Fatal Attraction: A Case Study
Case Study of the film Fatal Attraction
Fatal Attraction is a hit 1987 psychological thriller. Fatal Attraction is a movie about a man and woman that have a weekend affair. The woman, Alex Forrester, proceeds to self-harm, stalk, and obsess after the affair ends. Alex is truly terrifying. It is apparent Alex suffers from mental illness, but which one? In research it is suggested that Alex Forrester suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder (Sansone and Sansone, 2010) or De Clérambault's Syndrome, also known as Erotomania (Miller, 2013).
Borderline Personality Disorder is defined as a mental health disorder that causes extreme emotional instability and may be impulsive, have varying mood swings, suicidal behavior, and have antagonistic behavior (Mayo Clinic, 2012). De Clérambault's Syndrome is a disorder in which a person believes another is in love with them, most frequently this is with someone of a higher social status. Alex Forrester initially physically hits Dan Gallagher when he attempts to leave her home after their weekend affair. She very quickly went from gentle and even seductive in asking him to stay to extreme anger and aggressiveness. Dan finishes gathering his things and says goodbye, Alex comes to kiss him goodbye and it is realized she has cut her wrists. This five minutes in the movie shows three symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder. Those are intense, incontrollable anger, suicidal behavior, and an extreme reaction to abandonment (NIMH).
As Dan continuously rejects Alex she becomes increasingly obsessive. She stalks him. This includes randomly showing up at his workplace, non-stop calling his home and workplace, she watches him outside his home, pretends to be a buyer for his apartment and befriends his wife. She increasingly gets more erratic. She kidnaps his child, kills and boils his daughter’s pet rabbit, throws acid on his car, and at the end of the movie breaks into his home and attacks his wife. Some of this continues on the path of Borderline Personality Disorder and a few things do not. This is where De Clérambault's Syndrome presents itself. In the pursuit of the love interest repeated rejection often leads to escalated acts of intrusiveness and retaliation (Goldstein and Laskin, 2002).
The stalking does coincide with the disorder. According to Sansone and Sansone, the intense feelings of attachment associated with Borderline Personality Disorder it is commonly suggested among stalkers (2010). As Alex moves more into aggressive and harmful behavior towards others the diagnosis sways away from Borderline Personality Disorder. In all of my reading on Borderline Personality Disorder the sufferers are more self-destructive than harmful to others. There is more suicidal behaviors and the antagonistic or inappropriate anger that sometimes escalates to physical altercations (Mayo Clinic, 2012).
Fatal Attraction concludes with Alex Forrester with a knife threatening and attacking Dan’s wife Beth. According to Glenn Close, actress that portrays Alex Forrester, “most people with mental illness are not violent (Miller, 2013). Did the Fatal Attraction writers, director, producers have a specific illness in mind during filming, if so, was it sensationalized for ratings? Glenn Close says in discussing her character with psychiatrists a mental disorder did not come up (Miller, 2013). We may never know if Alex Forrester suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder or De Clérambault's Syndrome. What we do know is that Fatal Attraction both helped and hurt those with mental illness. Fatal Attraction hurt those with mental illnesses by playing into stereotypes and sensationalizing the character. In doing this, Fatal Attraction brought a well-known actress to the forefront in fighting such stereotypes. Glenn Close founded Bring Change 2 Mind, an anti-stigma campaign that is fighting to end the...
References: Dearden, J. (Writer), Lyne, A. (Director). (1987). Fatal Attraction [Motion Picture].
Goldstein, R., & Laskin, A. (2002, July). De Clerambault 's Syndrome (Erotomania) and claims of psychiatric malpractice. Retrieved from http://biopsychiatry.com/erotomania.htm
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2012, August 7). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20023204
Miller, T. (2013, June 4). New York Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/glenn-close-fatal-attraction-role-played-stigma-mental-illness-article-1.1362907
National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/index.shtml#part1
Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2012, May). US National Library of Health. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2882283/
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