
§ Lord Voldemort from JK Rowling's Harry Potter series exhibits many of the traits associated with psychopathy, including aggressive narcissism, a sense of entitlement, exceptional intelligence, manipulative behaviour and a complete contempt and lack of regard for others. Rowling herself has described Voldemort as "a raging psychopath".
§ Patricia Highsmith's recurring character Tom Ripley — a thief, con artist and occasional murderer — is portrayed as devoid of conscience — in The Boy Who Followed Ripley he admits that he has never been seriously troubled by guilt — and capable of cold-blooded violence (he beats most of his victims to death). He has typically been regarded as "cultivated," and an "agreeable and urbane psychopath."
§ In Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, Assef is a clear psychopath. This is not, of course, due to his endorsement of Nazism and later the Taliban, but rather due to an ability to remain superficially charming in spite of relentlessly bullying other children.
§ The character Patrick Hockstetter from Stephen King's It is described as a psychopath. He displays sadistic behavior towards animals by trapping them in a refrigerator and watching them starve to death. He also kills his infant brother, Avery. Many of King's other villains fit the criteria of psychopathy, most notably Annie Wilkes from Misery and Randall Flagg from The Stand and the The Dark Tower series.
§ Several of William Shakespeare's villains display psychopathic traits. Examples include Iago in Othello; Richard III; Edmund in King Lear; and Aaron the Moor in Titus Andronicus.
§ Taylor Caldwell's novel, Wicked Angel, is the story of a young boy named Angelo Saint (the fanciful name is the choice of his mother, who spoils him shamelessly). The story begins when the handsome, charming, and almost unnaturally intelligent "Angel" is four, and follows his malevolent career as his childish rages evolve into calculated attempts to eliminate anyone who opposes his goal to be the center of everyone's world. His desperate father, who knows something is wrong but isn't sure what, is told by a psychiatrist friend that Angel is a "textbook psychopath".
Due to the general portrayal of vigilantes as outlaws, many comic book vigilantes are portrayed as psychopaths despite the fact that they fight crime and are supposed to be heroic by default. Such characters are sometimes depicted as hostile to a judicial system in which the guilty often go unpunished. As a result they will typically style themselves as judge, jury, and executioner. Marvel Comic's Punisher and Foolkiller are two examples of vigilantes who remorselessly kill criminals as well as others whom they view as guilty. Rorschach and The Comedian from DC Comic's Watchmen are two examples of characters who are by default, crimefighters but act above the law and commit acts that may be unsympathetic. Psychopathic vigilantes are often described as being extremist in their views or ideologies, in part based on their own interpretation of right and wrong rather than a lack of ethics or morality. Examples of this could be the DC comics characters Jason Tood and Nite-wing.
Portrayals in Video Games
With the increased popularity of video games in mainstream culture, and the heightened production quality within the video game industry, many video game plot lines have incorporated psychopathic characters, most often to create antagonists (sometimes even protagonists) that are interesting and powerful enough to direct the story. Traits that highlight the "perfect" villain, such as intelligence, overt sadism, and a calm demeanor — especially under pressure or in harrowing conditions — are frequently employed in character design, although such a collection of characteristics in one individual may not be present in real psychopaths/sociopaths. Notable video game characters who display obvious or some psychopathic traits are:
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
In the fourth game of the Ace Attorney series, the primary villain (highlighted in the first and last cases, but having subtle influence throughout the game) is Kristoph Gavin, a former defense attorney and later convicted murderer whose outward charm, calm, and skill with manipulation (as well as his somewhat hedonistic behavior, such as his admission of enjoying manicures and having his prison cell filled with items for his own comfort) lead to him orchestrating the disbarment of a fellow defense attorney (his primary motivation seeming to be jealousy), manipulating a prosecutor (who is also his younger brother) without remorse, and even the attempted murder of a child with severe social/anxiety issues (after first gaining her trust). He is unusual in the series because whereas many villains that appear in the games are cartoonishly over the top and hard to view as true psychopaths (although Manfred von Karma of the first game comes close), he is played completely straight and mostly to invoke fear in the player.
In Dead Rising the Boss characters are called "Psychopaths" for their traits. From Carlito Keyes, who was a terrorist who caused the zombie outbreak, to Adam the Clown, a Clown who went insane after seeing his audience devoured by the undead.
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
Adam "Kane" Marcus and James Seth Lynch (Kane & Lynch: Dead Men) are both convicted killers on death row who escape from prison. Although both Kane and Lynch display psychopathic traits, such as disproportionate aggression and remorselessness, Kane shows actual affection and concern for his wife and daughter, while Lynch's psychopathy seems to be linked with psychosis.
§ Liquid Snake (Metal Gear series), Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid), Solid Snake (Metal Gear series) Yevgeny Borisovitch Volgin (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater), Ocelot (Metal Gear series), and Hot Coldman (Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker).
§ Albert Wesker (Resident Evil franchise) exhibits clear psychopathic characteristics, including a highly cunning intelligence, a pathological ego, lack of remorse for harming others, and manipulative tendencies.
Other villains with psychopathic traits include:
§ Professor Hojo (Final Fantasy VII)
§ Leo Kasper (Manhunt 2)
§ Kefka (Final Fantasy VI)
§ Kuja (Final Fantasy IX)
§ Dimitri Rascalov (Grand Theft Auto 4)
§ Sephiroth (Final Fantasy)
§ Dutch Van Der Linde in Red Dead Redemption displays clear and realistic psychopathic tendencies such as extreme aggression, quick to betray those around them to suit his own needs as well as killing without reason or remorse and disregard for the safety of the people around him.
§ Xehanort (Kingdom Hearts)
Portrayals in Television
In American television, the three most prominent series that feature a lead character with psychopathic tendencies are the Showtime original series Dexter, the short-lived Fox series Profit and the anime series Death Note.
§ In British television, Edmund Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) in the Blackadder television series displays several signs of psychopathy, including grandiosity, a total lack of concern for others, and willingness to lie, cheat, and steal to get what he wants.
§ In the anime/manga Death Note, main character Light Yagami develops a severe God complex when he discovers a notebook that kills people whenever he writes their name in it, and grows steadily more psychopathic in his quest to create a perfect world over which he intends to rule as God while evading authorities.
§ In the Showtime original series Dexter, the eponymous protagonist Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is the police department's forensic blood spatter analyst protagonist who moonlights as a serial killer. He lives by a special code of ethics, Code, given to him by his foster father Harry Morgan (Jame Remar), according to which he only kills other murderers. In the novels and the TV series based upon it, Dexter makes frequent reference to his internal feelings of emptiness and total lack of conscience or empathy, although he does admit feeling a sense of responsibility toward the people in his life. However given his past together with his symptoms, Dexter is portrayed more along the lines of a sociopath than a psycopath.
§ In the long-running British science-fiction series Doctor Who, The Master, the archenemy of the Doctor, is shown to display obvious signs of psychopathy, including personal charm, a sadistic delight in killing, manipulative behaviour, a total lack of conscience and pathological narcissism. Former head writer Russell T. Davies has also described the Master as a "sociopath and a psychopath".
§ In teen drama Gossip Girl, Blake Lively character Serena van der Woodsen becomes a target of her former friend Georgina Sparks, a scheming and manipulative sociopath; throughout the first, second and third season, she wreaks havoc on the Upper East Side.
§ In NBC's series Heroes the recurring villain Sylar displays clear signs of psychopathy and is frequently described as such by the characters, although his symptoms and past suggest he may in fact be a sociopath.
§ In House episode "Remorse",Beau Garrett plays Valerie, a psychopathic patient who turns out to have Wilson's disease, and is cured of psychopathy, as it is a symptom of an underlying condition that first started showing signs at puberty.
§ The Mentalist's main antagonist is Red John, a serial killer. He is also known for leaving a 'smiley' made with blood on the victims walls, drawing a parallel to the Zodiac Killer's cross-circle signature.
§ Michelle Ryan plays a sociopathic version of Nimue in the BBC's adaptation of Merlin.
§ Sherlock Holmes in the BBC's drama Sherlock is portrayed as a "high functioning sociopath" who takes delight in murders and other crimes, although he channels that energy into solving such crimes rather committing.
In the teen drama "90210 Naomi Clark's sister Jen, appears on Beverly Hills to wreak havoc on her sister's life, exhibiting clear symtoms of psychopathy. Jen is described as a compulsive liar and a completely amoral socialite, who has slept with two (at least) of her sister's boyfriends/love interests to hurt her, and attempts to rob her of her newly obtained trust-fund money to compensate for having wasted her own. Throughout the 1st, 2nd and 3rd season she comits a number of evil actions to several characters who become her targets for one reason or the other.
§ In its final three seasons, HBO's The Wire chronicled the rise of psychopathic criminal kingpin Marlo Stanfield (Jamie Hector) who terrorizes the drug culture of a fictionalized Baltimore. A number of Stanfield's entourage also exhibit signs of psychopathy, specifically, Chris Partlow and Snoop Pearson. While not violent, it is somewhat implied that drug lawyer, Maurice Levy is probably a psychopath as he shamelessly breaks the law to defend his clients, including advising murders of civilian witnesses.
§ In Breaking Bad, the character Tuco Salamanca is an extremely violent drug lord who frequently uses his own supply of crystal meth and exhibits psychopathic behavior.
The Shield's Vic Mackey is a corrupt, psychopathic cop who lies flawlessly, commits brutal (but mostly justified) murders, and lives for the thrill of pushing law enforcement to its limits, and past. However, like Showtime's Dexter, Vic does have his own set of strict principles and ethics.
Portrayls in Miscellaneous animation
Murdoc Niccals, bassist of the fictional band Gorillaz, expresses many archetypal psychopathic behaviors: such as drug abuse, exploiting and manipulating others, aggression, egocentrism, no sense of remorse or shame, exhibitionism and a complete lack of empathy. Though he's never been specifically referred to as a psychopath, he is heavily and repeatedly implied to be one.