Musings about “A Clockwork Orange”

-by Alex

Going into the movie, I didn’t know much about this movie except that its main character, Alex DeLarge, has often been described as having Antisocial Personality Disorder, and that the late Heath Ledger had used this movie as inspiration for his role as the Joker in the “Dark Knight.”  As it turns out, the movie not only had an interesting, though very disturbing, portrayal of a person who has antisocial personality disorder, but it also was a movie about psychology, more specifically a critique of Skinner’s Radical Behaviorism.  There is a lot of violence and nudity in this film and it definitely is rather bizarre.  However, it’s an interesting take on the potential dangerous effects of behaviorism on humanity and it has an accurate portrayal of a person with antisocial personality disorder, so I would recommend it on those two levels.  If you do plan on watching it some time in the future, stop reading as there will be spoilers below.

In this movie, we first meet Alex DeLarge, a teenager who leads a gang who is just about to begin a night of the “old ultra-violence.”  As his friends embark out, they first meet a homeless man and mercilessly beats the man simply because the man annoyed Alex.  Afterwards, Alex and his gang stumbles in on another gang gang-raping a young women, and simply engages the rival gang in a fight for the sake of fighting not, as one would expect, to rescue the young women (he in fact seems to even make fun of her plight as a way to spur the other gang to fight).  After savagely beating up the rival gang and Alex and his friends steal a car and driving down a country road at reckless speeds play “hogs of the road,” which as you may guess involves driving in the middle of road and pushing other drivers to the side.  Eventually, the gang reaches a house where after tricking the homeowner to let them in, they savagely beat the man and rape the man’s wife all the while singing “Singing in the Rain.”  Another night, Alex murders another women (during the fight he had with her, he seemed to toy around with her until he finally had enough fun and then brutally bludgeoned her to death), and shows little emotion (except joy) until he hears police sirens and begins to fear that he may be caught.  Alex is caught and placed in prison, and the rest of the movie describes his conditioning process and how he is conditioned to pair violence with feeling of nausea and pain.

The interesting thing about the gang Alex is part of is that Alex seems to be the only one who has the disorder.  The other gang members engage in violence, but mainly they are simply his goons, mainly doing whatever that he asks them to.  They are shown caring about other members of the group, trying to appeal to Alex to be fair and not treat another group member so badly, and do not engage in the reckless driving or the rape of the woman, instead simply standing by and helping Alex do those things.  It is clear that it is Alex that is the one prone to violence and sex and the other members are simply there to tag along.  Another thing that I thought the movie did extremely well was portray Alex as a compulsive liar.  In the beginning, he is seen lying to just about everyone whether it be the people at the home he is about to rob, his parents, the girls that he seduces, his social worker, the police, and even the chaplain at the prison.   By the end of the film, I was never sure if the words that came out of Alex’s mouth were lies or not even after he had been “cured”.

Drawing it all back to Antisocial Personality Disorder, we see that Alex displays all the symptoms of the disorder.  He is prone to violence and actually enjoys inflicting pain on others and does not feel any remorse or guilt afterward, and he is a compulsive liar and thief.    He is reckless on the road and does not mind that other people have to drive off the road in order to avoid him, thus showing his complete disregard to the rights of others or the rules of society. The movie does an excellent job of showing all of this and accurately portraying Alex as a person who has Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Of course, as I mentioned above, this film is much more than simply a movie about a psychological disorder, which admittedly is only in the beginning.  The movie does have things to say about radical behaviorism, free will, and morality, and it is an interesting piece of film.  The movie was creepy and disturbing at times (there is definitely good reason why it was rated X for a while), but as I said above, it certainly does give the viewer things to think about.


~ by psychology2 on April 22, 2010.

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