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Luna Lovegood and the Monster Butler


I don't know if any of my fellow Luna fans are still lj friends, but this may be of interest. As it's about Hollywood-inspired crime and we're in the wake of the Aurora shooting, it may be of interest to many people:

Monster Butler: Inside the Mind of a Serial KillerMonster Butler: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer by A.M. Nicol

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a testament to my love of Luna Lovegood that I bought and read this book. What does a study on a serial killer have to do with Luna Lovegood? Well, as any fan can tell you, the actress who played Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter films is co-starring in a film called “The Monster Butler,” which is based on the life of this serial killer. She will be playing Fiona Carrick-Smith, the daughter of an aristocrat whose family hires “the monster butler.”

I bought the book because I wanted to learn about this Fiona, but as she’s not mentioned in the book at all, I have to conclude that she didn’t exist. The film claims to be “based on the life” of Archibald Hall, which means parts will be pure fiction. Actually, after reading this book, I wouldn’t be surprised if the film was entirely fiction. It all depends on whose version of the story you believe.

First, the facts. “The Monster Butler” was born in Scotland in 1924 as Archibald Hall. As a teenager, he showed violent tendencies and kept a shrine of Nazi paraphernalia in his home. (It would be incorrect to call it memorabilia. The Nazis were actually in power when Hall was a teenager.) He committed series of thefts that landed him in jail, where he began having homosexual sex. After his release, he decided to upgrade his thievery by landing butler posts in posh homes and robbing his employers. To do this, he developed a more suave persona and renamed himself Roy Fontaine, the surname taken from actress Joan Fontaine. Eventually, he killed five people and was caught shortly afterward. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and died in 2002.

While in prison, Hall/Fontaine wrote two books about his life, A Perfect Gentleman and To Kill and Kill Again. The first part of this book summarizes his account. He describes discovering at a young age that he exuded powerful personal magnetism, resulting in his having many lovers of both sexes. He portrays himself as a clever, sophisticated jewel thief who was able to outwit his victims and the law at every turn. He was even involved in some political intrigue with the Soviets! He paints his first murder as self-defense and then blames the cruel treatment he’d received in jail for turning him into a murderer.

The second part of the book pokes holes in the story. A.M. Nicol, the author of the book, is a criminal defense attorney in Scotland, and he does a creditable job of it by comparing police reports to Hall/Fontaine’s various accounts of himself, which are, of course, contradictory in themselves. You don’t have to get too far in this section of the book before you’re convinced that Archibald Hall is a megalomaniac and a liar. He was not anywhere near as suave or as clever as he believed himself to be. After all, he was caught numerous times. This section also includes some of Hall/Fontaine’s own written confessions, and judging by them, he was so illiterate that he had to have worked with a ghost writer on his books. So probably the only one who believed in “Roy Fontaine, master jewel thief” was Archibald Hall himself.

And then we get to the third part, the “Why Did He Do It?” section. And here is where the book went from 3 to 4 for me. The first chapter of this section, which is all about Hollywood, deserves a 5. Aside from renaming himself after a movie star, Hall/Fontaine copied many plot elements from popular movies of the day in the stories of his escapades, the intrigue with the Soviets being one of them. The book names quite a few of them: “To Catch A Thief” in which a debonair jewel thief played by Cary Grant ends up with the high society girl, Grace Kelly; “Raffles” the beloved butler turned thief. Naturally, all this affected me especially strongly because of the massacre in Aurora, CO. Let me quote from the book:

Studies show that a link exists between a reliance on film media for information and the propensity for criminal behavior. The greater the reliance, the greater the possibility. . . It goes without saying that the effect is greatly magnified if there is already some mental imbalance. While that certainly seems to have applied to Fontaine, there are other known examples. John Hinckley was convinced that his attempt to murder President Reagan would impress Jodie Foster and would lead him to having a relationship with the female star of “Taxi Driver.” American serial killer Joel Rifkin, who murdered seventeen women between 1989 and 1993, was said to be infatuated by Hitchcock’s 1972 film “Frenzy,” from which he gleaned some practical hints about the mechanics of murder. When eventually arrested, he was found to have Noxzema cream smeared on his moustache to combat the stench of the decaying corpse found in the back of his pick-up truck, an idea imported from the 1991 film “The Silence of the Lambs.” Undoubtedly, then, Fontaine was neither the first nor the last case of such media-inspired delusions.

Anyone still with me? Does that not shake you up? I went so far as to write a letter to Dark House Productions today, the name of the film company producing “Monster Butler,” urging them not to show the film. I fear they’ll be portraying Roy Fontaine, not Archibald Hall. Roy Fontaine, after all, was a Hollywood creation. His story is much more glamorous and dramatic than the sordid truth of Archibald Hall.

Then there are the actors to consider. The actor playing Fontaine is Malcolm McDowell, whose most famous role was Alex in “A Clockwork Orange.” Among the copycat crimes that film inspired was a gang rape so sick and violent that the director himself had the movie removed from the theatres! It wouldn’t surprise me if the guilt stemming from that incident was a major cause of Malcolm McDowell’s own bout with alcoholism. And the victim will be “Luna Lovegood,” a character probably best loved by female fans who identify with her because we were weird, teased, and lonely. . . easy prey for creepy guys who identify with the sociopathic Alex. I hate to say something to hurt Evanna Lynch’s career, but I hope they cancel the film. I’m afraid it will give Roy Fontaine all the posthumous glory Archibald Hall dreamed of.

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( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 27th, 2012 01:58 pm (UTC)
With the media link I'm surprised the book did not also point out that many serial killers, particularly those with sexual aspects to their crime, are also heavy into porn and often started building their fantasies through violent pornography.

I tried watching Clock Work Orange once, couldn't get past the first five minutes...it's essentially violence porn with a more intellectual than average plot thrown in.

Th irony is I think you could make a case for Luna being a functional sociopath (Voldemort is a dysfunctional one).

I'm happy to see Evanna keep acting...not so sure about movie. It really depends on if they treat the Monster Butler as a villian or as the anti-hero. Evanna is on twitter, maybe you can link your review to her and see if she has any thoughts?
Jul. 27th, 2012 04:19 pm (UTC)
I put it on "her" Facebook page. Who knows who reads it? But the main thing is to reach the fans, girls who need to be
warned about the Alex-identifiers of the world.

"Functional sociopath"? That's a contradiction in terms.
Jul. 27th, 2012 07:00 pm (UTC)
Not really. Most sociopaths/psychopaths are not violent, they simply process information differently from "normal" people. It's more like a personality type.

However because they tend to be emotionally detatched, the ones that go bad can go really bad and not feel any guilt over it.

Conversely I have a theory when sociopaths go good, they can go really good.

Luna struggles with understanding social situations and cues...or more accurately, she's able to understand them in a very detached way, but has trouble engaging socially with others. She's highly intelligent. She does not show many strong emotional reaction, staying very "cool" when others are overloaded. Once she accepts something as true, she latches onto it very tightly and has trouble restructuring her thinking to question it.

Luna was raised in a very loving environment where she's taught that kindness, goodness, and love are important values.

Voldemort is raised in an emotional and ethical void. So he approaches life as a matter of survival of the fittest. However he is also, detatched, highly intelligent, has trouble connecting on a social/emotional level with others.

I suspect their minds work in very similar ways, but there are strong fundamental differences in their values and understanding of how the world works, which makes Luna functional, and Voldemort a menace to society.

The sociopath vs. psychopath is a nuture vs nature question. Luna may just be born that way, but she may have also shut down emotionally to deal with her mother's death.
Jul. 27th, 2012 08:50 pm (UTC)
Defition of sociopath from dictionary.com: "a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience."

Social awkwardness is NOT the same as sociopathy. A sociopath considers society the enemy. Like a psychopath, he has no ability to empathize with others. Luna's out of step with society, but she has tremendous insight into people. I completely agree with your description of Luna, but "sociopath" is not the word for her. Whatever the opposite of a sociopath is, she's it. So are the rest of Dumbledore's Army for that matter.

Edited at 2012-07-27 08:52 pm (UTC)
Jul. 28th, 2012 02:45 am (UTC)
I'm refering to more psychological definitions.

The dictionary definitions are refering to common usage, which are more like slang in this case.

I'll grant you this is something up for debate in psychiatric circles. Officially it's been dropped for Anti-social Disorder, which is controversial cause it describes behavior rather than internal factors... because psychopathy in and of itself is not necessarily a disorder.

Sociopaths don't see society as the enemy, not necessarily.

And you can be out of step with society and not be remotely close to being a sociopath/psychopath (I'm using the terms interchangably, which could also be debated). I'm not suggesting it's the same. It's the specific manner in which Luna is out of step.

Neville is socially awkward, but his emotional responses to situations are very normal. Luna on the other hand demonstrates common traits for psychopathy, only she focuses them in a positive way.

Understand I enjoy defining people/characters through psychological disorders/terminology. I also think most writers have a functional version of Multiple Personality Disorder...it's just not actually a Disorder, since they're in control of it.
Jul. 30th, 2012 12:57 pm (UTC)
You've gotten me really curious as to whether the DSM contains the possibility of a good sociopath, but I went to a website and put "sociopathy" into the search, nothing at all came up, which only goes to prove that I don't know how to navigate through there yet.
Jul. 30th, 2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
What web address?

I think the latest version of DSM have actually dropped both sociopath and psychopath from their terminology. I could be wrong, haven't had access to the DSM. If it's kept either, it's probably psychopath or psychopathy.

I believe the distinction of someone being a sociopath refers to social factors having shaped them to have these traits rather than being born with them, but that may be more of a philosophical distinction than a useful one for diagnosis.

But I know some established psychologist don't think it was a good move.

For instance you get the word sociopath used here: http://www.sociopathicstyle.com/traits/classic.htm

But while she cites Dr. Hare, I see the term psychopath used more on his website. http://www.hare.org/

I get kind of passionate about this because I have a lot of the basic psychopathic/sociopathic traits or would if I didn't actively work to counteract them or focus them in a useful direction. So seeing articles just slap an "incurable" and "monster" label on these people seems cruel and unhelpful.

Yes, some of them certainly become monsters like Archibald Hall. He was a bad guy, and I don't want to see him glorified either.

But most are not violent or criminal, most criminals are not psychopaths, so certainly there are ways for them to learn how to function and contribute. But I think expecting a psychopath to FEEL guilt is a bit like expecting a blind person to see. But where blindness gains sympathy, the inability to feel is treated with fear and contempt.
Jul. 30th, 2012 03:58 pm (UTC)
But nothing on those links says that there can be a good psychopath. Certainly none of the descriptions on the first list correspond to my understanding of Luna. And I do see her as empathetic. I'm thinking specifically of her conversation with Harry on the train in HBP. She understands precisely why others reject her - she's not cool enough - and Harry marvels at her ability to say the precise truth about people and says he knows nobody like her.
Jul. 31st, 2012 12:08 am (UTC)
You don't need empathy to understand you're not cool. Other people not liking you is sort of the definition of not being cool.

These sites are focused on treatments and identifying disorders, so there's not really much interest for them to study people who are functioning and causing no trouble. Hare tends to focus his studies on inmates and the other site on victims...so they're rather biased towards a sampling of the population that's problematic.

I have a deep seated belief in free will, so I don't buy the "born evil" explanation...so if you strip away the behavior stuff and focus on the brain chemistry, it makes more sense.
Jul. 30th, 2012 04:19 pm (UTC)
And while I'm here, I can't resist plugging my own Luna-centered fanfic, though it begins much earlier - from Tom's POV. It was written before Deathly Hallows, so pretty much all my theories were blown out of the water, but still. . .
Jul. 29th, 2012 02:07 am (UTC)
Luna, a sociopath? I strongly disagree. My understanding of sociopathy/psychopathy is that it entails strong intuitive understanding of other people's emotions and motives without empathy for same. If anything, I would see Luna as rather the opposite -- shaky understanding of other people's emotions and motives but with strong empathy, once she gains an understanding of the situation. And that, to me, sounds more like Asperger's. (There is a common conception that people on the autism spectrum lack empathy. Many autistic people dispute this strongly, saying that it's not a lack of empathy but inability to read the type of social cues that would typically elicit an empathetic response, followed by a tendency to over-empathize and then get discombobulated by intense emotion.)
Jul. 30th, 2012 03:00 pm (UTC)
I nearly brought up Asperger's, which is probably how she would be diagnosed if a therapist really wanted to label her with something.

I have a theory that Asperger's and psychopathy are closely related...this has to do with MRI/brain function things I read when I was in the mode to study this more hardcore. Unfortunately that was several months ago, and I don't remember all the specifics.

I don't believe the psychopaths/sociopaths understanding is intuitive, so much as learned. (I believe partly as a defense mechanism.) I was skimming back through Dr. Hare's website, and found one article that suggested they might be blind to (or have more difficulty recognizing) certain facial signals like fear and sadness but understand angry, happy, and some others like that.

Psychopaths/sociopaths are often considered good manipulators, but that could just as easily be explained by the detachment aspect. Sometimes it's much easier to observe people when you can figuratively watch them from a distance. You may miss subtle nuiances, but you get a better understanding of over all patterns of behavior. (Which seems to fit Luna's more insightful moments into others.) The violent bursts associated with psychopathy are probably born of frustration as much as anything, because they run up against some wall that doesn't fit the logic pattern they rely on.

Now, Luna's not violent. She's about as nonviolent as they come, which is why she would get the Asperger's label instead. But I think this has to do with; first, she was trained by her parents to approach problems in a peaceful and open minded way and think of them as puzzles rather than walls; two, she intellectually understands the power of love and importance of other people, so she doesn't need to rely on emotional understanding; three, she's female and society does not encourage and reward violent behavior in females the way it does in males. (The last goes towards explaining why there seems to be a predominance of male psychopaths, simply because women are less likely to be encouraged to be violent or unemotional, so it's harder to mark them through behavior.)

I'm using the word empathy/empathic to describe someone who can easily share the emotions of others. An empathic person easily picks up on the feelings of others in the room. Luna is caring and loving, but I don't think she's empathic. Once she understands, she'll act in a way to be as helpful and kind as possible, but it's because she cares and understands certain deeper truths, not necessarily because she shares the emotion.

Agreed Autistic people don't necessarily have trouble feeling emotion. Many of them just have trouble with the cues.

People with Asperger's seem to have a little more difficulty with emotions themselves, finding it more natural to think through a situation than feel through it.

Psychopaths are also logical processors. Not in the sense that they're necessarily smarter, but they approach life like a Vulcan, thinking rather than feeling their way through things. While they have some emotions, they don't have them on the same scale or frequency that a "normal" person might, and when suddenly they feel a strong surge of emotion, they're less equipped to deal with it.

(My comment got too long.)
Jul. 30th, 2012 03:03 pm (UTC)

I don't think psychopaths/sociopaths are intrinsically "evil", which makes me really angry when I try to find books about them, all of which are about warning others to avoid these "monsters" but almost nothing on helping people with this issue deal with a highly emotional world. I think psychopaths/sociopath tend to run things out to their logical conclusion.

A normal person might be able to accept the idea that there is no god and no after life, but still value people because they feel emotional empathy. "I hurt when they hurt." A psychopath doesn't FEEL that, so if they accept the logical idea that we're merely products of evolution, and life is survival of the fittest, they hit the logical conclusion that morality is merely an evolutionary byproduct and since nothing matters they can do as they please. Survival and pursuit of dominance can be approached without regard to others, because we are all ultimately insignificant.

It's a logical way to think. There are some basic flaws in the logic, but it's pretty much what the (U.S.) public school system teaches.

Luna however understands some important fundamental truths about the world. 1. There is life after death (there is a soul to be cared for). 2. Everyone has value/potential. She runs these things to their logical conclusion. And with that basic understanding, morality becomes important, people become important, friends/family become important. Survival is no longer the primary concern because the soul is indestructible. Personal pain is merely an opportunity for growth. Grudges have no practical value, etc.

She's still young and has her own flaws in logic. She's blindly devoted to her father and accepts him as a speaker of hidden truths. It doesn't occur to her that accusing someone of being a vampire or not properly verifying conspiracy theories might actually be harmful. She's stuck in the idea that daddy must be right.

I was very disappointed the books never gave her a chance to make this paradigm shift.

But we never see any trace of guilt from Luna for anything. She's able to give a lovely and appropriate eulogy for Dobby, but shows no emotion while doing so. She speaks in emotional terms like "sad", but she seems to think rather than feel it.

This isn't a criticism. I think it's a strength just as much as weakness.

There are certainly other explanations. She's a character in a book, so you can rework her psychological make-up in many ways. But I like the contrast she provides to Voldemort, who is a classic sociopath in the most dysfunctional way.
Jul. 30th, 2012 03:44 pm (UTC)
"This American Life" is doing a podcast by an autistic adult next week, all about how he gets along in the "normal" world.
Jul. 31st, 2012 12:40 am (UTC)
Just to be clear, my experience with autism and Asperger's is very limited, so I'm not trying to come off as an expert in that area. Or really an expert on Psychopathy either...it's just something I have an intense interest in.

I had a couple people suggest I might have Asperger's and so I did a little reading into it, but it didn't feel like it quite fit me. I've had the opportunity to talk to a couple adults with the diagnosis, and I could relate to bits of it. But that and episodes of Bones pretty much covers my experience.
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