When it comes to Borderline Personality Disorder, the trope is a prime example of the ways in which women suffering from the condition are dismissed out of hand for experiencing emotions that may be extreme, but that are nonetheless valid.
People diagnosed with BPD are as much as three times more likely to be women than men, which doesn’t help with the inherent misogyny surrounding how people think about the condition.
Then there’s the fact that the direct portrayal of BPD in pop culture is often over-the-top and disturbing—the character Dennis Reynolds from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was diagnosed with it in season 10 (“Psycho Pete Returns”). Dennis who describes himself, without a shimmer of irony, as a “golden god”; who takes being compared to a serial killer as a compliment; who regularly allows trivialities to send him into fits of rage.
They are evident in songs, and in TV shows and films, often capturing BPD’s primary traits: fear of abandonment, feeling unlovable, hypersexuality, and impulsive behaviors.Like the club Groucho Marx didn’t want to belong to, if somebody loves you, they must be an idiot because you know—your BPD tells you—that you are fundamentally unlovable.BPD and My Dating Life Long before I was diagnosed, my first boyfriend bore the brunt: At 17, we should have been exploring ourselves and each other, but he was hacking down my walls while I stood back and burned bridges.BPD in Pop Culture While there are few apt, direct portrayals of BPD in broad society, representations manage to creep into common consciousness through TV, film, and music, leaving the public, at least subconsciously, more aware of the disorder than they may realize.Even I managed to read Susanna Kaysen’s memoir Girl, Interrupted (perhaps more commonly recognized in its 1999 Winona Ryder filmic reimagining) twice and didn’t glean that it was ostensibly describing what I had.In this age of dynamic information, there is often a strange dichotomy framing mental health.Access to lived examples via blogs and social media means people are chipping away at stigmas every day.On the other, more chilling hand, a constant feed of experiences means interpretations of illness can be easily warped.Take Urban Outfitters’ “depression T-shirt,” or the well-documented and unconquerable pro-anorexia websites and Tumblr blogs as particularly saddening examples.While these representations are regularly problematic, there are some that seize the essence of BPD and help to communicate its existence, flattering or otherwise.Perhaps most pointedly, there is the psycho ex-girlfriend trope.