A Mental Illness in the Movie "The Emperor's New Groove"

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A mental illness is as real as any other physical ailment. It can be quite challenging to live with not only for the person who is diagnosed, but also for the people close to them. Sometimes a mental disorder can be hard to identify. In the movie The Emperor's new Groove, the young emperor seems to be suffering from narcissistic personality disorder or NPD for short. This conclusion can be made through his grandiose sense of self importance, lack of empathy, and his interpersonal exploitative nature.

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The plot of the film follows Kuzco, the 18 year old emperor, and his journey with a peasant named Pacha. Kuzco is a young emperor who lacks empathy for his subordinates and subjects. His rash actions and crude behavior has led some people to really hate him. An example of this is when he makes plans to evict hundreds of people from their homes all in an attempt to create himself a vacation home for his birthday(Fullmer, Dindal, 2000). This is when Pacha is introduced as he is a resident of that very same area. Pacha being kind hearted and afraid of the emperor’s wrath cannot bring himself to hate him. Juxtaposed to Pacha is Yzma, Kuzco's trusted advisor, who secretly wishes to get rid of him and sit on the throne herself(Fullmer, Dindal, 2000).

After endless attempts of trying to control Kuzco from behind the scenes Yzma is finally fired. This nudges Yzma over the edge and she plots to murder him via poison(Fullmer, Dindal, 2000). Kronk, Yzma's henchman and only loyal subordinate, mixes up the poison that was supposed to kill Kuzco with a potion that instead turns him into a llama. Yzma though disappointed takes the opportunity and orders Kronk to get rid of the body(Fullmer, Dindal, 2000). However Kronk fails and Kuzco is later found by Pacha. Kuzco and Pacha then set off on a journey to return Kuzco to his original state and help him reclaim the throne (Fullmer, Dindal, 2000). The audience is led to believe that Kuzco is just another spoiled teen whose ambitions seem to yield to no one, but he actually shows very distinct markers for having a personality disorder.

One criteria for narcissistic personality disorder according to the DSM 5 is a grandiose sense of self importance(Aslinger, Manuk, Pilkonis, Simms, Wright, 2018). Kuzco has a grand sense of self importance despite his young age and lack of accomplishments as an emperor. In the beginning of the film we can see his arrogant attitude and sense of entitlement through the way he carries himself and speaks to his subordinates(Fullmer, Dindall, 2000). He snaps his fingers and expects things in an instant and does not hold back when dishing out insults. His castle is also built in the shape of his head. He often refers to himself as beautiful and great and even goes so far as to have a man sing him compliments(Fullmer, Dindal, 2000). This level of self importance far exceeds the healthy amount.

Many may argue that his attitude comes from being raised as royal, but in a study done by researchers at University of Pittsburgh and University at Buffalo they argued whether the criteria even serves as markers for a distinct class of individuals. They are looking into the aspects of other personality disorders and trying to find a way to fully measure whether someone is simply a narcissist or actually narcissistic(Aslinger, Manuck, Pilkonis, Simms, Wright, 2018). This study proves that there could be deeper more underlying issues with Kuzco rather than just writing it off as him being spoiled. It delves into the theory that situations such as royalty and extreme wealth can not excuse individuals of possibly being diagnosed with a personality disorder and they cannot fully grow out of their narcissistic tendencies from just being exposed to a much more humble surrounding(Aslinger, Manuck, Pilkonis, Simms, Wright, 2018).

In the movie they try to do this with Kuzco’s character by placing him in Pacha’s home and allowing him to observe Pacha’s family dynamic(Fullmer, Dindal, 2000). This fails though as Kuzco merely chooses to blame them for being poor and unable to find a new home in time(Fullmer, Dindal, 2000). Kuzco’s actions here supports the theory made by the researchers at Pittsburgh and Buffalo by showing that even though his conditions have changed his grandiose sense of self-importance is unchanged(Aslinger, Manuck, Pilkonis, Simms, Wright, 2018). It is also worth noting that people with NPD often use their inflated confidence as a way to cover up their fragile self esteem. Along with a grandiose sense of self-importance people suffering from narcissistic personality disorder often lack empathy for others. This is made evident numerous times throughout the film. First being when he chooses to have an old man thrown out of a window for “messing with the emperors groove”(Fullmer, Dindal, 2000).

He did not hesitate to exact punishment on an old man for simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time. His thoughts were focused solely on how the old man has caused him distress rather than whether it was accidental or not. He also didn’t have any problems with having him thrown out of a window from a very high floor. Not giving a second thought about the old man's life(Fullmer, Dindal, 2000). Another example of his cruel actions is when he chooses to evict hundreds from their homes in order for his plans on a vacation home to succeed(Fullmer, Dindal, 2000). He did not bother to think about what will become of those peasants and their families. Most of which were farmers so without land they are unable to make a living. He was also quick to fire people because they failed to meet his unreasonable expectations(Fullmer, Dindal , 2000).

Lack of empathy normally goes hand in hand with grandiose sense of self-importance as people with NPD often disassociate themselves from others thus making it easier for them to treat others in a cruel manner. Since NPD affects people's relationship within school, work, and home environment it can be difficult for them to make lasting relationships if they go untreated. Kuzco also has an exploitative nature. He often twists situations to make it appear as though he is the victim. This is yet another trait described in the DSM-5. He would make his old advisor do all of the work and then give her little to no credit. In the beginning of the film if he wanted something to get done he would resort to belittling and threats(Fullmer, Dindal, 2000). After becoming a llama he then attempts to exploit Pacha’s kind nature by taking on the victim role. He cries and pleads with Pacha in hopes of convincing him to help out all while plotting to betray Pacha in the end(Fullmer, Dindal, 2000).

When Kuzco feels that he will receive the results he wants he swiftly reverts back to his usual scheming self(Fullmer, Dindal, 2000). His lack of empathy aids in his exploitative nature as he does not concern himself with the feelings of those around him. He doesn’t care so he doesn’t feel guilt or remorse about his actions. When looking at narcissistic personality disorder it’s often easier to inspect the overly arrogant aspects of it rather than looking at the underlying issues of vulnerability and a delicate ego. Those who have NPD, narcissistic personality disorder, often cannot take criticism(Stanton, Zimmerman, 2018). This explains why Kuzco throws a fit when Pacha tells him what to do and where to go(Fullmer, Dindal, 2000). Kuzco may about fit the description of having a delicate ego as his actions seem to compensate. For example his huge temple head and his extensive amounts of self portraits are all indicators that he may be feeling insecure with himself(Fullmer, Dindal, 2000).

Kuzco also may be experiencing feelings of inadequacy as he is a young ruler and bares many responsibilities. NPD is also found in adolescence and early adulthood(Stanton, Zimmerman, 2018). This fits Kuzco as he is just about to turn 18. NPD affects more males than females and normally begins in teens or early adulthood(Stanton, Zimmerman, 2018). NPD is often difficult to treat. Many people suffering from it may not even feel they have anything wrong with them or they may avoid treatment as it could come across as a blow to their ego(American Psychiatry Association, 2012). In most cases people with NPD often receive treatment after going in for other mental health issues(Pincus, Dowgwillo, Greenberg, 2016).

Treatment for narcissistic personality disorder may include medication or psychotherapy. Narcissistic personality disorder much like other mental illnesses has no clear cut reasons as to how it develops making it hard to treat and prevent(Pincus, Dowgwillo, Greenberg, 2016). In conclusion Kuzco, the new emperor of the Inca empire, can be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder through his grandiose sense of self importance, lack of empathy, and his interpersonal exploitative nature. The DSM-5 is a useful tool when looking up mental illness related topics and scenarios. Now that the diagnosis has been made, it will be easier to search and test for the right type of treatment for this individual. It will also make it easier for his family and other people close to him because they can begin to try and understand his situation and his actions.

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