Weinstein, Hubris, and Narcissism

Like the protagonist of an ancient Greek tragedy, Harvey Weinstein has fallen from a position of wealth, power, and prestige. Like other tragic figures, Weinstein has only himself to blame. He has been accused of acts of hubris. The Greek word hubris is often translated as foolish pride, but it referred to offenses of a particular kind. In Rhetoric, Aristotle explained that “hubris consists in causing injury or annoyance whereby the sufferer is disgraced, not to obtain any other advantage for oneself besides the performance of the act, but for one’s own pleasure….The cause of the pleasure felt by those who insult is the idea that, in ill-treating others, they are more fully showing superiority.”

Like many celebrities who have been caught misbehaving, Weinstein rushed off to rehab. He went to a center that supposedly treats men for sex addiction. Weinstein stayed in rehab for a week. Weinstein’s psychologist explained that Weinstein would begin “significant outpatient therapy” after returning home.

Is Weinstein mentally ill? If so, what mental illness does he have? The fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which was published in 2013, does not include sexual addiction as a mental disorder. However, the DSM-5 does include a diagnosis that would explain why someone might ill-treat others, as a way of showing superiority: narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissism means that a person loves himself or herself too much and other people too little.

Narcissus was the character from Greek mythology who was so handsome that everyone who saw him fell in love with him. However, Narcissus did not notice or care about them. One of his admirers was a nymph named Echo, who pined for Narcissus until there was nothing left of her but her voice, and all she could do was repeat what someone else had just said. Nemesis, who was the spirit of divine vengeance, grew angry at Narcissus because of his lack of concern for Echo. To punish Narcissus, Nemesis lured him to a pool, where he fell in love with his own reflection. Some say that Narcissus drowned while trying to embrace his reflection. Other say that he starved to death because he could not leave his reflection. The flower called the narcissus (daffodil) appeared on the spot where he died.

Narcissus was actually a far nicer person than Harvey Weinstein seems to be. Narcissus simply ignored Echo. He never tried to gratify himself by hurting or humiliating her. Why would someone treat others so badly? Many psychologists believe that narcissists are driven by low self-esteem. Thus, these psychologists would theoretically try to boost a narcissist’s self-esteem. However, boosting the narcissist’s self-esteem would make the narcissism worse, not better. Overly high self-esteem, along with an inflated sense of entitlement, is the narcissist’s underlying problem.

People with narcissistic personality disorder, as defined in the DSM-5, are trying to occupy a higher rank in the social hierarchy than other people think that they deserve. A narcissist wants the power, property, and prestige that go along with a higher social rank but does not know how to get people to give him or her those things voluntarily. For example, Harvey Weinstein presumably wanted to have a sex life like Warren Beatty’s, even though Weinstein lacked Beatty’s looks and charm.

For women in many industries, men like Weinstein are the trolls under the bridges that they must cross to pursue their dreams. Weinstein’s lechery has been an open secret in Hollywood for a long time. Seth MacFarlane alluded to it in 2013, as he was announcing the nominees for Best Supporting Actress. MacFarlane said, “Congratulations. You five ladies no longer have to pretend you’re attracted to Harvey Weinstein.”

Bill Cosby’s appalling behavior toward women had likewise been an open secret in the entertainment industry for many years. This behavior was tolerated because like Echo, the women had no voice. However, social media have given the women their voice. As a result, women are speaking out about offenses ranging from common rudeness to class A felonies. This large group of women are serving as the chorus in a Greek tragedy, revealing the secrets of the protagonist and commenting on his downfall.

Photo by MFer Photography

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