A Closer Look Fatal Attraction
The thriller Fatal Attraction stars Michael Douglas and Glenn Close. Douglas plays Dan, a rich and powerful lawyer who is happily married to a beautiful woman. The couple have a wonderful daughter whom they both love. At a business dinner, Dan meets Glenn Close's character, Alex, who is an attractive, intriguing, single woman who catches Dan's eye. Dan is with his wife, however, and nothing happens with Alex at the dinner. A few weeks later, Dan is on a business trip without his wife one weekend and he sees Alex again. They flirt for some time, and there is definitely some attraction between them. Dan does not know at this point, but it is a fatal attraction. During the weekend, Dan and Alex have sex several times, and they appear to enjoy each other very much. In one scene, Dan and Alex are together in bed after sex, and the camera turns to a pot of coffee that is boiling on the stove. This is a subtle visual hint of the dangerous consequences being set into motion with their adulterous affair.
After this weekend infidelity, Dan returns to his wife. Alex is upset that Dan just seems to want to forget about her. She feels she loves him, yet she hates him at the same time for leaving her. Over the next several weeks, she calls Dan at his home and even stalks him on several occasions. Finally, she confronts Dan and tells him she is pregnant with his baby and feels he should leave his wife for her. Dan, however, tells Alex to get an abortion and to forget about his ever leaving his wife. He makes it clear that he does not want to be a part of her life. She then alternates between extreme love and extreme hate for him. She wants Dan for herself and decides that the best way to get him is to destroy what is standing between her and Dan, which is his wife and child. The movie becomes a thriller when Alex begins terrorizing Dan and his family.
When this movie first came out, many reviewers referred to the Alex character incorrectly as a "psycho lover" or as "a nutcase." In fact, Alex exhibits several of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder. She exhibits the incredible relationship difficulties that are the hallmark of the borderline style. She vacillates between wanting to have and then wanting to destroy those she loves. She poses on the edge between destroying herself and harming those who are causing her emotional troubles. She becomes progressively angrier during the movie, and we don't know if she will direct this anger toward harming herself or harming others. All of this is triggered by feelings of abandoment, another hallmark of the borderline character. Being left out, left behind, or abandoned is a critical issue for persons with this disorder. Because they often define themselves in terms of their relationships ("I'm nothing without you"), they fear losing those relationships. However, because of their strong and unpredictable emotions, their relationships tend to be unstable and unsatisfying and end prematurely. They bring about that which they fear.
novelty and, although they may start relationships or projects with great enthusiasm, their interest does not last long. They may forego long-term gains to make way for short-term excitement. Histrionic traits are maladaptive because they can interfere with relationships and cause dif ficulties with the individual being a productiv member of society.
Table 19.4 lists the main characteristics of histrionic personality disorder along with typical beliefs and thoughts persons with this disorder might have. As with all personality disorder criteria, the standards for appropriate behavior dif fer greatly
638 ._Part Six The Adjustment Domain r 1
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