Narcissism and the desire for social validation are central themes in the Norwegian movie “Sick of Myself” whose main character is obsessed with being the centre of attention. With some voices saying that social media makes us more prone to develop narcissistic tendencies, the movie targets a timely topic and offers a humoristic critique of how far someone might go to gain attention.
When Joachim Trier’s “Worst Person in the World” hit the cinemas last year, the movie’s protagonist Julie was a welcomed figure of identification for many individuals in the audience and one fact was generally agreed upon: her exploration of her identity and indecisiveness concerning her life does not make her the Worst Person in the World. Now, Norway wants to show us what the actual worst person might look like with a new movie called “Sick of Myself”.
It revolves around the couple Signe and Thomas but actually, it is primarily about Signe because she makes sure it is.
To give you an idea of what to expect from Kristoffer Borgli’s protagonist, let’s dive into the plot.
A Main Character With Main Character Syndrome
The couple is at best competitive, but unhealthy, narcissistic, and self-obsessed might describe them more accurately. Constantly endeavoring to outdo one another, Signe and Thomas are far from being happy for the other person’s success. Thomas, an artist who steals furniture to make installations, receives increasing recognition for his work, a bit too much for Signe’s taste.
Her slightly embellished story of how she, single-handedly and heroically, saved a woman that got bitten by a dog only puts the spotlight away from her boyfriend for so long. The faked nut allergy at Thomas’ celebratory dinner that makes her faint also only gives her temporary attention. Not enough. After all, Signe is high on main character energy.
A positive trait of Signe? She is not vain, or at least, her need for attention trumps any need to look good physically. So, when she learns about a drug that gives her an extreme skin rash on her face, all her problems seem to dissolve. Because what better way is there to ensure the attention, pity, and care of others are fully directed toward her than to take an overdose of said pills? And for a moment there, Signe has won. People visit her at the hospital, an article is written about her, and her friends are concerned about her. But as you might have guessed, things go downhill from that point on.
Need for Social Validation
“Sick of Myself” portrays in an exaggerated and brutally honest way what might be more accurate and truer to reality than we want it to be.
Signe wants validation: a “You are so brave” for helping the hurt woman, a “You are so strong” for living with a nut allergy, and a “You are so confident” for posting a picture with your skin condition.
And in that, we should all be able to relate with Signe. Especially in a time dictated by social media, the yearning for social validation has become a daily struggle for many. By posting that selfie, we want others to acknowledge that we are pretty. By posting that super cool song, we want others to see that we have good taste in music. By posting that recap video at the end of the year, we want to show how much fun we are. By posting a late BeReal at the gym, we want others to realize how fit we are. For some people, validation is a more important incentive than for others, but in the end, every human craves a bit of validation. And even though I roll my eyes at the third mirror selfie I see on my Instagram stories today, I might post this article and, by doing so, will fulfil my personal need for social validation.
We might judge Signe for being obsessed with attention and distance ourselves from her as we ensure ourselves that we would never intentionally ruin our boyfriend’s celebratory dinner.
But, to some extent, “Sick of Myself” simply presents the extreme of a spectrum that we are all located on.
The Appeal of Unlikable Characters
The dark humor of Borgli’s “Sick of Myself’ makes us laugh and the movie’s satirical tone offers an entertaining experience but the movie doesn’t fall short of providing some food for thought.
Despite being what some might call egoistic at times, Julie in “The Worst Person in the World” is a likeable, relatable, and authentic character that certainly played a role in the movie’s success. “Sick of Myself” falls short of such a character as neither Signe nor Thomas is written to be identification material. Thus, the movie thrives on unlikeable characters that seem to have an appeal nonetheless.
Director Borgli says in an interview: “[…] we have a lot of negative feelings, negative traits, negative incentives. And it helps me to feel a little less alienated when I find these characters in fiction. I see that, “Oh, someone’s actually even worse than I am.” And it’s like a bridge that makes me more connected to humanity. Because I think we’re all somewhat corrupt. Everyone has unlikable traits in them.“.
It certainly seems like a reasonable explanation. We have probably all had a moment or two in which we wanted the attention to linger on us for a little while longer, the recognition for something we did to be a little bit more outspoken. Maybe even a moment where we have talked someone’s success down to feel better about ourselves, where we left out some details of a story to put ourselves in a better light, exaggerated just a tiny bit our suffering to get a bit more pity and care from others. Maybe you never did any of these things but had those narcissistic thoughts. Whatever we might be guilty of, few of us would (hopefully) go to the lengths of swallowing an excessive amount of illegal pills to inflict an unhealthy skin disease on ourselves. Thus, walking out of the cinema you might feel a little better about yourself because if this fictional character is much more narcissistic than you would ever be, there will also be people in real life that make you seem like the most altruistic person there is.
And so, Borgli lets us come to terms with our unlikeable side by boldly depicting these socially forbidden truths on the screen.
Cover: StockSnap/ Pixabay
Edited by: Patricia Beschea