Fatal Attraction

“I’ll pity you because you’re sick.”

Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) gets a lot more than he hoped for when he cheats on his wife with his wild, blonde colleague, Alex (Glenn Close). The more Dan tries to distance himself from his weekend-long mistake, the more Alex threatens to destroy the family Dan built without her.

Dan’s Problem
Adultery is written off as a non-issue by many (men), but the truth is that infidelity has numerous consequences. Feelings of loved ones get hurt, sexually transmitted diseases may be harbored, and ultimately, the partnership is woven through with a pretty big lie. This is not to say that cheaters are bad people, but people that are happy in their relationships do not cheat. My theory is that as Dan’s wife, Beth (Anne Archer) pesters him about buying a house, Dan uses his flirtation with Alex to subconsciously get back at his wife. That’s the other thing – Beth is Dan’s wife. While some marriages are “open” (I don’t personally get that, but hey, it’s your relationship), this one definitely is not. To breach the promises suggested by your relationship is to hurt the person you have the relationship with and yes, this points to a deeper issue.

Seriously, if you want to sleep around, you don’t have to get married. And you definitely don’t have to set out to hurt anyone.

Alex’s Problem
Let’s give Dan a break for a second; he gets his fair share of turmoil by picking a woman with a personality disorder as his mistress. Yes, like Annie Wilkes and Evelyn, Alex is joining the Borderline Personality Disorder club. 

Borderline Personality Disorder

  • Dangerous, Impulsive Behavior
    I would argue that following someone in a car while they listen to a tape where you slowly become unhinged is pretty strange. Also, kidnapping a child and taking them on a roller coaster and then boiling the kid’s bunny rabbit are dangerous. What is important to note here is that “dangerous” behavior includes behaviors that are against the law.
  • Self-Harm
    Alex cuts herself when Dan tries to leave, not unlike Evelyn in Play Misty for Me! Although these types of behaviors are manipulative in the context of BPD, it is really important to get psychiatric help for anyone engaging in self-harm behaviors.
  • Chronic Emptiness
    I have said it before and will say it again and again, the personality disorders are empty. People with them have a gnawing emptiness that makes them seek love in desperate, dysfunctional ways. Until they agree to ongoing therapy (and it is tough to convince them, but it can be done), it is difficult to treat their illness and their behaviors are likely to continue.

    Also, not everyone with a personality disorder is a threat to you, or to unsuspecting bunny rabbits. 

A Theory: Alex’s Pregnancy
This part makes me wonder a bit. Although Dan calls a doctor and is told that he does have paternal responsibility, some of the impulsive behaviors possible under the realm of the personality disorder shows up in the form of habitual lying. If Alex is really pregnant, why does she offer Dan liquor when he comes over? Why is she endangering her baby with her illegal antics? My theory is that she is lying about the baby, but there is no formal resolution to this plot point in the movie.

It’s Not Me. It’s You.
Dan seems okay, but even he does some weird stuff when Alex’s actions freak him out. He breaks into her apartment and he tries to strangle her. He does make one half-hearted attempt at contacting the police, who respond in classic movie cop fashion: They under-react. This is really interesting; when men have stalkers, they play up the nonchalance, even when the stalker proves to be very unstable.

So here is a message to the guys out there who have that ex that will not leave them alone, that new acquaintance that makes them uncomfortable, or that old acquaintance that straight up gives them the creeps: Say something. Women can be dangerous too and if her behavior is upsetting you, you do not get machismo points for avoiding protection.

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