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What’s it all about, Alfie? Antisocial males in the early films of Sir Michael Caine
  1. S A Spence
  1. Correspondence to:
 S A Spence
 Reader in Psychiatry, Academic Clinical Psychiatry, Division of Genomic Medicine, University of Sheffield, Longley Centre, Norwood Grange Drive, Sheffield S5 7JT, UK;


Early in his film career the actor Sir Michael Caine portrayed a series of antisocial males: Harry Palmer, Alfie Elkins, Charlie Croker, and Jack Carter. The behaviours exhibited by these fictional males resemble those of “real life” patients acquiring the diagnoses of antisocial or dissocial personality disorder. Prominent among their traits is a disregard for others, a lack of guilt, and a resort to instrumental (goal directed) violence. The exhibition of antisocial conduct may be seen as a rejection of the values of the social hierarchy, the dominant or patriarchal order. Demonstrable through a defiance of dominant males and a recurrent seduction of “their” women, these Caine characters act out an Oedipal theme, repeatedly attempting subversion of the symbolic “father”—society itself. So often, the material of “real life” social behaviour is fleeting and hard to elicit reliably; however, these fictional characters provide a stable source of such exemplars, both entertaining and instructive.

  • ASPD, antisocial personality disorder
  • film
  • antisocial
  • Michael Caine
  • Oedipal
  • manic defence

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