Monday, June 7, 2010
By Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer
The manipulations of Anakin Skywalker, also known as Darth Vader in the "Star Wars" saga, have long been ascribed to the Dark Side of the Force. Now, psychiatrists suggests that the actions of the Jedi Knight could be used in teaching about a real-life mental illness.
A letter to the editor in the journal Psychiatry Research explores just what is wrong with Vader. French researchers posit that Vader exhibits six out of the nine criteria for borderline personality disorder. Unstable moods, interpersonal relationships, and behaviors are all characteristics of this condition, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. It affects 2 percent of adults, mostly young women.
The young Anakin Skywalker was separated from his mother at an early age, and his father was absent, factors that could have contributed to borderline personality disorder. His "infantile illusions of omnipotence" and "dysfunctional experiences of self and others" are also indicative of this condition from an early age.
The researchers argue that Vader experienced two "dissociative episodes," one when he exterminated the Tuskan people after his mother's death, and the other when he killed all of the Jedi younglings. He often showed impulsive behavior and had difficulty controlling his anger. He also may have showcased a disturbance in identity by turning to the dark side and changing his name.
Darth Vader may thus be used to educate the public about borderline personality disorder and help combat stigma associated with mental illness.
But Emory psychiatrist Dr. Charles Raison, CNNhealth.com's mental health expert, has a different take. In the original three movies - which are the last three chronologically - Vader appears to be under the control of an evil emperor, making his character difficult to ascribe to a psychiatric disorder.
I don't know why it hit me today but the movie Birth is a pretty amazing movie. It's one of the movies that I find myself pondering about the ending for days every time I watch it . I love everything about this film from the creepy kids performance to the low tones in the droning music to the amazing cinematography.
This is the plot:
"A narrator lectures to an unseen audience, mentioning that he disbelieves in reincarnation. We then see this man running through Central Park, where he dies of a heart attack. Ten years later, the man's widow, Anna (Nicole Kidman) has accepted a marriage proposal from her boyfriend, Joseph (Danny Huston).
When Clifford (Peter Stormare), Sean's best friend, arrives at Anna's engagement party, his wife Clara (Anne Heche) excuses herself, saying she forgot to wrap Anna's gift. Instead, she buys a replacement after hurriedly burying the gift while a young boy (Cameron Bright) secretly looks on.
At a party for Anna's mother (Lauren Bacall), the boy who followed Clara claims to be Anna's deceased husband, Sean, and warns her not to marry Joseph. At first Anna dismisses the boy's claim. When Anna receives a letter from him the next day warning her not to marry Joseph, she realizes the boy truly believes he is her reincarnated husband.
That night Anna and Joseph discuss the letter. Since the building watchman seemed to know the boy (and that the boy is also named Sean), Joseph calls to get more information. When Sean answers the phone, Joseph rushes downstairs to confront him. He takes him to Sean's father (Ted Levine), where the three of them order Sean to leave Anna alone. Sean refuses to recant his story, and a pained Anna sees the young Sean collapse in his father's arms. She has begun to believe the boy may be a manifestation of her dead husband.
Sean leaves a message on Anna's answering machine, which her mother overhears. That day at lunch, Anna's mother mentions that Sean wants to meet Anna in the park, and that she will know where. Anna hurries to Central Park and finds Sean waiting in the spot where Anna's husband died. He offers to submit to questioning.
Anna's brother-in-law Bob (Arliss Howard), a doctor, talks to Sean, recording his responses on tape. He answers frankly all the questions, even giving intimate details of Anna and Sean's sex life. Sean is brought to Anna's by his fretful mother (Cara Seymour), and he is able to identify parts of the apartment. Everyone except Anna remains reasonably doubtful. Anna's family becomes worried, particularly her sister Laura (Alison Elliott), who treats young Sean with contempt.
When Anna misses an appointment with her fiance to spend time with Sean, Joseph begins feeling worried not merely about the boy, but about Anna's odd behavior. Joseph's jealousy is made plain when he physically attacks Sean. When Sean runs out, Anna follows him and kisses him on the lips.
Anna seems convinced by the boy's story and asks Clara and Clifford to meet him. Clara encounters Sean at the door and asks him to visit her later. When he visits, he brings a backpack full of Anna's love letters to Sean. These were Clara's spiteful engagement gift which the boy secretly unearthed and read the night of the party. We learn that Clara was Sean's lover before his death, and that he gave the letters to her unopened as proof of his love. Clara was jealous that Sean would not leave Anna, but abandoned her plan to give Anna the letters. When Clara points out that if he were really a reincarnation of Sean he would have come to her first, Sean runs out in a state of confusion and guilt.
When Anna finds Sean, she suggests they run away and marry when he is of legal age. He tells her that if he were really Sean he would have loved Clara, and since he loves Anna he must not be the reincarnated Sean.
Anna apologizes to Joseph, and they are married at the beach. Sean wrote a long letter apologizing to Anna, wondering why he had the delusion of being her husband. Anna wades into the sea in anguish after the ceremony. Joseph gradually pulls her back onto the sand and whispers reassuringly into her ear."