Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissism in popular media?
May 12, 2014 3:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in movies/TV shows/books/graphic novels/cartoons (including anime) that depict a realistic mother-daughter (or any parent-child) relationship where the parent has borderline personality disorder and/or narcissism, and where the (potentially adult) child was able to deal with this successfully. Ideally, the specific traits--such as black/white thinking, rages, and inability to achieve stability (job, finances, relationships, etc), treating one child as a golden child and another as a scapegoat, etc--would be depicted with some detail. And if possible, the parent should be an empathetic character (i.e., not a 2-dimensional "bad guy").
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I've found that the relationship between Emily and Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls exhibits some of these characteristics.
posted by watch out for turtles at 3:38 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

The "gamma ray emitting" mom was never identified as borderline -- but I think immediately of that character in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Mood Marigolds (1964 play, 1972 movie.)
posted by bearwife at 3:38 PM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

What about Arrested Development? I think Lucille Bluth may have been a narcissist.
posted by kat518 at 3:38 PM on May 12, 2014 [10 favorites]

White Oleander by Janet Finch is a perfect example of what you seek.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls also may fit the bill.
posted by k8lin at 3:41 PM on May 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Augusten Burroughs's books - especially Running with Scissors - also works, as does Oh the Glory of it All by Sean Wilsey. Both are memoirs.
posted by k8lin at 3:47 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

It has been a very long time since I read Anywhere But Here, but if I recall correctly, it fits your description, except that there's only one child.
posted by janey47 at 4:02 PM on May 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

The recent Disney movie Tangled really hit home with a lot of ACoNs (Adult Children of Narcissists):

[Rapunzel and Goethel are standing in front of a mirror, side by side]

GOETHEL: Rapunzel, look in that mirror. You know what I see? I see a strong, confident, beautiful young lady. Oh look, you're here too! (she laughs) I'm just teasing, stop taking everything so seriously!

And check out the lyrics to the song that Gothel sings, "Mother Knows Best".
posted by magstheaxe at 4:03 PM on May 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

"Mommie Dearest"?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:09 PM on May 12, 2014

Betty Draper in Mad Men. Not adult children, but she's a pretty well rounded character.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:10 PM on May 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

"Million Dollar Baby" would likely fit the criteria, though I don't know how "empathetic" you'd find the mother.
posted by blue suede stockings at 4:43 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's been awhile but I think ' there is something about kevin' the mon is narcissistic.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:00 PM on May 12, 2014

Watch Ordinary People. It's a perfect example of what you're looking for.

2nding Tangled. I'm so happy to see someone else highlight this example. It was the first thing I thought when I saw the movie.

Here's a nice list of movies featuring Narcissistic family members/parents.
posted by dchrssyr at 5:21 PM on May 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Lindsey in Arrested Development -- she's such a checked out narcissist that you forget she even has a daughter!
posted by mibo at 6:31 PM on May 12, 2014

Seconding "Ordinary People". My previous therapist had me watch it. Holy hell. Hit really close to home.
posted by kathrynm at 6:46 PM on May 12, 2014

Not sure if you would call it realistic, but I love Edina / Saffron 's version of this in Absolutely Fabulous
posted by Mchelly at 8:48 PM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

The first few seasons of The Sopranos
posted by luckynerd at 9:05 PM on May 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Margot at the Wedding might qualify. The child is still a teenager, however, and the focus is on the two sisters' relationship.
posted by salvia at 10:54 PM on May 12, 2014

Black swan (note how daughter goes on to attract a psychopath) and there is an old Fench film I tried to find for you but can't remember the name :( its French.. 70's (?) everyone thinks the old lady is just sweet and harmless but she is a vitrionic narc causing the usual havoc. Arbitrage is good on the narcissistic psychopath father. The brilliant Dr Karyl McBride may have some ideas (Daughters of narc mothers).
posted by tanktop at 1:00 AM on May 13, 2014

The terrible Mermaids, with Cher and Winona Ryder.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:27 AM on May 13, 2014

The Mexican book and film Like Water for Chocolate has exactly the dynamic you describe.
posted by goo at 7:44 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Chenowith family on Six Feet Under has strong elements of this; Margaret (the mother) is pretty narcissistic (and a psychiatrist!) and there is a lot of drama wrung from her adult children's relative abilities to cope: Brenda does fairly well in the end (despite having some issues of her own) and Billy (who has his own mental illness problems--he's bipolar, I think?) serves alternately as an antagonist and a support for his sister.
posted by psoas at 6:15 AM on May 14, 2014

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