A Psychologist's Professional Insight Into the "Monsters, Inc." Characters
I’ve been waiting several days to share this here, after a correspondence on Deviant Art with a fellow fan of Monsters, Inc., and of the character of Randall Boggs, especially, noted this to me privately. One of his friends is a Psychologist, who is also a professor at a university(NO, not MU), and her expertise is called upon by the courts to serve as an expert witness in criminal court cases, so she is well-respected in her field. She also happens to be a big-time movie buff, whose “hobby”, I guess you could call it, is analyzing movie characters from a psychological perspective. When asked if she had ever done analyses on the MI characters, it turned out that she HAD, and taken rather extensive notes on the subject…back in 2007, which she shared, and which were then shared with me.
Now, I know it’s rather cliche’ for someone to claim to know someone who knows someone who has “inside information”, but those of you who know ME know that I don’t post something unless it has credibility. If I had doubts about the authenticity of this, I would not share it. I do have some background in Psychology myself, so everything that this person wrote about the characters rings very true, although some of you might find it shocking, especially if you’re fans of Mike Wazowski, of if you have always believed that Randall Boggs was the main “villain” of MI, was evil to the core, and fully aware of his actions and in full control of them by the time he attempted to kill Sulley, that he made a conscious CHOICE to do those things, in other words. That, as you will see, simply was NOT true at all. Here goes:
James P. Sullivan: - Despite being the best scarer, Sullivan is, in fact, a shy, introverted and very emotional person, possibly intellectual. He is socially awkward and tries to avoid unnecessary interpersonal interactions. Being the best scarer, he often finds himself in the center of attention and doesn’t feel comfortable about it; his popularity is a byproduct of his success that he could live without. He isn’t competitive; could easily be the second or hundredth scarer - he doesn’t care. He plays a submissive role in his friendship with Mike.
Mike Wazowski - A psychopath. [Mike is a looney-tunes character in an otherwise ordinary world. We DO have such characters in real life, and psychology has a special name for them: psychopaths]. Mike’s emotions are shallow, short-lived and often egocentric. He lives a parasitic life on Sulley. Is a pathological liar of poor quality, yet still manages to be charming and manipulative. Fails to accept responsibility. Lacks any long-term goals. Has and elevated sense of self-worth. His physical inferiority to almost everyone else is probably the only reason why he appears and acts in a benign way. Instead of inflicting physical damage himself, he manipulates Sulley to do so. Dominant role in his friendship with Sulley. [Contrary to popular Hollywood-fueled opinions, psychopaths are generally not genius comic book villains. Often, they are of under average intelligence, something that severely impacts their pathological lying skills. Oh, and by the way - I have Mike’s picture in the powerpoint for my lectures to remind students just how hard it is to identify a psychopath.]
Henry J. Waternoose - Unscrupulous, amoral, deceptive, exploitative and dominant, inherently antisocial. He keeps an image of a fatherly figure as a facade he uses to manipulate people. Grew up as a child overly praised by his parents. His emotional attachment to the company, his sincere teaching of scare recruits as well as his intelligence hint that he is not a psychopath, but is an unprincipled narcissist - a form of narcissistic personality disorder (nNPD). Needless to say, he is dominant in his relationship with Randall [More on that later.]
Randall Boggs - Suffers from a compensatory NPD that stems from a deep inferiority complex. Probably comes from a dysfunctional family with a very weak or submissive fatherly figure. His inferiority complex must had had debilitating effects on him in the past, before he developed the disorder that conceals it. Inside, he is a very shy intellectual who feels abandoned and incompetent, searching for a fatherly figure he could impress and love. Submissive to Waternoose, dominant to Fungus.
Mike & Sulley - Sulley, being the socially awkward person he is, has troubles forming lasting relationships. Mike represents a certainty to him. He mistakes his parasitic nature for friendliness. Mike’s reactions to Sulley’s criticisms often consist of emotional extortion. When his strategy fails in Iceman’s cave, Mike is visibly surprised. Over the course of the movie, Mike first views Boo as a threat to his dominance over Sulley, but then recognizes that he could instead embrace her as a tool to further strengthen it.
Randall & Waternoose - In the past, Randall has probably mistaken some of Waternoose’s casual acts for a display of sincere fatherly-like love, and got attached to him. He wants to please him as a son wants to please his dad. His jealousy of Sullivan has nothing to do with scaring or scare leading, but with Sulley being Waternoose’s “favorite son”. Randall reacts aggressively to Sulley’s success only when the success is witnessed or appreciated by Waternoose. Waternoose is very well aware of Randall’s feelings towards him and ruthlessly exploits them. When the two argue over banishing Sulley, Waternoose plays his role and verbally attacks and insults him in a way father talks to his prodigal son, not in a way a boss talks to his undisciplined employee. Randall is blind to the exploitation, as he is still daydreaming about a moment of catharsis when Waternoose embraces him as a son. In the second extractor scene, Randall mentions that MI will not need any scarers and turns away, silently expecting a compliment since he had mistaken Waternoose’s banishment of Sulley as an act of embracing him; he receives an insult instead and we can see him boiling under the hood. When Waternoose finally engages Randall with the task of killing Sullivan, Randall sees this as the final chance to prove himself worthy to Waternoose, loses contact with reality and effectively goes into a psychosis, not caring about anything or anyone but the task Waternoose had given him. His unnecessary monologue before his unsuccessful attempt to murder Sulley is clearly a sign of psychosis and detachment from reality, since wasting time isn’t something the stoic and cunning Randall we’d been presented earlier would do.
Sulley & Randall - These two get along pretty well, actually. Sulley doesn’t want to engage Randall in any way and is clearly unaware of Randall’s feelings for Waternoose. Even when attacked by Randall after rescuing Boo, Sulley tries to run away instead of seeking vengeance. Sulley’s act of banishing Randall therefore seems to be a result of Mike’s ultimate manipulation, rather than his own free decision. Ironically, it gives Mike another blackmailing weapon against Sulley in the future, which makes sense given Mike’s psychopathic personality. I am 100% sure that Sulley will eventually develop some mental problems because of this, as he is, by nature, a non-aggressive and smart person. Over time, he will understand that Waternoose ruthlessly manipulated Randall to the point of insanity, and will hate himself for worsening his situation rather then helping him.
Sulley & Waternoose - Their relationship feels staged on both sides. It is clear that Sulley feels awkward when talking to Waternoose, as he doesn’t like his fatherly approach, but on the other hand respects him, trusts him and tries to be nice to him.
Randall and Fungus -Fungus is a shy and naturally submissive person with impaired social skills and empathy, possibly suffering from some kind of mild autism. Randall’s relationship with Fungus is very personal, as Fungus constantly reminds him of his inner self, worsening his condition. Working with Fungus brings Randall relief, however, as Fungus serves as a perfect lightning rod for his hatred towards himself. Essentially, blaming Fungus enables Randall to release steam without hurting his ego or admitting that he has issues.*
-“Now that Mike is safe and Randall’s nowhere to be found, let’s just tie poor Fungus to the chair. Hopefully Randall makes it back in time so he won’t suffocate to death.”
-“CEO does not remember the looks of his own simulator. Senile dementia?”
- About Roz:“Undercover investigation of a company’s CEO via regular paperwork for workers. Brilliant.”
-“What the hell had Snowman done that got him banished? He seems to be a nice guy. Is he some sort of Ted Bundy or what?”
-“Sullivan throws the extractor at three other monsters. Ironically, the only one who almost gets killed is Fungus - again!”
On the MU Trailer(she had not seen the Japanese trailer as of yet):
“I am upset with the trailers. I think the worst thing that can happen to Pixar is that people will watch the original right before the head to the cinema. The characters are different in an unrealistic way. Mike is suddenly an A-student (though he keeps his psychopathic unrealistic goals). That’s ridiculous! Either you are a great A-student with skills, imagination and intelligence, or you are someone incapable of coming up with a lie that lasts longer than a few seconds - not both. Sulley is suddenly a jock indulging in being the center of attention. His intellectual and introverted nature is gone. I expected him to look more like young Randy, to be honest. While it is not impossible, you need a truly mind-blowing emotional event to change an extroverted guy into an introvert. I have seen that with war veterans and people crippled in an accident, never with a college dropout. I doubt we will see anything like war or crippling accident in MU, so I remain skeptical. Randall’s development seems realistic, but they don’t need a strong story to support his change, though. He is a kid suffering from severe inferiority complex, so all he needs is a shot in the arm to create his narcissistic shield.”
The final commission, this one for swashbuckling-action: Carl and Doug from Up. Sorry that it took me soooo long to get to this one, I had an unexpected blood test in my dominant arm this week and couldn’t draw for a few days, guh. But here they are at last! I hope you like them!
And thanks once again to everyone who entered my contest – and for everyone who’s following me. You’re all awesome!