Best moments with Tony Soprano on the Soprano's
The Narcissist that captivated the world JR Ewing
Dallas, Narcissists old and new
JR Ewing - Narcissist in action
Tony Soprano is arrested
Captain Jack Sparrow
The one and only Captain Jack Sparrow
Scarlett O Hara classic Narcissistic beauty
Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Fictional Greats.
Undoubtedly the Narcissistic Personality is endlessly fascinating to observe and study. However this article is more about my observations and own thoughts on what characters on the TV and the Silver Screen stand out to me as being definite Narcissism material. So before we begin what exactly is Narcissistic personality Disorder?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder has already been well documented and is clinically defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) as a “pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.” In order for a diagnosis of Narcissistic personality Disorder to be made the person must be seen to possess at least five of the following nine personality traits:
This excerpt below is taken from my article 'Narcissistic Personality Defined,' also available here on my Hub Pages.
- Possesses an extreme feeling of being more important than everybody else but this belief of being grandiose does not match the reality of the persons actual achievements.
- There is nobody else in the world as unique as them and that only other people that they consider to be of a similar high status can truly understand and appreciate them.
- A person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder lives largely in a fantasy world where they are supremely successful, or they have immense wealth or power. Or consequently they may believe themselves to be stunningly beautiful or they may be harboring fantasies about obtaining true fairy tale like love.
- At their very core, Narcissists crave love, admiration, attention and an adoring audience which they need to function. The Narcissist however thinks nothing of ruining another person’s reputation or well being if that person comes in their way or they perceive that they have been insulted or slighted in some way by someone.
- The Narcissist doesn’t just want the best and the largest number of material possessions they actually genuinely feel that it is their supreme right to have the best of everything because of their uniqueness and their vital importance in the world.
- Manipulation and blaming others for their deviousness is second nature to a Narcissist, they are largely two dimensional people and as such they feel no guilt for slighting others for their personal gain because as they see it their gratification is the only important outcome as far any Narcissist is concerned.
- The Narcissist is totally lacking in any ability to empathize with others or to understand a situation from someone else’s point of view. The Narcissist sees other people of being of little importance if they cannot benefit from them in some way.
- Narcissists are naturally envious of all other people and they usually assume that everyone else must also be envious of them.
- Normally they will display haughty, grandiose behavior that clearly shows their superior status in life as they see it.
JR Ewing and John Ross from Dallas Old and New:
Unfortunately Larry Hagman who played the greatest Narcissist of them all i.e. the one and only JR Ewing has just passed away. When I originally wrote this article the new Dallas was just being aired here in Ireland. Now the series has finished and I have to say that I was looking forward to the next season.
I think what made the new Dallas work for me was how they intertwined the new Dallas characters well with those that made it so successful back in the 1980s. Such was the allure of the man everyone loved to hate i.e. J.R. Ewing that back in 1980 when the infamous 'Who shot JR?' episode was filmed more than 350 million people worldwide tuned in to find out who did it? Who was it that hated JR so much that they wanted to kill him? The list of suspects was long but in the end It was revealed to be his sister in law Kristen Sheppard who. In typical Dallas style she had had an affair with her sister's husband and then got a bit sick of J.R.'s manipulation until she became the ultimate woman scorned.
What will happen to the new Dallas series now that JR will no longer be a character remains to be seen. Personally I think his Narcissistic ways really were at the heart of what made Dallas the success that it was. It also made Larry Hagman very wealthy. In 1980 he negotiated a new pay deal for his role in Dallas which gave him 100,000 dollars per episode such was his popularity after the infamous cliffhanger 'Who Shot Jr?' episode.
For me personally JR Ewing will always be the first real Narcissist that caught the public’s attention like no other. Who did not love to hate the original JR Ewing in Dallas? His scheming, his love of himself, his ability to seriously consider selling his mother for an oil field, his affairs and his treatment of his long suffering (but ultimately victorious wife) Sue Ellen.
JR would stop at nothing to get what he wanted and family were there to be molded and manipulated by him even though at the end of the day he claimed to care about them more than anything else and did somewhat in his own peculiar way (when it suited him).
The new Dallas series started with JR being in a nursing home, clinically depressed and utterly alone with ex-wife Sue-Ellen long gone and John Ross not even talking to him anymore. This was also a great depiction of how many Narcissists do in fact end up i.e. living alone with no relatives able to deal with their scheming ways anymore.
So then when JR Junior better known as John Ross emblazoned our Irish screens a few months ago there was a hope that he was going to be another Narcissistic villain. From the first viewing of the series I was sure he was not going to disappoint when he wanted to immediately drill on Southfork Ranch because he found oil there. Before long it also became apparent that his girlfriend Helena was in fact his cousin Christopher’s first love and strangely enough their relationship was ended by Christopher sending an email even though he seems to have no knowledge of ever sending it to her? However it then transpires that John Ross didn't actually send the email either and towards the end of the series we actually see a softer side to John Ross which made me wonder if he could ever fill his dad's cowboy boots after all?
Personally I think the first series of the new Dallas showed that John Ross was not as devious as his dad but the closing scenes certainly showed that the potential was there for the future. Does John Ross have the same charisma as JR Ewing though? He certainly has better looks but the biggest enigma about JR Ewing always was that mysterious Narcissistic quality to be able to seem to be totally alluring, appealing and to women falling at his feet despite the fact that many would have said that he was not classically good looking or all that attractive in a conventional sense. Yet on screen he exuded that extra something that people adored i.e. I guess today Simon Cowell we would call it the X Factor.
Tony Soprano from the Sopranos:
Tony Soprano is another prime example of a Narcissistic individual that isn’t particularly pretty. He doesn’t take care of himself all that well and of course he is also a Mafia boss but nevertheless he was a fascinating character that many people including a string of diverse women seemed to be drawn to.
We all know at least one Tony Soprano type character (not necessarily a Mob boss though) i.e. someone who can charm the birds out of the trees even though most people can never figure out what the exact appeal is. It is an undefined quality or just a certain something that we can never put our finger on. However if you lived with this charming individual you would probably have a totally different viewpoint and the other side of his character would be obvious as Tony Soprano’s long suffering wife Carmela was a frequent witness to.
Of course what makes Tony Soprano a perfect candidate for Narcissistic Personality Disorder was that fact that he didn’t actually like killing people and even had issues about it i.e. his on-going consultations with his psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi. She had an impossible task on her hands as it a well documented fact that Narcissists always believe themselves to be much smarter and superior to any medical professional so the way Tony constantly challenged and tried to control his sessions with psychiatrist was typical Narcissistic behaviour.
Tony saw killing people as just a necessary but unpleasant part of life i.e. if he wanted to stay on top as a Mafia boss and have all the wealth and prestige that went with it then those that got in the way or were weak links just had to be taken care of. That was just how you survived in the world he lived in.
Also in the first series it was fascinating to watch Tony Soprano’s mother in action. Undoubtedly she was a fantastic example of the matriarch narcissist and straight away it was obvious why her children just had to be a total mess.
Tony though did care about his family and that is also common among Narcissists, many do have a sense of family although it is hard to maintain a good relationship with them if they are feeling constantly manipulated by the relation with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Darth Vader in Star Wars trilogy:
I actually heard someone comment the other day that Darth Vader was Science Fiction's answer to JR Ewing? Who knows they are certainly world's apart and Darth Vader was certainly less charming and didn't have the same eye for the women but he was certainly a very interesting Narcissistic character too.
To me it is the original three Star Wars movies that will always spring to mind when somebody mentions the Star Wars saga. In the first Star Wars movie Darth Vader is portrayed as pure evil. He’ll kill you using the force if you so much as look at him the wrong way.
However as the original three Star Wars movies unfold we see that there is in fact another side to the evil Darth Vader. In true Narcissistic fashion he did in fact have a wife and kids but then he decided to move on to fulfill his own ambitions. His wife died in childbirth and as Anakin Skywalker had already decided to forfeit her and take all the power and prestige that came along with turning to the Dark Side of the Force. So while Darth Vader was busy becoming the emperor of the Galaxy’s right hand man his children were sent to live separately to protect their safety.
After Darth Vader fights with his son and chops his son’s hand off with a Light Saber (new laser version of a sword to the uninitiated) and his son is balancing on a ledge hanging on for dear life we see a true Narcissist at work. The ever compassionate Darth Vader dad is still convinced that it is in fact still all about what he wants and being the sensitive soul that he is, he then decides that this is in fact the perfect time to reveal, ‘I am actually your dad son.’
So then Luke Skywalker has the choice of either plummeting to potential death (if he didn’t bleed to death first of course from having no hand) or he could join his dad and become inherently evil. His dad’s plan was that then together father and son could get rid of his current boss i.e. the emperor of the galaxy and then his son could become his right hand man and then Darth Vader would have ultimate power!’
Hmmm, anybody that knows a Narcissist out there will have probably been in a similar situation to this one already, i.e. just because you are bleeding to death, or emotionally traumatized doesn’t mean it still isn’t all about me.
Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean:
What can I say about good old Captain Jack Sparrow? Being a Johnnie Depp fan myself I cannot help but be somewhat drawn to this caricature of the ultimate evil pirate. Of course he is totally heartless, vain and absolutely self-centred but God nice to look at too. As anyone who has had a relationship with a Narcissist will know, for a while the absolute fabulous charisma and sex appeal of your Narcissist will set your heart shuddering with excitement. Your pulse will race and your head will spin.
After a while though even you will have to concede that yes your partner is a bit selfish and maybe even totally thoughtless but when you walk into a room with him or her everybody stops and takes note. For a while you are so proud to be the one to have snared the one that everybody thinks is the ultimate catch. Until the moment you realize your love is just a caricature of what your Narcissist figures you want in a partner. It is all an act really and underneath your Narcissist is hollow.
However I think Jack Sparrow is one of my favorite Narcissists because you kind of know where you are with him i.e. he’s a dirty rotten scoundrel and just don’t trust him. He never pretends to be a hero or a misunderstood character he is just well Captain Jack Sparrow i.e. take me or leave me I really don’t care. So maybe he is not a true Narcissist after all?
Scarlett O Hara in Gone with the Wind:
Without a doubt Scarlett O Hara was the first great portrayal of a woman with Narcissistic personality Disorder that I ever remember seeing. Long before Narcissistic Personality Disorder was a well known phrase Scarlett definitely ticked all the boxes. Scarlett had the ultimate privileged childhood as a precious Southern Belle in the early scenes of the movie. She was waited on hand and foot and was not only raised to believe that others should serve her but she actually grew up in a home where it was still considered acceptable to condone actual real slavery.
Scarlett showed her ruthless side throughout Gone with the Wind by doing things such as marrying her sister’s fiancé because he was one of the few locals who was doing well during the American Civil war and she decided he was a good meal ticket. It didn’t matter to her at all that her sister was hopelessly in love with him. It also didn’t matter to her that the man that she perceived as being the great love of her life i.e. Ashley Wilkes was obviously totally in love with his wife.
Scarlett then went on to marry Rhett Butler who was captivated by her Narcissistic charms and saw her as being quite a challenge but in the end even he had to concede that Scarlett O Hara was totally self–centered underneath and that he had to leave her for the sake of his own sanity.
I don’t think there could be anyone out there who doesn’t know how Gone with the Wind ends i.e. with a sobbing Scarlett draped across the foot of her stairs as her husband finally has enough of her Narcissistic ways. However in true Narcissistic style Scarlett O Hara has the last word and vows that she will sort it all out tomorrow which is great summation of the Narcissistic personality. That no matter what they will survive and find new sources of Narcissistic supply, tomorrow Scarlett would decide Rhett wasn’t really worth it anyway, he just didn’t appreciate her finer qualities so now she would dust herself off and find somebody who did.
King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn from the Tudors:
I know strictly speaking King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn are not actually fictional characters but I would imagine the portrayal of them in the Tudors was pretty loosely based. The reason I picked them both is because I think they were a wonderful depiction of the ultimate Narcissistic relationship.
King Henry was immediately drawn to Anne Boleyn who had decided she wanted the King long before he had even met her. Their affair was passionate but totally false as both of them were playing their Narcissistic wooing roles before they married.
King Henry wanted a new queen who would give him a male heir and Anne Boleyn badly wanted to be queen and have all the prestige, power and wealth that would go with this position. However Anne Boleyn possessed true Narcissistic vanity and mistakenly believed that she was the only woman that the King could ever love and that her charm and beauty could keep him faithful.
Of course once King Henry married Anne Boleyn the struggle to assert his authority by getting a divorce from his first wife and breaking with the Catholic Church were now over. So now Anne Boleyn was no longer someone he couldn’t have and immediately the challenge was over. He now quickly realized he was left with a very ruthless wife who was shallow power hungry and cared far too much about herself i.e. he had met the female version of himself.
Unfortunately for Anne Boleyn King Henry held all the cards and had the power to destroy her when she had inflicted one too many Narcissistic injuries upon him. Anne Boleyn was put to death for an adultery she never committed because she could not sate the Kings ego enough by giving him the prize he now had to have i.e. a male heir.
The Tudors Season 1
Was JR Ewing the best Narcissist?
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Mary Kelly Godley (author) from Ireland on September 10, 2012:
Thanks for your comment. Yeah as you say NPD is a very popular condition in society today and always has been and in fact does run in families, I would think we are just more aware of it now too.
Mary Kelly Godley (author) from Ireland on September 10, 2012:
Thanks very much for your comment, I think I have read that book too, read quite a few of them a few years back. I agree with your summary of NPD and the real victims i.e. family and friends. As you say too therapy rarely has much effect because of course the Narcissist thinks they are smarter than therapist and know more so will not cooperate with them. So it's a tough situation definitely.
Susan Reid from Where Left is Right, CA on September 09, 2012:
Larger than life narcissists on the big screen make for great theater. We can watch their actions with some distance and thank God we're not in their family. NPs within the family, however, have all of the awfulness of JR Ewing, Ann Boleyn, Scarlett O'Hara and the rest of them. They THINK their life is a Oscar-worthy movie. But alas it is not.
Well done hub on a distressing personality disorder. From what I read there is no therapy that can rehabilitate them. Sad for them, but sadder for the victims they lure, use and spit out as soon as they cease to be providers of their 'narcissistic supply."
There's a book called (something like) Freeing YOurselfe from the Narcissist In Your Life by a PhD. I tink her name is Lewii. It's very good.
Alecia Murphy from Wilmington, North Carolina on September 09, 2012:
Thewritingowl, this is very fascinating. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is not a mental illness I'm too familiar with but it's definitely a disease that affects society. You did an excellent job illustrating examples of narcissism. While, I have not seen any of these shows or movies you mentioned, from how you describe the key narcissists in action- it would be easy to pick up on why they interact they way they do with others.
Excellent hub, I really gained a lot from reading it.
Mary Kelly Godley (author) from Ireland on September 09, 2012:
Charlie Sheen probably isn't there because I just concentrated on my particular favorites that I could think of at the moment. Maybe I will include him next time, I agree the Narcissistic personality is far from easy to depict, just like us autistic people we come in many different forms and one size does not fit all, thanks for commenting.
Marc Hubs from United Kingdom on September 09, 2012:
Interesting hub, though I'm surprised Charlie Sheen wasn't in there! There seems to be a thing about making American comedies focused on narcissistic personalities at the moment. Sometimes, they just don't quite get it right though - NPD is not such an easy thing to understand.