Never Tell a Psychopath They’re a Psychopath: Defamiliarizing the Queer Psychopath in Killing Eve
Keywords:Psychopaths, Queer, Television, Psychiatry, Killing Eve
“Psychopath” is a highly contested culturally constructed category of knowledge that has deep and durable ties to queerness. Multiple scholars have explored these ties in psychiatric and legal discourse, as well as in popular media that frames psychopathy as synonymous with monstrosity. Few studies, however, have explored media representations of the queer psychopath as a distinctly psychiatric type. To address this gap, this article explores representations of the queer psychopath figure in BBC America’s hit television show Killing Eve (2018-2022). Rooted in historical and cultural analysis, the article documents close linkages between psychopathy and queerness during the twentieth century and explores Killing Eve’s recent engagements with the queer psychopath trope. Using the concept of defamiliarization, the article argues that Killing Eve disrupts queer psychopathy as a category of knowledge in three specific ways: (a) multiplying and dispersing non-normative sexualities and psychologies across numerous settings, (b) deploying same-sex desires as a mechanism for psychopathy’s undoing, and (c) destabilizing psychiatric authority and expertise. The article considers key inconsistencies within the show and concludes that Killing Eve actively – if unevenly – facilitates a reimagination of non-normative emotions, psychologies, and desires.
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