Jan 12

“The End of the F***ing World”: In 8 Brief Episodes

The End of the F***ing World Isn’t Nearly As Bleak As It Looks. Jen Chaney, Vulture

Well, without the italics, it probably would be as bleak as it looks. But with italics it’s just a great Netflix series that caught my attention via a review headline.

The End of the F***ing World turns out to be a very binge-able eight episodes, of 20-ish minutes each, about bonded misfit teens James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Darden).

So, what’s their deal? As you read the following series intro from Rob Lowman (Los Angeles Daily News), keep Sophie Gilbert‘s words (The Atlantic) in mind: it’s “a surprising tour de force, mashing up the pitch-black humor of British alternative comedies with the visual punch of an auteur-driven indie film.” Pitch-black humor, of course, is not for everyone’s tastes.

James and Alyssa are your average 17 year-olds, except James really wants to kill someone and Alyssa is about to blow at any moment.
When they meet, Alyssa, who is struggling with manic depression, says this about James, ‘I’m not saying he’s the answer, but he’s something.’ James sees her as somebody who would be ‘interesting to kill,’ so he pretends to be into her.

James, you see, thinks he may be a psychopath—and has valid reasons to think so that he’ll illustrate for you in quite brief but stomach-churning scenes.

Sonia Saraiya, Variety, notes additionally that both James and Alyssa are “full of fury: At their parents; at their stupid small town; at the other idiots in their school.”

Watch the (warning: NSFW) trailer for The End of the F***ing World:

If still intrigued, read more from Daniel Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter, about where and how this all goes:

The End swings wildly between deadpan hilarious, shockingly violent and a sweetness that’s occasionally just as shocking. It’s not a tone that will hit with every viewer, but you’ll know pretty quickly how much you’re able to forgive, much less embrace, and then The End keeps pushing into murkier and murkier complications. Nothing in the narrative is all that surprising. What’s satisfying is how even the outlandishness is grounded in the two main characters and defended through extensive and candid internal monologues that serve as counterpoint to the characters’ halting getting-to-know-you conversations.

Kevin Fallon, The Daily Beast: “For all their coldness and cynicism, both clearly just want to feel and to experience. There’s a sort of blanket sadness and compassion surrounding both characters, which is an interesting antidote to their saltiness and reckless behavior.”

Importantly, we do learn more about each teen’s upbringing and how they came to be where they are. Saraiya: “…(W)hat emerges is a portrait of two characters who find in each other a refuge from an uncaring and often cruel world. Our teenagers can be violent, but as the show makes clear, violence has also been heaped upon them…”

Do you think you now get the gist of this series? If not, you’re not alone. “The best thing about ‘The End of the F***ing World’ is that it’s hard to describe,” notes Saraiya. “It’s funny, and it’s sweet; it’s violent, and it’s romantic. Its leads are both reprehensible and totally sympathetic; both scared kids and responsible adults.”

In addition to garnering much enthusiasm from viewers, including an 8.5 on IMDB, The End also has a phenomenal retro soundtrack featuring songs from a wide variety of genres.

Wanna know how it all winds up for James and Alyssa? Just look at the title, says Jen Chaney in the aforementioned Vulture review. “[It] tells us pretty clearly,” she states, “that this show won’t have a happy ending. But even in its tragic moments, there are still glimmers of loveliness in The End of the F***ing World. You just have to be patient, and watch closely, to fully see them.”

Jul 25

Donald Trump’s Mental Health: Seriously Considering It

Decreasingly a laughing matter, Donald Trump‘s mental health is increasingly being questioned. Even Trump himself is fantasized by the satirical Onion as admitting to his own “severe psychological issues.” His symptoms, Trump fictitiously says, include “delusions of inflated worth, power, knowledge, and identity,” “a severe persecution complex,” and a slew of “comorbid conditions,” e.g., narcissism, “certain elements of paranoid schizophrenia,” and psychopathy.

The for-real press, however, have seemed at somewhat of a loss regarding how to dissect Trump’s state of mind. While some mental health professionals have been willing to go out on a media limb and peg him as an extreme case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, for example, many others have taken the common ethical and legal route of stating that it’s not actually possible to analyze and diagnose without a direct relationship with the “patient.”

Psychologist Dan McAdams, in fact, recently told Maggie Koerth-Baker, fivethirtyeight.com, that “mental health is still health, and labeling Trump from afar would be no different than diagnosing President Obama with leukemia, sight unseen.”

What’s more, McAdams said, the basis of diagnosing a mental health disorder is that the person feels disordered…And it’s hard to make a case for that being true of somebody successfully running for president of the United States. ‘Whether you like him or not, he seems to function,’ McAdam said.

Similarly, Allen J. Frances, MD (Psychology Today), who has significant experience diagnosing personality disorders, disagrees with the tendency to pin such labels on Donald Trump’s mental health (mea culpa!)—but that doesn’t mean he fails to see big (YUGE!) problems:

Personality Disorder requires that the individual’s personality characteristics cause clinically significant distress or impairment. Trump’s behavior causes a great deal of significant distress and impairment in others, but he seems singularly unperturbed and his obnoxiousness has been richly rewarded, not a source of impairment.

This does not make Trump fit to be president, not by any means. He must be by far the least suitable person ever to run for high office in the US– completely disqualified by habitual dishonesty, bullying bravado, bloviating ignorance, blustery braggadocio, angry vengefulness, petty pique, impulsive unpredictability, tyrannical temper, fiscal irresponsibility, imperial ambitions, constitutional indifference, racism, sexism, minority hatred, divisiveness etc. We could go on a lot longer, but you get the idea.

Furthermore, one of the negative consequences of mislabeling Trump, states Frances, is that it “unfairly stigmatizes the mentally ill. Most people with mental illness are nice, polite, well mannered, well meaning, decent people. They suffer, but don’t cause suffering.”

Noting as well that it’s generally unfair to go after “the psychological stability of a public figure,” political commentator Keith Olbermann (Vanity Fair), has openly studied Donald Trump’s mental health using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. How does Olbermann justify this?

…Trump has called Lindsey Graham ‘a nut job,’ Glenn Beck ‘a real nut job,’ and Bernie Sandersa wacko.’ Trump has insisted Ben Carson’s got a ‘pathological disease,’ and asked of Barack Obama: ‘Is our president insane?’ He called Ted Cruz ‘unstable,’ ‘unhinged,’ ‘a little bit of a maniac,’ and ‘crazy or very dishonest.’ He also called the entire CNBC network ‘crazy.’ He called Megyn Kelly ‘crazy’—at least six times…

According to his exhaustive evaluation, by the way, Trump qualifies.

Psychopath, though, or sociopath? (They’re not the same thing, though relatively few of us actually fully comprehend either the differences or definitions.) The ghostwriter of Trump’s 1987 bestseller The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz, has come forth opining the latter. Jane Mayer, New Yorker, quoting Schwartz:

Oct 10

“Almost a Psychopath” and Psychopathy

These are people who display a number of the traits that we associate with psychopathy, but in fewer numbers and with less intensity than full-blown psychopaths do. Key factors: conning and manipulative behavior, being glib and superficially charming, pathological lying and a general aggressive sense of self where every action and every behavior is focused on them facilitating and achieving their own needs. Psychiatrist Ron Schouten, MD, JD, on the phenomenon of being “Almost a Psychopath” (WBUR.org)

Schouten and James Silver, JD, are the authors of another “Almost Effect” book out of Harvard, the award-winner Almost a Psychopath. Both have experience as criminal lawyers, and Schouten is also a psychiatrist.

The official book description makes it clear that the “Almosts” are among us: “They are not the deranged criminals or serial killers that might be coined ‘psychopaths’ in the movies or on TV. They are spouses, coworkers, bosses, neighbors, and people in the news who exhibit many of the same behaviors as a full-blown psychopath, but with less intensity and consistency.”

Even true psychopaths often don’t match the media-generated stereotypes and could easily be one’s coworkers. According to one survey conducted in Britain, the professions with the most psychopaths include CEO’s, lawyers, TV/radio personnel, salespersons, surgeons, journalists, police officers, clergy, chefs, and civil servants (PsyBlog).

Whereas about one percent of the population are deemed full-fledged psychopaths, about five to fifteen percent could be Almosts. This means we’re all likely to come into significant contact with at least one individual in this category at some point in our lives.

Boston Magazine has excerpted from Almost a Psychopath five different case studies, including a community member who fakes cancer; an office bully; a physician who sexually abuses kids; a troubled child who becomes a rebellious, substance-abusing, lying teen; and the following example of “the dishonest therapist”:

After George and his wife went through a difficult period in their marriage, George decided to enter psychotherapy. After only a few meetings, the therapist suggested that George’s wife, Ann, come in for a few sessions, and she agreed. After two sessions, the therapist began seeing them as a couple. Initially, there seemed to be some progress; Ann seemed happier at home and she was invested in the therapy. Which made it all the more shocking when one day Ann announced that the marriage was over and she wanted her husband out of the house. Devastated, George called his therapist in a panic, and the therapist agreed to see him that day. The therapist was supportive but told George that ‘sometimes things turn out this way, and it’s probably best for you to move on with your life.’ In short order, the couple divorced. Some months later, George learned that Ann and his therapist (who was still treating George!) were living together.

What if you come to realize you know an Almost Psychopath? Abigail Zuger, MD, New York Times, summarizes the authors’ advice:

If you are a parent, you will almost certainly need to enlist professional help; you may take some long-term comfort from data suggesting that a child may outgrow worrisome behavior, but just waiting it out is unlikely to be a good tactic.

If you are a friend or spouse on the receiving end of an almost-psychopath’s attentions, you should know when to stop negotiations and walk or run away; the same goes for co-workers and employees. As the authors emphasize, almost-psychopaths are ‘far better at doing what they do than we will ever be in detecting and stopping them. And sometimes that requires that you escape a bad situation and allow others to come to their senses in their own time.’

Being the victim of an Almost can really make you question yourself, as in “what did I miss?” As Silver tells Denise DadorABCLocal, “The idea though is to understand that it isn’t your fault if you’ve been fooled.”

Co-author Schouten speaks below: