“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than, ‘Good job.'”
Andrew (Miles Teller) attends conservatory to perfect his drumming skills. He catches the eye of volatile band instructor, Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). Once their interplay begins, Andrew struggles to keep pace with his instructor’s demands and the demands of living a normal life.
We spend most of our time with Andrew, and the poor guy cannot catch a break. While something is obviously wrong with Fletcher, the question lingers – is this an open-and-shut case of emotional abuse, or is psychosis to blame?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
What is important to remember is that people with personality disorders are proud. They appear confident, when in fact their egos are incredibly fragile. If Fletcher has NPD, then he perceives every wrong note as a slight to his teaching ability.
Grandiosity – It is not obvious at first, but when Fletcher shares his, “I never had a Charlie Parker” revelation with Andrew, grandiosity clicks. In Fletcher’s worldview, he abuses his students to motivate them to be the next Charlie Parker. What Fletcher suggests is that he desires to be responsible for “creating” the next Charlie Parker, which is how he justifies his abysmal behavior. He is playing God, in one of the lamest ways possible.
Lack of Empathy – Unlike sympathy where you feel bad on behalf of someone else, empathy is an emotional response where you relate to how someone else feels.You feel their feelings. Personality disorders are tricky because people with them are often intelligent and they learn how to mimic emotional reactions, but the reaction is a mask. Fletcher sharing is Charlie Parker tale with Andrew appears to be him opening up, but he is being manipulative; he reveals as much when he confesses to Andrew that he knows Andrew is the one that ratted out his abusive behavior. Where personality disorder people appear to relate to you, they are usually one step ahead, deciding how best to play the game so that they will always win.
Fletcher may have a personality disorder, but that is not an excuse for the way he treats his students. To be fair, a personality disorder does not default someone to mistreating others, but it happens more often with this diagnosis than with others. Essentially, people with personality disorders have trouble relating to people (but they hide it very well), and many times if they seek treatment, they do not follow through because their problems are easy to blame on other people. They are difficult to treat, but they need treatment desperately.
Along with emotionally pawning his students against one another, Fletcher engages in physical abuse. He never apologizes – another clear-cut sign of a personality disorder – and he certainly does not take responsibility for his actions. Even when Andrew discredits Fletcher as a teacher, Fletcher finds a way to try and humiliate Andrew one last time.
The scariest part of personality disorders is how they affect everyone around them. The people with them suffer; the people at the hands of those diagnosed with them also suffer. Research suggests that some of these disorders may be genetic, though I would argue that they are probably learned. If you have a parent with a personality disorder (like yours truly), then you may believe this is how to interact with people in your own life. As for Andrew, he behaves a little more like Fletcher with each passing scene. Luckily, he is still a kid and may be able to make different choices or separate from his monster of a music teacher, but whether Andrew is mimicking Fletcher or defying Fletcher remains up to Andrew.