The scientist Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) from Ghostbusters has a very interesting personality, he is always flirting with female clients and is more laid back it seems than the other Ghostbusters. While he is very snippy and cynical would it be correct to consider his character in the movie a narcissist?

3 Answers 3


I think the answer to that would be no. Narcissism is a serious psychological disorder. The symptoms, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders include:

  • Reacting to criticism with anger, shame, or humiliation
  • Taking advantage of others to reach their own goals
  • Exaggerating their own importance, achievements, and talents
  • Imagining unrealistic fantasies of success, beauty, power, intelligence, or romance
  • Requiring constant attention and positive reinforcement from others
  • Becoming jealous easily
  • Lacking empathy and disregarding the feelings of others
  • Being obsessed with oneself
  • Pursuing mainly selfish goals
  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships
  • Becoming easily hurt and rejected
  • Setting goals that are unrealistic
  • Wanting "the best" of everything
  • Appearing unemotional

Narcissists can be quite sadistic in their need to elevate self by putting others down. Venkman had some ego issues, but he was not without empathy - he bonded with his team and he did develop a relationship. The audience liked him. A narcissist does not make a likable character.

  • Does Venkman exhibit any other signs pointing obviously to a disorder?
    – John Dream
    Commented Nov 11, 2012 at 1:12
  • Just because our “patient” does not exhibit all the symptoms of the disorder, does not mean he could not exhibit some. And some combination of symptoms (of different significance and persistence) is needed for diagnosis. Ideally, we would need someone (some two, actually: at least two independent psychologists are necessary) qualified to actually diagnose.
    – theUg
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 5:05
  • My fiancée, health science major with psych minor (not qualified to diagnose) wrote a term paper similarly analysing title character from Good Will Hunting, and while she cannot remember Venkman’s character right now, and Ghostbusters is not a movie with a focus on mental disorders like Good Will Hunting, What About Bob? or A Beautiful Mind etc., stated that while older movies sometimes tended to be all over the map with throwing often conflicting symptoms, Ghostbusters crew was still meant to be a bunch of weirdos (they busting bloody ghosts after all).
    – theUg
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 5:12
  • A flat cardboard cut-out of one-dimensional dupe does not make a likeable character also. Maybe clumsily, but authors may well wanted to present a somewhat complex retinue of somewhat dysfunctional blokes.
    – theUg
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 5:13

I'm going to say, Possibly. Maybe not intentionally, but I think at that period in Bill Murray's career, when he was at the top of his game, most of his characters exhibited the same type of personality. His acting really was pretty one-dimensional, almost like Keanu Reeves. Murray was the lovable loser with the big ego, always ready with a funny quip. He was the same guy in Stripes and all the other movies in that time period, when you think about it.

Since most of his characters were pretty identical, it's safe to say that much of Murray's self is portrayed in those characters. And he probably was a bit narcisstic at that point in his career as a rising star. Maybe he didn't exhibit all of the signs, but there were almost definitely some narcisstic traits evident.

  • That was (had to be) a very narcissistic period for Murray. Coming off the (almost) instant recognition of his comedic talent on SNL, he was hounded by fans and producers alike. He was on the in of Hollywood elite at the time, with everyone constantly reaffirming his status. IMO, Groundhog day was the turnaround movie that would have seen him committing suicide or heading into obscurity, until his career renovation later on. (John) Belushi committed suicide shortly after Continental Divide (not saying the two are necessarily related, mind you) and Bill hit obscurity, for the most part.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 15:51

Full of himself, yes. He's the common english/slang use of Narcissist, but not the clinical use.

And even that's contentious, as there is opposing views on Narcissistic Personality Disorder being a valid issue, if NPD should be folded into a broader category, or if it should stay as it's own diagnosis. (2010 arguments over the DSM 5 changes to Personality Disorders).

But the simplest way to see if Venkman fits the NPD diagnosis is the 5 point test:

The essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of pathological personality traits. To diagnose narcissistic personality disorder, the following criteria must be met:

  • A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:

    1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):

      • a. Identity: Excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal may be inflated or deflated, or vacillate between extremes; emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem.
      • b. Self-direction: Goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on a sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations.
    2. AND Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):

      • a. Empathy: Impaired ability to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self; over- or underestimate of own effect on others.
      • b. Intimacy: Relationships largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little genuine interest in others‟ experiences and predominance of a need for personal gain
  • B. Pathological personality traits in the following domain:

    1. Antagonism, characterized by:
      • a. Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert; self-centeredness; firmly holding to the belief that one is better than others; condescending toward others.
      • b. Attention seeking: Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of the attention of others; admiration seeking.
  • C. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations.

  • D. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are not better understood as normative for the individual‟s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.
  • E. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma).

Generally, Venkman does not suffer from identity issues, is confident in his self-direction (until his funding gets cut, then he quickly moves on to loftier goals), and has no issues with Empathy or Intimacy. See his relationship with Dana Barrett, both before and after they break up.

He does have some Antagonism issues, but nothing that's overly aggressive (and he's always right, so he's not making things up). His personality is pretty consistent, but both of that's normal for a 1980s New Yorker (his socio-cultural environment). Drugs and injuries are not a factor here.

But the biggest thing is that none of his personality impairs his interactions. He's a fully functional, normal adult male with mostly stable friendships, business relations, and romances.

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