(Dan Partland’s feature debut #Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump is a timely look at 45. The film drops Septamber 1, 2020. Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not pay just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?)
Does the 45th President of the United States really need any more media attention, even if negative? Have we not all, collectively, as a nation, seen enough of his pathologies play out over the past 4 years to be fully aware, whether we are pro or con, of what makes him tick? I certainly feel that way (and I am certainly not a fan), and so approached the new documentary by Dan Partland (his feature debut), #Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump, with some trepidation, that hashtag giving me especial pause (a portent of potential trendiness within). And yet, it turns out to be a very fine meditation on not only the current occupant of the White House but on malignant narcissism, in general, filled with interviews from medical experts, abuse survivors, military specialists and more, all of whom confirm, often in great detail, the depth of the pit this country has dug for itself by electing one Donald J. Trump to the highest office in the land. Depression and despair have never been so entertaining.
What emerges from this vibrant mix of voices is not only the sense that we are in real trouble, but that some brilliant folks are aware of this and will not let up articulating that fact. From psychologists John Gartner (founder, Duty to Warn) and Suzanne Lachman, to psychiatrists Lance Dodes and Justin Frank, to lawyer George Conway (co-founder, The Lincoln Project, and husband to Kellyanne, counselor to the president), to author and former naval officer Malcolm Nance, to financier and former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci and others, Partland brings in impassioned speakers on the topic, some of whom once supported Trump before realizing the error of their ways. Both Scaramucci and Conway are both problematic experts, for sure, each compromised by their direct and indirect associations to the man, though this also adds weight to their condemnations. Scaramucci, actually, emerges as a highly thoughtful analyzer not only of what is wrong with Trump, but how he nevertheless has appeal to many working-class people (Scaramucci, unlike Trump, is an actual self-made rich guy, coming from limited means).
It’s Dodes who breaks down the four components of malignant narcissism for us – narcissism, paranoia, anti-social personality disorder (what used to be psychopathy), and sadism – and then he and his colleagues explain the ways in which this definition applies to Trump, citing copious supporting examples. Perhaps my favorite character witness is golfer and writer Rick Reilly, who explains how Trump cheats at golf and what that says about him. This sets the stage for historians Ruth Ben-Ghiat and Cheryl Koos, both specialists on fascism, to examine the dangers of even the smallest such petty behaviors on the overall health of our political system. Gartner then jumps back in to unapologetically compare Trump to Hitler, emphasizing that it’s not about the comparative magnitude of misdeeds (yet), but about the (to him and, he hopes, to us) obvious parallels in psychological makeup. Whether or not any of these arguments have any affect on those who have drunk the Kool-Aid, I do not know. But given the number of Republicans in this movie, one can hope. #Unfit ends with a call to action to “stand up and be counted.” I’m all in. Are you?
– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)