Great Villains Part Two

The Charming Psychopath

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The Many Faces of Tom Ripley

In the 1999 Anthony Mingella film The Talented Mr. Ripley, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Marge (much frumpier in the book) knows something’s up with her missing boyfriend, Dickie Greenleaf’s weird friend Tom Ripley. But her Cassandra like prophesies are pooh-poohed as (hormonal) women’s intuition, but she knows. She knows!

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Don’t be fooled by that boyish grin.

While the Covert Narcissist must depend on the kindness of codependents (like a vulture circling wounded prey), the Charming Psychopath’s hunting grounds are much higher on the food chain, and therefore he must be in top form. Like an Olympic athlete training for the event, he prepares his body, tastes, voice, and mannerisms to blend in, ingratiate, and win at all costs. His weapons are flattery, acquiescence, sympathy and understanding. He is an expert at infiltrating, blending in, acting the part of the supportive friend, and then suddenly you realize (too late!) that you’ve let a shark in the pool. Continue reading “Great Villains Part Two”

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Great Villains Part One

The Covert Narcissist

When your knight in shining armor slowly changes into an Orc (you never saw it coming) you may be dealing with a covert narcissist. We can all see those bombastic braggadocios of the classic narcissist blaring their horns from a mile away, but the subtle ones who appear so shy, so harmless, so needy…Ah! Beware those sneaky bastards.

They inflict abuse by establishing a honeymoon period of  love bombing, mirroring back your every wish and desire—at last someone sees the real you and gives you the validation you crave—followed by a slow period of devaluation: withdrawal of affection, radio silence on your accomplishments, poison darts of thinly veiled hostility, silent but deadly farts of disapproval. You become crazy and they become stronger, their narcissistic supply tanks filled while you are left drained and confused. If you have the misfortune of having one of these in your life, the best recourse is to run as far away as possible. The problem is that by the time (sometimes years, even decades) you’ve realized you’ve been slowly cooked over a rotating spit of negativity, they’ve infiltrated your friend group and perhaps your bank accounts and you’ve been drained of all your juice. But as long as you’re able to get away and recharge, there is hope.

There are many examples of the gaslighting psychopath in film and literature. Here’s one of my favorites (whoever made this video is a genius by the way):

Charles Boyer is portrayed as a more overt villain in the classic Gaslight, even if poor Ingrid Bergman is the last one to know.

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Darling, you’re losing your mind.

Continue reading “Great Villains Part One”

Deadly Masculinity

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Foreshadowing sight gag.

Ira Levin’s Twisted Male Villains

Soon after they are settled in Stepford, the novel’s protagonist, young mother Joanna Eberhart, awakes to her husband Walter masturbating in the bed next to her. He had just been initiated into the town’s “men’s association” and something he learned there that night excited him greatly–something he doesn’t share with his wife until she demands he include her, which he does reluctantly. It’s implied that his fantasy is much more titillating than his living, breathing wife who has her own needs. In the movie version, she finds him drinking in the den–shaken by the intelligence, on the verge of confiding with her, but something holds him back–the loyalty of men to themselves and to each other, a bond on which the very foundation of our world is based, not to mention armies and lucrative sports franchises. Not a bad thing, per se, but in Ira levin’s 1972 novel The Stepford Wives, it forms the basis of a deliciously diabolical plot, and plots are what Levin does best–Stephen King described him as “the Swiss watchmaker of suspense novels”, and every fiction writer should study him closely for not only his flawless structures, but for his clues about character, and archetypal truths. The masturbation scene was changed in the movie version for obvious reasons, but it keenly illustrates the key to Levin’s male villains: narcissists who selfishly and relentlessly pursue their own agendas as their clueless female victims suffer the consequences. Continue reading “Deadly Masculinity”

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