To CBS, I have religiously followed Criminal Minds for fourteen seasons and I eagerly await season fifteen. You’ve also brought NCIS and Elementary into my life. To BBC, The Fall was thrilling and I watched every second. To Fox, thank you for Bones.
I’ll admit that I will eat up any crime procedural and follow any show about psychopaths and criminals that you produce. As a psychology major at Cal Poly, however, I believe we must consider the consequences of dehumanizing and making monsters out of psychopaths, or those with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). I recently completed a “Quest Project” for English; the goal being to essentially ask a question and answer it. I asked: can psychopaths be rehabilitated? And if so, how should it be done?
Through my research I have found that psychopaths make up one percent of the general population and upwards of fifty percent of incarcerated offenders show ASPD symptoms. That is not to say that all psychopaths are destined to be violent criminals, but you typically toy with the idea of good and evil in your shows. Rather than focusing on the personality disorder, you focus on the sensational - the blood, the crimes, the lies. You have given us characters who are almost lovable monsters. You’ve shown Dexter Morgan (from Dexter) as a vigilante, while also portraying Paul Spector (from The Fall) as a monstrous criminal.
I am not a script writer and I am not a producer. I do not stress about my TV shows bringing in viewership and money. As a loyal audience member, however, I would personally love to see more realistic and psychologically-based portrayals of psychopaths. Through my studies, I have concluded that psychopathy is a multi-faceted diagnosis. Here is what I ask. Show us the childhood and upbringing of your psychopathic characters. Show us the addictions and mental illnesses that compound ASPD. Show us how there is hope for managing their traits, because there is.
Psychopathy, or ASPD, cannot be cured, but it can be treated and managed. Experts in forensic psychology have discovered that rehab can look like cognitive-behavioral therapy and even group-led therapy. Psychopaths would also benefit from treatment for addiction and other mental illnesses like depression and PTSD.
There is not one stereotype that fits all LGBTQ+ individuals, or Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, or African Americans, and as our TV and media explore complex characters, I believe we should also see individuals affected by the complex disorder that is ASPD.
CBS, NBC, FOX, and the BBC: Your writers and producers and directors have kept us captivated for years with imaginative story-telling. I offer this information about psychopaths as another potential angle for your shows. Thank you for listening.
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo