Young, Dumb and Full of ASPD
Last month you may have noticed the photo featuring Keanu Reeves and the late Patrick Swayze from the 1991 movie, Point Break. Keanu and Swayze are punching on in true Hollywood style trying to settle who’s the real alpha.
The photo inspired me to watch the film again. It’s a full-on, overblown action extravaganza, where our hero, Johnny Utah (Reeves), takes on a dastardly team of bank robbers lead by Bodhi (Swayze). Our robbers, of course, are avid thrill seekers, stealing cash to fund their quest for the ultimate high through big wave surfing and other extreme sports. It’s full of clichés and stereotypes and features my all-time favourite one-liner, “Young, dumb and full of come”.
Swayze brings plenty of swagger to his villainous character. His gang doesn’t comply with social norms and they do things and perform actions that most of us would consider unacceptable. They tend to be irresponsible, deceitful and highly compulsive. Bodhi comes across as quite charming yet highly manipulative, leaving a trail of destruction as he ruthlessly ploughs his way through life. They lack conscience and empathy, doing as they please and taking what they want without any sense of guilt or regret.
These are all the ingredients for a great film, but if Bodhi and his gang were to sit on the psychologist’s couch there would be a fair chance they’d all get slapped with a diagnosis of ‘antisocial personality disorder’ (ASPD).
“But it’s only a movie,” I hear you argue, and that’s fair enough, but take out the artistic license of filmmaking and you have an entirely different picture. But before we go there it’s worth looking at two other personality types that fall under the umbrella of ASPD, those being the psychopath and the sociopath. These terms are often used synonymously but there are subtle differences. The psychopath, among other things, has zero conscience or guilt (think Hannibal Lecter). The sociopath is usually antisocial, lawless and often prone to follow the norms of a particular subculture.
So, is our mate Bodhi a psychopath or a sociopath? Well, if we take him out of the movie and put him in the real world there is every possibility that he would fit either bill. Over time, researchers have come forward with various checklists that can help define such a person. Indeed, Professor Robert Hare developed such a checklist, with 20 items to help assess for psychopathy. The top traits listed include glibness or superficial charm, a grandiose sense of worth, proneness to boredom, pathological lying, manipulative behaviour and a lack of remorse. It’s important to recognise that not everyone who’s a psychopath is a criminal or has ASPD, or vice versa. It is certain, however, that there are people out there who have all three, making them highly dangerous.
It’s also worth considering whether Bodhi was born this way or if he has come to be a product of his own environment. Current thinking suggests it’s both. Biological, cognitive and environmental factors aside, it is the developmental nature of antisocial behaviour that grabs my attention. I would bet my left kidney that Bodhi as a young grom would have shown all the same traits, otherwise known as ‘conduct disorder’. The relationship between conduct disorder and ASPD is clear and any adult with ASPD would have most probably had conduct disorder as a kid.
Regardless, it is easy to understand the fascination that filmmakers have with characters with such disorders. Hollywood loves a psychopath as they represent danger. The more educated, intelligent and attractive they are, the higher the appeal. Oh, if you’re still not sure who Bodhi is, forget the 2015 remake of Point Break and go straight to the 1991 original. If you can get through the entire film without singing ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of my Life’ I’ll give you $100.
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