Feb 23

“The Devil Wears Prada”: Is Your Boss a Narcissist? Psychopath?

Is your boss a narcissist? Well, does his or her behavior resemble that of fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the demonic boss in The Devil Wears Prada (2006)? Because almost everyone seems to believe she’s a really good example of a narcissist.

Marco R. della Cava, USA Today, writes about asking Dr. Paul Babiak, co-author of Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, about the Priestly character“As the ability to diagnose psychopathic behavior has improved, we find there are more women who fit this profile,” he states.

So, then, perhaps she’s a psychopathic narcissist? A narcissistic psychopath? A psychopath who’s also a narcissist? This sort of parsing is precisely what the DSM folks have grappled with. (See Charles Zanor, “A Fate That Narcissists Will Hate: Being Ignored”).

But, do we really care that much about how to diagnose Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada? We’re more concerned with whether your own boss is a narcissist and/or psychopath.

Andrea, Anne Hathaway‘s character, does, of course, wind up experiencing the misfortune of getting hired after all. And of course is wildly mistreated by boss Priestley.

If you are unlucky enough to have a boss who’s a bully or a manipulator or a puppetmaster, these just happen to be the three types of psychopaths Babiak and Robert Hare, authors of Snakes in Suits, believe exist. Constructive advice is provided in the book about how to deal with them.

Below are selected quotes from Snakes in Suits:

When dramatic organizational change is added to the normal levels of job insecurity, personality clashes, and political battling, the resulting chaotic milieu provides both the necessary stimulation and sufficient “cover” for psychopathic behavior.

Rapid business growth, increased downsizing, frequent reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures have inadvertently increased the number of attractive employment opportunities for individuals with psychopathic personalities.

Companies are very pragmatic and respond to information about behaviors relevant to the work at hand rather than subjective feelings about another person.

Even in the face of contrary evidence, the psychopath can lie so well that listeners doubt themselves first, rather than question the psychopath.

Another characteristic of psychopaths is an ability to avoid taking responsibility for things that go wrong; instead, they blame others, circumstances, fate, and so forth.

In psychopaths’ mental world people do not exist except as objects, targets, and obstacles.

The real problem for others is when narcissistic features, especially a sense of entitlement and a lack of empathy, shade into antisocial and destructive behaviors. When this happens, the pattern might be described as aggressive or malignant narcissism, which is difficult to distinguish from psychopathy.

Feb 05

Meaning in Retirement: “The Intern”

In Nancy Meyers‘s The Intern we see that “Experience never gets old,” as goes the tagline, and that there can still be work-related meaning in retirement.

Robert De Niro plays Ben, a senior widower who seeks an internship at a fashion website company managed by Jules (Anne Hathaway). Although bringing on a 70-year-old intern is not an idea she’s personally endorsed, it all works out in the end.

As reviews have pointed out, the trailer basically tells you the whole story:

It’s an enjoyable piece of fluff perfectly suitable for a winter rental. A few review excerpts:

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “The artistry of ‘The Intern’ is that Meyers figures out how to make the inevitable interesting, or at least interesting enough. We are made to feel, almost by instinct, without really being told, that Ben has things to teach Jules, and we’re also made to care that Jules learns them.”

James Rocchi, The Wrap: “Considering the movie’s fortune-cookie-style ‘insights’ that old and young have much to learn from each other, it’s only appropriate that De Niro and Hathaway’s charms, and those alone, comprise the saving graces of ‘The Intern’.”

Tom Long, Detroit News: “…[Meyers] squarely faces the potential abyss of retirement that’s currently confronting tens of millions of Americans, the possible sense of empty uselessness, the loss of purpose and function.”

It’s this last point that most interested me—the film’s setup that Ben realizes he’s missing something in life and then pulls himself out of “the potential abyss” by interning. However, as these types of opportunities for finding meaning in retirement aren’t something I’ve heard about before, I had to wonder how realistic this was.

Johnny Brayson, Bustle: “…As long as an internship doesn’t offer any kind of age restriction or college requirement, you can apply regardless of how old you are. A lot of companies still prefer to go with more traditional, 21-year-old interns, but more and more are accepting older people as a viable alternative. Especially if they happen to be Robert De Niro.”

There’s always still volunteerism as a potentially fulfilling option, which brings such benefits as improving one’s mental health, reducing social isolation, in addition to various other things specific to your own needs.

Mar 29

“Rachel Getting Married”: Rehab Interrupted, Emotional Chaos

The contemporary slice-of-life film Rachel Getting Married (2008), directed by Jonathan Demme, features Kym (Anne Hathaway), a young woman who’s tried substance abuse rehab a number of times and hasn’t yet succeeded. In fact, she’s currently on a weekend leave from her most recent rehab—in order to attend her sister’s wedding. Cue plenty of opportunities for emotionally loaded dysfunctional-type interactions.

Here’s the trailer to get you started:

Having seen and liked the movie, I appreciated reading the following Rachel Getting Married review of Amy Biancolli‘s (Houston Chronicle) so much that I have to quote a significant chunk of it. For starters: “It hurts to watch Rachel Getting Married. It hurts because it captures, better than any film of recent vintage, the wild emotional undulations of life in a dysfunctional family.”

Why does it hurt? “It hurts because addicts are inevitably selfish, and movies about them are inevitably claustrophobic. It hurts because Anne Hathaway is rawer, bluer, meaner, truer, more broken than you’ve ever seen her — than you’ve ever seen just about anyone portraying a lost soul in recovery.”

Furthermore:

It hurts because Bill Irwin, the actor playing her father, seems to split down the middle as we watch. It hurts because Rosemarie DeWitt, as the Rachel getting married, conveys without an ounce of malice the outrage and exhaustion of loving someone who’s so far off from normal. And it hurts because our joy at seeing the warm, familiar face of Debra Winger turns to shock when her calibrated performance — as a detached mater familias — abruptly kicks into hellfire-spitting fury.

There’s a lot of other interesting stuff going on as well, including an underlying theme of a tragic family loss—for which Kym is held responsible.

And lots lots more is packed into the few days represented in this film. Wesley MorrisBoston Globe: “Demme and screenwriter Jenny Lumet have given us an epic rehearsal dinner, ceremony, and reception that’s half-cabaret, half group-therapy session, and completely multiracial, multicultural, and multisensory.”

This is one of those quirkier films that the critics loved and the non-critics not so much. It seems that having to sit through loads of family dysfunction is an undesirable for many—imagine that—especially if they already have that at home.

But I feel compelled to let another critic have the last word on this one. Michael Dequina, TheMovieReport.com: “The messiness that goes with genuinely flawed and complex people is what makes the film ring so true and cut so deep.”