Hero & Villain Archetypes in Film: The Narcissist

Hero & Villain Archetypes in Film: The Narcissist

A Chapter by Keaton S. Ziem

Analysis of specific character archetypes in film, citing examples. In this case; we examine The Narcissist.




“Mr. Stark displays textbook… narcissism. Agreed.” " Tony Stark, Iron Man 2


“I didn’t create some loser alter-ego to make myself feel better.” " Tyler Durden, Fight Club


Human beings have a natural tendency to be selfish in order to survive. It’s called self-preservation, or ‘healthy self-love’. But The Narcissist's selfishness exceeds far beyond the normal dosage of self-confidence and  crosses the threshold into the character’s obsession with themselves and/or their sexual energy; either wielding it like a weapon at others or using it to fuel their own egos and inflated image of themselves, fueling themselves off of their own self-esteem. This overindulgence leads to the character’s delusional state of mind and tends to belittle the importance of others in comparison.


Narcissists in Film:


By virtue of what it means to be narcissistic, The Narcissist is generally regarded as someone who’s company one would seek to avoid on account of their self-absorbed behaviors. The Narcissist in film tends to be on the villainous side and believes that the world revolves around him/her and that they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. The Narcissist has a desperate lack of the word “empathy” from their vocabularies. They thrive off of overindulgences and recklessness and much of their time and energy goes into their physical appearance. Sometimes the qualities of The Narcissist are used in mockery of the character to create humor. Instances of this application of narcissism in Heroes include Will Ferrell's character in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy; the title itself implying the main character’s narcissism, though sometimes The Narcissist displays their arrogance to illustrate their qualifications for any specific task as in the case of Tony Stark in Iron Man.


Examples of Narcissists in Film:


Patrick Bateman in (Christian Bale) American Psycho (2000): Bateman is narcissistic to the point of deranged psychosis. His overindulgence of self leads him from one apathetic murderous rampage to another with absolutely no regard for the preciousness of human life. Bateman lures young women to his place, uses them to gratify his own sexual fantasies (allowing him to stare at himself in the mirror while embroiled in the physical act of intercourse) only to discard them as one might throw out a used condom; that is if you brutally and unapologetically murdered your condom after you were finished.


Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) in Sunset Boulevard (1950): Norma Desmond, silent era movie star, is so caught up in herself that she becomes detached from what’s going on in the outside world. She is locked up in her mansion with a former lover who she managed to reassign as her butler and spends most of her time isolated from the world outside her door watching the films she starred in. When Joe Gillis recognizes her as the silent film star saying, “you used to be big”, she responds defiantly, “ I am big. It's the pictures that got small.”


Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) in Zoolander (2001): Derek Zoolander is a self-obsessed male model with the intelligence of a squirrel entirely driven by vanity. A great quote that exemplifies his extreme narcissism comes when Derek says, “I'm sure there's a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.” There may be a note of humility in that statement, but Derek clearly has given appearance the prevailing importance in his life to bother noticing that there could be something in the world beneath the superficial surface.

© 2011 Keaton S. Ziem

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Added on October 2, 2011
Last Updated on October 2, 2011
Tags: film, filmmaking, scripts, screenwriting, screenplays, the narcissists, character, archetypes, heroes, villains, cinema, movies, analysis, examples, narcissists in film


Keaton S. Ziem
Keaton S. Ziem

Los Angeles, CA

I was raised in a cabin in one of the largest Ponderosa Pine forests in the continental United States. I had nothing to do with the amount of trees that grew there. I am an only child with two brot.. more..