Narcissism is one of the most obvious examples of a personality disorder. We see it everywhere in our culture. Narcissism can explain part of the motivation for participating in reality TV show antics, and Hollywood has always seemed a refuge for beautiful people who need to be the center of attention. We know that not much will change in Hollywood with this announcement. But will it change any other parts of our culture?There's more at the link. It's a pretty good piece, but I had two thoughts as I read Currid-Halkett's essay, one important, I think, the other not so much.
Most troubling about not including NPD as a personality disorder is that there is evidence of narcissism in all of our social lives. It’s alarming that in an age when narcissism is so evident, and with new ways for narcissists to get attention so apparent, that it would not be considered a personality disorder. The new world of democratic celebrities—on Facebook, reality TV and Twitter—where there are fewer traditional constraints on runaway narcissism, demonstrates the need to take this personality disorder seriously.
It’s almost tautological to say that celebrity favors narcissistic personalities. Michael Jackson is a tragic example: consumed with a desire to be loved, to stay young and to remain the “King of Pop,” he built a fantasy childhood kingdom at his house and subjected himself to disfiguring plastic surgery. He was particularly vulnerable and unsupported, but his quest for attention isn’t a million miles from Britney shaving her hair off or 80s-era Madonna and her endless and often sacrilegious desire to shock.
However, reality TV and the rise of the 24/7 news cycle (begetting the 24/7 gossip cycle) has enabled a very visual and real-time way to observe the dangers of narcissism. Like Jackson, Heidi Montag, former reality star from The Hills, is so pathologically obsessed with her physical appearance that she underwent plastic surgery multiple times while still in her early 20s. She and her husband, Spencer Pratt, appear to devote many of their waking hours to drumming up publicity for themselves. This past summer, Montag filed for divorce only to reconcile this November, admitting it was a stunt to make money. Pratt remarked in an interview with a tabloid, “Divorcing was the only way to keep Heidi’s career going.”
The first was that I was a little disappointed, but not surprised, that the author didn't mention that narcissism is at bottom a moral problem, not just a kind of illness. Our infatuation with ourselves stems from an exaggerated view of our own self-importance and a failure to see others as equally important in the eyes of God. Unfortunately, one of the things our post-modern culture has deprived us of is the ability to make moral judgments. Thus, we'll say that things we think harmful are "disorders", they need "treatment", perhaps, but who's to say that they're actually wrong in a moral sense? That sounds so old-fashioned and judgmental.
Second, I wondered if the author's motivation for using a hyphenated name might not be just a little narcissistic itself.