Tyrone lannister – “We’ve had vicious kings, and we’ve had idiot kings…but I don’t know if we’ve ever been cursed with a vicious idiot for a king!”
Jack Gleeson plays King Joffrey Baratheon on the hit HBO series Games of Thrones. He is the King we love to hate. I often times find myself yelling at the television in anger at his deviant, perverse, and sadistic character! Joffrey came to us in the show as a spoiled and bratty Prince, supposed son of the late King Robert Baratheon and Queen Cersei Lannister.
However, he is truly the byproduct of Queen Cersei’s incestual affair with her brother, Sir Jaime Lannister. Could this be a clue as to why King Joffrey develops into such a sadistic and psychopathic character?
King Joffrey has always displayed an arrogant and narcissistic personality, even stemming from adolescence. However, as we see him move from adolescence to the very early stages of adult development, we can see his personality transform into something more sinister. For example, last season, Joffrey exhibits clear enjoyment in the suffering of others paying to have prostitutes brought to him to torture and ultimately murder. He starts to display a clear sexual excitement at the thought of doing harm to others and murdering individuals who he perceives as inferior to him at will.
As I see his character develop, it becomes clear that Joffrey is developing into a classic Psychopath with sadistic homicidal tendencies and fetishes. Let’s take a look at some of the key Psychopath characteristics.
For a good read and background on the concept of the Psychopath, review Robert Hare’s in Without A Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us (1999), and compare them to King Joffrey’s character.
Just for fun, scores as we would give on the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) are included below. At the end we will see if King Joffrey actually scores out to be a bona fide Psychopath! (Please note: The scoring is done for entertainment purposes on a hypothetical character and involves a much more extensive interview process and review of relevant records in reality.)
The Psychopath Characteristics of King Joffrey
Glibness/superficial charm – Joffrey is not charming AT ALL. In fact, he comes across as a spoiled, arrogant, and ignorant King. (score: 0)
Grandiose sense of self-worth – Most Definitely! Joffrey believes he is much more important than he actually is. (score: 2)
Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom – Sometimes; we see that Joffrey often times needs to engage in different activities and is bored with the mundane duties of a King. (score:1)
Pathological lying – Yes! Joffrey is a pathological liar throughout every season of the series.(score: 2)
Conning/manipulative – Most definitely! Joffrey is extremely manipulative and lies to avoid revelation of his own shortcomings. Blames others for his own faults and poor decisions. (score: 2)
Lack of remorse or guilt – Couldn’t be more accurate! Joffrey lacks remorse or guilt. We can clearly see this early on when he has Sansa’s wolf killed, murders her father, Eddard Stark, and subsequently has prostitutes tortured and killed for his own sexual enjoyment. (score: 2)
Shallow affect – Yes! Joffrey is quite shallow and does not display much emotion aside from anger. (score: 2)
Callous/lack of empathy – Of course! No empathy displayed by Joffrey at any point thus far for hurting others, including the people he rules. (score: 2)
Parasitic lifestyle – Somewhat; we see Joffrey living off the people he rules through the increase in taxation. (score: 1)
Poor behavioural control – Yes! Often times, Joffrey cannot control his angry outbursts. (score: 2)
Promiscuous sexual behaviour – No: Joffrey appears to lack “normal” sexual interests thus far. We have seen him sexually excited only by murder. (score: 0)
Early behaviour problems – Yes! Problematic behaviour has been demonstrated since childhood.(score: 1)
Lack of realistic, long-term goals – Most of the time; Joffrey is advised by his grandfather on how to rule his kingdom, but Joffrey makes poor decisions and lacks a good understanding of decisions that should be made concerning the long-term rule of his kingdom. (score: 1)
Impulsivity – For sure! Joffrey is impulsive and makes decisions in this manner ruled by either narcissism or anger. (score: 2)
Irresponsibility – Yes! Joffrey has no sense of responsibility, though he tries to assert his dominance through his role as King, even on his mother. (score: 2)
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions – Definitely! Joffrey never takes responsibility for his actions and own failures. (score: 2)
Many short-term marital relationships –No: Joffrey has not been married yet. (score: 0)
Juvenile delinquency – No Joffrey did not have episodes of criminality during adolescence.(score:0)
Revocation of conditional release – No….this was not even a concept during this era. (score:0)
Criminal versatility – Not really: Thus far, Joffrey is developing his criminal preferences. Looks like he prefers to be a sadistic murderer and may be developing into a serial killer! (score: 0)
King Joffrey scores a 24! This would make him a Sociopath and Antisocial Personality Disorder, but not quite yet a true Psychopath. Let’s give him some time though as it seems he may be blossoming into a Psychopath in the next few episodes or seasons.
Dr. Alina Perez has been teaching at US-based institutions of higher education for the past 7 years and has been with the University of Liverpool, Laureate, Online Psychology Programme since 2011. Alina specializes in the treatment and evaluation of sex offenders and has focused her clinical practice over the last 15 years on this criminal population, but also does work with child custody and high conflict families involved in the criminal justice system. Alina holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology.
Contribution by Dr Alina Perez for PsychLiverpool.