Diagnosing Depressives in Popular Film

Bernard Berkman (in The Squid and the Whale)

Overview: Bernard Berkman (Jeff Daniels) is a smug and bitter writer whose mid-range career heyday has long since transpired. (There’s an endearingly pathetic scene where he picks up a signed first ed. of his novel and just stares at it). He resents the recent literary success (poem published in The New Yorker) of his wife, who leaves him for their sons’ tennis coach, played perfectly by William Baldwin. Berkman, emasculated by the world and his wife, resorts to controlling his emulating eldest son by getting him to agree on petty literary aesthetics—like which books suck, and which books are too “complicated” for mainstream philistines (e.g. his). He also awkwardly attempts to court one of his young sexually glib creative writing students. This is a classic portrait of the middle-aged academic loser whose life spent accruing cultural currency cannot pay the bills. He eventually has a minor breakdown in the middle of the street, on which he ends up lying, fishing for sympathy.

Diagnosis: Narcissistic personality disorder, testosterone.

Suggested Medication: Yoga, fellatio. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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