Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Hannibal Lecter is Not a Sociopath and Neither Are You

 And while we're at it, neither is Sherlock Holmes.

 I know this looks like 'Why I'm not Divergent, and neither are you', but unlike that, this isn't going to be tagged as an uninformed opinion about a book I have not read.

 Because I have read Red Dragon and, let's make it perfectly clear here, in Red Dragon it states that the only reason that Hannibal Lecter is called a sociopath is because they don't have anything else to call him.

 Let us be clear, psychopathy is a thing. It's a dangerous thing and it can severely disrupts an individual's life and the lives of those aroud them.

 Sociopathy, on the other hand is the learned form of psychopathy.

 People like the term sociopath because it gives them the 'I'm gonna fuck with your head' smartness of a psychopath without the stigma of it being an inherent problem.

 The thing is, while sociopathy is hypothetically possible, it's not a thing anyone has ever actually observed, because the only way to socialise anyone into that kind of behaviour is to do it on purpose and basically from birth.

 And who has that kind of time?

 Honestly, the only kind of person who would raise a sociopath is a psychopath.

 Red Dragon is relevant in this conversation because it helps to show exactly why people calling themselves sociopaths is both stupid, and not as cool as they think it is.

 Remember, symptomatically, sociopaths and psychopaths are identical, it's the cause that is different.

 Which brings me to Francis Dolarhyde, a man I find both sympathetic and disgusting. (It's the teeth thing, it hits my mental gag reflex incredibly hard.)

 There are chapters devoted to his life's history, and they cover two of the big reasons why referring to oneself as a sociopath is not as cool as people think it is.

 One, because people don't like those who torture and kill animals for their own amusement.

 Two, because one of the symptoms of psychopathy is bed wetting.

 Oh, sure, you can stick 'high functioning' on it as much as you want, but that doesn't make either of those diagnostic symptoms magically disappear.

 See, a high functioning alcoholic can function pefectly well in public and through life, but they are still destroying their own livers with ethanol.

 If you're a high functioning anything, you can basically function in society perfectly (or mostly) fine, but you're still the other thing and still suffer from issues and symptoms relating to it.

 The reasons that Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss seem to think that 'high functioning' sociopath sounds cool is because:

 One, they didn't bother to do their research and find out what a sociopath is (which is funny in a rather pitiful way)

 Two, they probably think that high functioning autism is the cause of the whole 'savant' thing, which is wrong. Being high functioning means being a  fully functioning person, not a genius. It's a useful descriptor entirely because there are autistic people and alcoholics who can function perfectly well in society as well as ones who cannot. (If it sounds like I'm lumping autistic people in with alcoholics, it's because that's how medical science uses it. They could use it for a lot more, I'm not sure why they don't.)

 Honestly, the entire reason that the term sociopath exists in the first place is because one guy found that the word psychopath was used inconsistently and identified that what we now call psychopathy generally manifests as anti-social behaviour.

 So even if you deny that a sociopath is a socialised psychopath, it remains that the two words have been used by medical science to describe the same thing.

  At best it's a vague term with no real definite diagnosis, in the case of Hannibal Lecter (who probably just doesn't care), and at worst you're calling yourself a psychopath.

 Congratulations, you're telling other people that you wet the bed (at least to an unusual age) and torture and kill animals.

 That's so cool!

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