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This edition: Episode #109: "Welcome to Me," "The Jinx," & "Silence of the Lambs"

Episode Details

Original tape date: June 25, 2015.

First aired: October 23, 2015.

In episode #109 of Science Goes to the Movies, Dr. Heather Berlin and Faith Salie discuss mental illness as it’s represented in the Kristen Wiig comedy, Welcome to Me; the HBO documentary series, The Jinx; the Hannibal Lecter franchise that began with Silence of the Lambs; and Game of Thrones.

Welcome to Me serves as the basis for a conversation about borderline personality disorder, progress being made in new studies, therapeutic and pharmaceutical treatments, and what makes a person want to go off medication.

The Jinx, the story of alleged killer Robert Durst, leads to an analysis of anti-social personality disorder, commonly known as the behavior of a “psychopath.” The roots of this condition in what’s called “conduct disorder,” which begins in childhood, are considered, along with the possibility of Asperger’s as an explanation for Durst’s actions.

Next, Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs provokes a discussion of the uniqueness of psychological profiles. The backstory provided in the later Lecter franchise – which points to early childhood trauma as an explanation for the man he becomes – leads to a consideration of whether real-life psychopaths often have such a history, and how much that matters when it comes to the horrific acts they commit.

Finally, Berlin and Salie take on the murders carried out by the character Stannis Baratheon on Game of Thrones – and the question of whether all people are capable of killing someone under certain circumstances.

Written and Produced by Lisa Beth Kovetz.

Science Goes to the Movies is made possible by generous support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.