What’s Ailing Anakin (and Other Fictional Characters)?

The following article is from the new book Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader.

If you’ve ever tried to psychoanalyze Darth Vader or wondered why James Bond drinks his martinis “shaken, not stirred,” you’re not alone. Some medical journals have a tradition of diagnosing the “ailments” of fictional, biblical, and even cartoon characters.

Patient: Humpty Dumpty

Medical Complaint: Multiple eggshell fractures sustained following “a great fall” from a wall. Afterward, “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

Physicians’ Notes: “We question whether ‘all the king’s horses and all the king’s men’ were capable of launching an appropriate medical intervention after Mr. Dumpty’s unfortunate accident. The presence of ‘all the king’s men’ also suggests a shocking lack of crowd control. Could the crowded scene explain the inability of the responders to ‘put Humpty together again?’ ” (Canadian Medical Association Journal, December 2003)

Patient: James Bond, British secret agent 007

Medical Issue: Alcohol consumption. Two researchers read 14 of Ian Fleming’s original James Bond novels and made a note of every drink he consumed. “Days when Bond was unable to drink (usually because of incarceration or injury) were also logged.”

Physicians’ Notes: Bond averaged the equivalent of four vodka martinis a day, and on some days drank as many as 16, yet was able to remain active at levels “inconsistent with the physical, mental and indeed sexual functioning expected from someone drinking this much alcohol.” Also noted: 007’s consumption dips in the middle years of his career, then rises in the later novels, a pattern often seen in patients suffering from alcoholic liver disease. “We advise a reduction in alcohol consumption to safe levels, and suspect that the famous catchphrase ‘shaken, not stirred’ could be because of alcohol induced tremor affecting his hands.” (British Medical Journal, December 2013)

Patient: Anakin Skywalker, who grows up to become Darth Vader

Medical Issues: As a young man, Anakin has problems with anger management and impulse control. He engages in risky behavior and whipsaws between idolizing and demonizing his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi. He also has abandonment issues and “stress-related breaks with reality” when the women in his life leave him or die. His change  of name from Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader suggests that he also suffers from identity issues.

Physician’s Notes: Dr. Eric Bui, a French psychiatrist, watched Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith during his medical residency and made a tally of the character’s psychiatric problems. By the time he was done, he’d counted six of the nine criteria that are listed as symptoms of borderline personality disorder. Only five are needed to confirm a diagnosis. “I believe that psychotherapy would have helped Anakin and might have prevented him from turning to the dark side of the Force,” Dr. Bui says. (Psychiatry Research, June 2010)

Patient: Dumbo the Elephant

Medical Issues: Dumbo’s ears are abnormally large—larger than those of adult elephants. In fact, they’re so large they allow him to fly.

Physicians’ Notes: Authors P. K. Phillips and J. E. Heath constructed a full-size model of Dumbo’s ears in order to better understand what purpose they might serve (besides flying). Their conclusions: “In conditions of high wind velocity and large gradients, Dumbo could potentially dissipate more heat than he produces. This suggests that he may need the large ears to help lose the excess heat produced while flying.” (Journal of Thermal Biology, 2001)

Patient: Samson, the biblical strongman whose story is told in the book of Judges in the Old Testament

Medical Issues: Samson lies to his parents, steals from his neighbors, gets in fights, kills a lion with his bare hands, and sets 300 foxes on fire and uses them to burn the fields of the Philistines. He later beats 1,000 Philistines to death with the jawbone of an ass. His mistress, Delilah, a Philistine, tries to kill him three times, yet he recklessly reveals to her the secret to his superhuman strength (his uncut hair), which she then cuts off so that he can be handed over to the Philistines.

Physicians’ Notes: A team of four California physicians read the biblical account of Samson’s life and concluded that he exhibits six of the seven criteria (“fire setting, cruelty to small animals, bullying, initiating physical fights, using a weapon, and stealing from a victim”) for a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, “a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.” Only three of the seven criteria are needed for a positive diagnosis.

According to Dr. Eric Altschuler, one of the authors of the study, “An appreciation that Samson had ASPD makes many pieces of the story, previously enigmatic or in need of long explanations, fall into place.” (Archives of General Psychiatry, 2001)


The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's newest volume, Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader. The 29th volume of the series is chock-full of fascinating stories, facts, and lists, and comes in both the Kindle version and paperback.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

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Anakin. I suspect has some mother issues stemming from her incessant addressing him as "Annie." This, no doubt, caused him great embarrassment whenever she called him Annie in front of his friends, who would start singing "Tomorrow" then seguing into "It's the Hard Knock Life." Deep resentment caused by such harassment probably led to his penchant for ruthless suppression of whole planets.
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