A few days ago, my friend and colleague Dr. Andrew Dunn sent all the psychology staff members a paper published in the December 2015 issue of Australasian Psychiatry by Susan Friedman and Ryan Hall entitled ‘Using Star Wars’ supporting characters to teach about psychopathology’. As a fan of Star Wars and science fiction more generally, I immediately read the paper and thought it would be a good topic to write a blog about.
It turns out that Friedman and Ryan have written a series of papers in psychiatric journals over the last year arguing that many of the characters in the Star Wars movies have underlying psychopathologies and that because of the films’ popularity, the films could be used to teach students about various psychiatric disorders. The authors asserted that “supporting characters in Star Wars can be used to teach about a wide variety of psychiatric conditions which are not commonly so accessible in one story, including [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] ADHD, anxiety, kleptomania, and paedophilia”. I have to admit that in my own teaching I often use characters and/or storylines from film and television to explain psychological phenomena to my own students (and have also published articles and papers demonstrating the utility of using such sources in both teaching and research contexts – see ‘Further reading’ below). Therefore, I was intrigued to read what psychiatric disorders had been attributed to which Star Wars characters.
In the Australasian Psychiatry paper, it is argued that Jar Jar Binks has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD):
“Jar Jar frequently overlooks details and makes careless mistakes…His difficulty in sustaining his attention is evident…His difficulty in following instructions almost results in him being put to death…trainees can determine whether [the examples provided] are related to inattention, hyperactivity or impulsivity”.
More controversially, Friedman and Ryan make the case for Qui-Gon Jinn showing paedophilic grooming behaviour.
“In Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon engages in many behaviours with young Anakin Skywalker the same way a paedophile would with a child victim. Anakin seems to fit a pattern which Qui-Gon has of cultivating prepubescent, fair-complexioned boys with no strong male family ties…Anakin’s mother has no power or relations with authority, which decreases the likelihood that either she or Anakin would report the paedophile, or potentially be believed by others…Qui-Gon develops a relationship with Anakin, noting his special features and abilities: he often gives compliments to the child…He fosters a relationship where secrets are kept…and the child is slowly isolated from others…After trust is gained, there is a gradual increase in physical intimacy. In the movies this was symbolised by Qui-Gon drawing blood samples from Anakin. A paedophile may incorporate other children or older victims into the grooming process to further lower the child’s inhibitions”.
I’m not overly convinced by the argument but it does at least lead to discussions on the topic of grooming that I could see having a place in the classroom. Friedman and Ryan also examine a whole species (the Jawas) and claim that they are by nature kleptomaniacs:
“Jawas can introduce the concepts of kleptomania and hoarding, since they ‘have a tendency to pick up anything that’s not tied down’. It is important from a diagnostic point of view to recognise that kleptomania is more than just stealing or shoplifting…To meet criteria for kleptomania, one must recurrently fail to resist the impulse to steal unneeded or non-valuable objects. Tension before committing the theft is followed by gratification or release afterwards. These characteristics of kleptomania can be inferred from the Jawas’ capture of R2D2…The gratification of stealing R2D2 is clear from the Jawas’ excited scream…As for the need or value of the stolen items and the repetitive nature of the theft, the Jawas’ sandcrawler is filled with droids in various states of dysfunction…Although on a desert planet almost anything might have value, the Jawas seem to take this to extremes given the number of broken droids in their possession which do not even appear to be in good enough shape to use as spare parts”.
Elsewhere in the paper is a table listing many Star Wars characters along with “potential concept discussions” related to the characters’ behaviours in the films. This includes (amongst others) Darth Vader (borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder), Jabba the Hutt (psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder), Boba Fett (Oedipal issues – Hamlet type), Yoda (dyslexia, malingering), Luke Skywalker (prodromal schizophrenia), Princess Leia (histrionic personality disorder), Padme Amidala (postnatal delirium, postnatal depression), Obi-Wan Kenobi (major depression in old age, pseudo-dementia), and C3PO (obsessive-compulsive personality disorder).
However, given my own research interests, the character that most interested me in Friedman and Ryan’s list was the claim that Lando Calrissian might be a pathological gambler. According to one of the Wiki entries:
“Lando Calrissian was a human male smuggler, gambler, and card player who became Baron Administrator of Cloud City, and, later, a general in the Rebel Alliance. [He] was born on the planet Socorro…During his youth, he became a smuggler and a gambler, playing a card game known as sabbacc. Calrissian was able to make a living by illegally acquiring and redistributing rare or valuable goods. However, due to Calrissian’s penchant for gambling, he and his business partner Lobot were in deep with the wrong people”.
Gambling does make the occasional appearance in Star Wars films – particularly in bar scenes. In describing Calrissian to Han Solo, Princess Leia notes “he’s a card player, gambler, scoundrel. You’d like him“. Qui-Gon Jinn notes in The Phantom Menace that “Whenever you gamble my friend, eventually you’ll lose”. The Star Wars Wiki on gambling notes that it involves “the betting of credits or possessions in wagers or games like sabbacc. For example, Lando Calrissian bet the Millennium Falcon in a game of sabacc with Han Solo, and lost. Gambling was rampant on Tatooine [the home planet of Luke Skywalker]”. The Star Wars Wiki on sabacc also notes that there are several variants of the game and that Calrissian lost the Millenium Falcon to Han Solo while playing ‘Corellian Spike’ and that Solo kept the two golden dice that were used while gambling. A profile article on Calrissian in the Washington Post describes him as a “suave gambler” rather than a pathological gambler.
There is no doubt that Calrissian liked to gamble but there is little evidence from the film that it was pathological. However, other articles (as well as older and newer fiction) about him claim that he is. For instance, in an online article by Shane Cowlishaw discussing the personality disorders of Star Wars characters, the following is claimed:
“He may have ended up leading the final assault on the Death Star, but Lando perhaps was only successful due to being a pathological gambler. Having lost the Millennium Falcon to Han Solo in a bet, conned the Bespin Gas Mine out of somebody and gambling on a deal to betray Han and Chewbacca to the Empire, it is clear he can’t help himself. Lando gambles with the lives of other rebels, albeit successfully, be demanding that the spaceship not abort their mission when Admiral Ackbar orders everyone to retreat from the unexpectedly operational Death Star. A perfect character to debate whether pathological gambling is an addiction or an impulse-control disorder, apparently”
It’s also worth mentioning that Calrissian will also be making an appearance in upcoming Marvel comics. In an interview with writer Charles Soule (who will be scripting the new stories), it is evident that the crux of his character will focus on the gambling part of his personality – but more on the problem side:
“I focused on the whole gambler archetype for Lando; more specifically, the sort of lifelong card player who never really knows when to walk away from the table. He’s always chasing his losses, hoping that if he makes a big enough bet, he can get ahead with just one good hand. It’s tweaked a bit here—the idea is that Lando had something happen to him in his past that put him way behind, and now he’s just trying to get back to even. This isn’t really a financial thing, although that’s part of it – it’s more like a moral thing. Like a life debt. I don’t hit it too hard in this story—it’s all background—but the shading is there…Lando gets into crazy, extreme situations because they’re his version of making big bets at the card table. If he can make it through his next adventure, maybe he can just retire and live a quiet life. It never really works out, though. One step forward, two steps back. That’s Lando Calrissian…It’s a story about a hyper-charismatic, ultra-smooth guy who gets into huge jams constantly, and tends to get out of them through a combination of luck and charm. He’d never punch his way out of a fight; he’d rather buy everyone a few drinks and leave on good terms. Assuming he hasn’t gambled away all his money, that is”.
However, there is also the 2013 novel Scoundrels written by Timothy Zahn featuring Calrissian, Han Solo, and Chewbacca and includes the short story Winner Lose All based on Calrissian’s love of gambling but here, there is nothing to suggest the behaviour is pathological. There is also a fictional online interview with Calrissian that puts forward the idea that he was a professional gambler rather than a pathological gambler:
“Basically I was born to a normal middle class family and found I had a talent for gambling. I traipsed across the universe as a professional gambler, but occasionally need more money so I hired out as mercenary and treasure hunter. Eventually I won the Millennium Falcon, but didn’t know how to fly it. So I paid Han Solo to teach me, he won the ship from me in a game of Sabbac. I won it back but, it like taking your best friend’s girl so I gave it back to him. When I wound up on Cloud City I won my title of Barron Administrator in a card game. The rest is they sat history”.
Finally, on a more academic note, Calrissian also makes an appearance as one of the ‘Gambler’ archetypes the book Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists by Margaret Hartwell and Joshua Chen. The book is a novel approach to brand development and includes a deck of 60 archetype cards with the aim of revealing a brand’s motivation and why it attracts certain customers. The authors hope that the book will be used repeatedly to inform and enliven brand strategy. This again suggests that Calrissian’s gambling is not seen as pathological (otherwise he wouldn’t have been included in the book as a brand to be modelled upon).
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Cowlishaw, S. (2015). Star Wars characters and their personality disorders. Stuff, July 8. Located at: http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/film/70017741/Star-Wars-characters-and-their-personality-disorders
Friedman, S. H., & Hall, R. C. (2015). Using Star Wars’ supporting characters to teach about psychopathology. Australasian Psychiatry, 23(4), 432-434.
Friedman, S. H., & Hall, R. C. (2015). Teaching psychopathology in a galaxy far, far away: The light side of the force. Academic Psychiatry, 39(6), 719-725.
Griffiths, M.D. (1996). Media literature as a teaching aid for psychology: Some comments. Psychology Teaching Review, 5(2), 90.
Griffiths, M. (2004). An empirical analysis of the film ‘The Gambler’. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 1(2), 39-43.
Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Media and advertising influences on adolescent risk behaviour. Education and Health, 28(1), 2-5.
Hall, R. C., & Friedman, S. H. (2015). Psychopathology in a galaxy far, far away: The use of Star Wars’ dark side in teaching. Academic Psychiatry, 39(6), 726-732.
Hartwell, M. & Chen, J.C. (2012). Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists. How Design Books.
In a review of paraphilias not otherwise specified (P-NOS), Dr Joel Milner and colleagues defined kleptophilia – also known as kleptolagnia – as a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from illegally entering and stealing from someone’s house. For some kleptophiles, sexual arousal may occur when looking at, thinking about, or engaging in sexual play with the stolen object. If the things stolen (e.g., such as ladies’ knickers) are the sole sexual focus, then it would be classed as fetishism. may be the appropriate diagnosis. If the behaviour itself (e.g., the act of actually stealing something) is the sexual focus (rather than the stolen items), then it would be classed as kleptophilia (i.e., because the sexual arousal derives from either the act of stealing the items or the fact the items were stolen, the object itself is not considered sexual). Furthermore, this would be classed by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as a P-NOS. In extreme cases, kleptophilia is sometimes associated with sexual sadism. For example, a 1991 paper by Dr. Lauren Boglioli and colleagues in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology reported that kleptophiles may sexually assault and/or rape the owner of the house that was burgled.
There has been relatively little research on kleptophilia and much of what is known comes from case studies (typically those who have been caught and arrested for the crime committed). The origin of the stolen item (i.e., whose item it is) may have some personal meaning for the kleptophile but for others it may be of no psychological consequence at all. The item may need to have belonged to someone personally significant for the act of stealing the item to be considered sexually pleasurable to the kleptophile. It has also been said that some kleptophiles may engage in their paraphilic behaviour legally by pre-arranging with a third party to have something stolen from their house. However, it is thought that most kleptophilic events are non-consensual and illegal, and thus result in criminal records for those kleptophiles that are caught.
Early writings by the psychoanalyst Otto Fenichel drew attention to the notion that stealing may have a sexual sense, and that doing a forbidden thing secretly may be a means of masturbation. Fenichel also asserted that for some people who steal, the sexual meaning is in the foreground and are therefore closer to being a paraphilia, and that the stolen object is the fetish itself.
In a 1999 issue of the Journal Of The American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, Dr. Louis Schlesinger and Dr. Eugene Revitch reported that:
“Burglary, the third most common crime after larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft, is rarely the focus of forensic psychiatric study. While most burglaries are motivated simply by material gain, there is a subgroup of burglaries fueled by sexual dynamics. [We] differentiate two types of sexual burglaries: (1) fetish burglaries with overt sexual dynamics; and (2) voyeuristic burglaries, in which the sexual element is often covert and far more subtle. Many forensic practitioners have informally noted the relationship of burglaries to sexual homicide, but this relationship has not otherwise been studied in any detail”
A more recent paper led by by Dr. Michael Vaughan (University of Pittsburgh, USA) examined a sample of 456 adult career criminals. Using a statistical technique called latent profile analysis, Vaughan and colleagues constructed a methodologically rigorous quantitative typology of career burglars. Their findings revealed four distinct types of burglars. These were (i) young versatile burglars, (ii) vagrant burglars, (iii) drug-oriented burglars, and (iv) sexual predator burglars. All four groups showed significant involvement in various criminal activities, but the “sexual predators” were the most violent and had the most serious criminal careers. However, the paper did not isolate the motivations for burglary and so it is not known to what extent any of the sample participants (and particularly the sexual predators) were kleptophiles.
In kleptomania (i.e., the recurrent failure to resist impulses to steal objects not needed for personal use or their monetary value), the underlying aim is not the stolen item itself but the act of stealing (in the same way that in kleptophilia, the act of stealing is the sexual focus, not the item stolen). In a 1983 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. Chalkley and Dr. Powell provided clinical descriptions of 48 of their patients with sexual fetishes, and noted that fetishism is not a criminal act unless accompanied by stealing fetish objects (i.e., kleptophilia). Interestingly, the authors reported that one of their 48 patients stole because he was attracted to stealing clothes, another stole to procure used and stained clothes, and a third stole to obtain something belonging to someone he had desired and followed home. In a review of kleptomania the American Journal of Psychiatry, Dr M.J. Goldman reported that many young people with kleptomania have stolen women’s underwear. He stressed that the ecstasy and urges felt while stealing a fetish object can contribute to sexual arousal and orgasm.
To my knowledge, only one case study in the psychological literature has specifically reported on the relationship between fetishism and kleptomania in a 2009 issue of the Archives of Neuropsychiatry. The paper was written by a group of Turkish psychiatrists led by Dr. Fatih Öncü and reported the case of a 32-year old married male patient suffering from both fetishism and kleptomania who was referred for psychiatric evaluation as a result of multiple stealing of the “fetish” items (mainly ladies’ underwear).
“At the age of 13-14 he had started to steal women’s garments (particularly scarves and skirts) at night. He used to take them to a secret place and masturbated with them while imagining having sex with the women he admired. After ejaculation, he threw the clothes away or burnt them. It was fifteen years ago when he first served a short jail sentence of about 45 days for stealing women’s garments…The same year he was arrested and jailed for 15 more days for the same reason, which was repeated 2-3 times in the next year, when he was jai- led for one month for each act, and four more times in the next ten years…Eight years ago, when he committed a crime similar to those mentioned above, a medical report with a diagnosis of ‘Psychosexual Disorder-Fetishism’ was issued by a state hospital. [He was] unable to control his impulses, repeatedly stole women’s garments (particularly while intoxicated) and had orgasm with these objects despite all social difficulties and punishments, and that he felt distressed, ashamed and regretful about his acts of stealing, he was diagnosed with the mental disease of “Fetishism and Kleptomania (involving only the fetish object)”.
According to the authors, the most important characteristics of this particular case are that (i) the individual stole items (in this case women’s underwear) that were not needed for personal use or their monetary value, and (ii) the act of stealing was recurrent and compulsive, but not preplanned. The authors note that while the intention in this case appears to be to possess the fetish item, the man was additionally gratified by the act of stealing itself. He did not need the items for their monetary value, and people close to him (such as his wife) already had such items.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Boglioli, L. R., Taff, M. L., Stephens, P. J., & Money, J. (1991). A case of autoerotic asphyxia associ- ated with multiplex paraphilia. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 12, 64-73.
Chalkey, A.J. & Powell, G.E (1983). The clinical description of forty-eight cases of sexual fetishism. British Journal of Psychiatry, 142, 292-295.
Goldman, M.J. (1991). Kleptomania: Making sense of the nonsensical. American Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 986-996.
Milner, J.S. Dopke, C.A. & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and Theory In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (pp. 384-418). New York: Guildford Press.
F Öncü, S Türkcan, Ö Canbek, D Yeşilbursa, N Uygur Fetişizm ve Kleptomani: Bir Adli Psikiyatri Olgu Bildirimi, Nöropsikiyatri Arşivi 2009;46(3):125-128
Revitch, E. (1983). Burglaries with sexual dynamics. In L. B. Schlesinger & E. Revitch (Eds.), Sexual dynamics of anti-social behavior (pp. 173–191). Springfield, IL: Thomas.
Schlesinger, L., & Revitch, E. (1999). Sexual burglaries and sexual homicide: clinical, forensic, and investigative considerations. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, 27, 227-238.
Zavitzianos, G. (1983). The kleptomanias and female criminality. In L. B. Schlesinger & E. Revitch (Eds.), Sexual dynamics of anti-social behavior (pp. 132-158). Springfield, IL: Thomas.