Understanding Hysterical Personality.

Sideways (2004) tells a story about two men (Miles and Jack)’s week-long trip to Southern California wine country. The film portrays the two long-time friends both as losers with failures in career and life. According to Hoffman (2006), characters in this film were blocked in various stages of psychosexual development, most notably seen in the adolescent behaviors of Miles and Jack.

As discussed in Hoffman (2006), “After an initial viewing, the film, its plot, and its character development (or lack thereof) began to make sense as a study of hysterical personality. The striking behaviors of the two protagonists—their failures, their impulsive actions, their byplay, and their relationships with women all seemed consistent with my understanding of current perspectives on this diagnosis. Similarly, the depictions of the female supporting roles also resonated with descriptions of hysterical personality in the psychoanalytic literature” (pp. 667-668).

In this film, Miles, the schoolteacher/writer, represents an individual with the hysterical (shy, effeminate, “foppish”) subtype of histrionic personality disorder; and Jack, the actor, depicts the histrionic (hypermasculine, “Don Juan”) subtype. The traits and behaviors of the characters in Sideways reflect later understandings subsumed ultimately under the DSM-IV (1994) criteria for histrionic personality disorder (301.50). Although histrionic/hysterical personality is less frequently diagnosed in males, it is difficult to imagine a more appropriate description for these two characters. Psychodynamically, hysteria is thought to derive from an inability to negotiate the complexities of gender identification and disidentification during the course of normal development. For members of either sex, the normal course of development entails a shift away from the primitive image of an attachment to the mother figure towards an attachment to the father (Hoffman, 2006).


Hoffman, T. (2006). Hysteria in wine country: Movie review: Sideways (2004). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 23(4), 667-674. doi:10.1037/0736-9735.23.4.667

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