Darth Vader: Evil Incarnate, or the trivialization of a legitimate psychological disease?

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One aspect of Science Fiction Fandom is that we’re never above belaboring any point, no matter how trivial, in our mad quest to find social acceptance and relevance. It could be that we geeks are a deeply needy people based on our ghetto-ized standing in artistic circles, or it could just be that we hope it’ll get people to stop punching us in the face. Whatever the reason, here’s yet another immediately-tedious example:

Darth Vader: is he a champion of the sartorial splendor that is Italian-style armor, master of the light saber, slayer of billions, terror of billions more, right hand man (who has no right hand) to Satan incarnate, and Dark Lord of the Sith, or is he just a whiney little bitch who continually lashes out at everyone around him?

As a kid we used to call this “OPD” (“Obnoxious Person Disorder”), but in actual fact it’s called “Borderline Personality Disorder,” a name that is a little bit misleading since the first question anyone asks when hearing about it is “Borderline of what? Are we talking ‘Borderline Schizophrenia’ here, or ‘Borderline Sociopathy’ or ‘Borderline Dickweed,’ or what?” As it turns out, it’s not the borderline of anything, it’s just a random-yet-catchy name for a trendy psychological disorder.

Wikipedia defines it thusly:

>>>Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is […] a prolonged disturbance of personality function in a person characterized by depth and variability of moods. The disorder typically involves unusual levels of instability in mood, black and white thinking or splitting; chaotic and unstable interpersonal relationships, self-image, identity, and behavior; as well as a disturbance in the individual's sense of self. In extreme cases, this disturbance in the sense of self can lead to periods of dissociation.

These disturbances can have a pervasive negative impact on many or all of the psychosocial facets of life. This includes difficulties maintaining relationships in work, home, and social settings. Self-harming is a marked symptom and even attempts at or suicide itself are possible, especially without proper care and effective therapy.<<<

(Source: http://movies.yahoo.com/feature/buzz-log-darth-vaders-diagnosis.html )

Understand that I’m not making light of the disorder itself: a friend of mine’s wife has it, and it utterly destroyed their marriage and his life. It’s a very real problem, and anyone who has it, or thinks they have it, should seek diagnosis and psychological treatment immediately. It helps.

That said, it *is* a trendy disease at present: turns up in the news a lot, various celebs claim to have it or have gotten over it via whatever the cult of the week is out west, it’s the preferred malady of all the really discerning hypochondriacs this season. As far as the media is concerned, “BPD” is the new “Aspergers,” which is really very sad as it shows how superficial their concern for people in pain is, and how quick they are to abandon stories that really need more attention once they’re no longer trendy.

So you put the media’s quest to capitalize on people’s pain and suffering together with our geek desire for legitimacy, and you get fundamentally wrong-headed stuff like this:

>>>until now, we don't think anybody knew that the Dark Lord of the Sith may have suffered from borderline personality disorder.

French researchers have concluded that Mr. Vader (aka Anakin Skywalker) has, at various times, exhibited six of the nine criteria for borderline personality disorder. To be diagnosed with BPD, you need only showcase five of the behaviors.<<<

(Source: http://movies.yahoo.com/feature/buzz-log-darth-vaders-diagnosis.html )

This is the kind of thing that really reflects badly on everyone, trivializing a psychological ailment, appropriating a pop culture icon so mouth breathers can seem to have something to say when in fact they really don’t. One could even argue that it’s sexist, as BPD affects vastly more women than men.

Basically it’s the period at the end of the sentence, as far as rational discussion goes. Once someone cites a fictional character - especially one this silly - as an exemplar of a real world thing, serious discussion is ended. Yeah, it’s fine for geek-to-geek shorthand, but actually leaving the house dressed like that yammering and expecting people to take you seriously? Embarrassing. Specifically it’s the EXACT kind of ‘embarrassing’ that got us put in the ghetto to begin with.

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