Former film producer Harvey Weinstein has been somewhat in the public eye for several decades, but especially more so since fall 2017, when allegations of his conduct around women came to light. This finally came to fruition in 2020, when he was handed a 23 year prison sentence for sexually assaulting two women, just a few of many allegations against him that came out.
In this article we want to provide a comprehensive personality and character profile of Weinstein, with a specific emphasis on psychopathy and psychopathic personality traits, as they are very, very relevant when we look at all the accounts of his life and behavior.
Put simply, Weinstein is one of the clearest examples you will find of a full blown psychopath, with grossly inappropriate and unprofessional conduct, the normalizing of the abnormal, a “toxifying” of the environment around him, as well as a fixation on dominating and controlling others just a few of his many traits which square up perfectly with those of the psychopathic personality.
Some articles on Weinstein have preferred to draw comparisons with the narcissistic personality, and malignant/grandiose narcissism. In this article we disagree slightly, since Weinstein’s very well documented fixation with power and control over others is more symptomatic of the psychopathic personality than the narcissistic one, though there is significant crossover in that all psychopaths are also narcissistic to some degree.
Great Documentary on Weinstein’s Psychopathic Behavior
Embedded above is an excellent documentary of some of the accounts of Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behavior. The accounts of his conduct all carry with them similar threads of power, control and manipulativeness that are characteristic of the psychopathic personality.
However, despite containing excellent information and accounts, at no point in the documentary is the word psychopath even used, even though it is clearly relevant. The closest people get is by using the word “predator”, which is accurate but does not pin down his pathological character as precisely as the term “psychopath”.
Much of the behavior reported is typical of psychopaths, and the framework of psychopathy is valid and even essential in order to understand, not just his behavior, but that others like him will continue to remain at large in the general population and engage in similar behaviors until the disorder of psychopathy is more widely understood and responded to.
Let’s first break down what we mean by the term psychopath, then apply some common psychopathic traits to Weinstein’s behavior.
The Psychopathy Checklist Revisited
One the best frameworks for looking at Harvey Weinstein’s behavior is the Psychopathy Checklist devised by expert Dr Robert Hare. It has for years been considered the “gold standard” for identifying psychopathic personalities from those who are merely toxic or troubled.
Here are the main traits in the Psychopathy Checklist:
- Glib and Superficial
- Egocentric and Grandiose
- Lack of Remorse or Guilt
- Lack of Empathy
- Deceitful and Manipulative
- Shallow Emotions
- Poor Behavior Controls
- Need For Excitement
- Lack of Responsibility
- Early Behavior Problems
- Adult AntiSocial Behavior
See our full article on the Psychopathy Checklist, which goes into detail and gives examples for all of these traits.
Psychopathic personality disorder is characterized as someone who possesses many or all of these traits in combination, and displays these characteristics over a prolonged period of time, as well as appearing resistant to any kind of change.
Unsurprisingly, Weinstein appears to check off most of these traits very easily, and can very readily be diagnosed as a psychopath based on the numerous accounts of his behavior which have now surfaced.
Let’s run though some of these traits in turn, as well as some other well known psychopathic character traits, to see how closely Weinstein matches them.
Psychopathy Checklist Traits Applied To Harvey Weinstein
Here are some of the traits from the Psychopathy Checklist applied to Harvey Weinstein; most of them are apparent to some extent in his known life history and behavior.
1. Glib & Superficial – Numerous people around him speak of his charm and charisma, and ability to easily influence and manipulate people. People recount how, as well as being appalling, nasty and frightening, he could also be fun, exciting and stimulating.
He could charm those around him to the point they overlooked his more toxic behavior and in some ways justified it. Former assistant Zelda Perkins decribes how “we struggled to follow social norms around him”.
Psychopaths can take in most people and often create a cult-like atmosphere around them, where they induce those caught up with them to either assume some psychopathic traits themselves, or at least overlook morally questionable things which are going on because “the money is flowing”, “look at all these awards”, “we’re all having fun” or some other excuse.
It can take these people some time to “detox” from this environment once they are out of it. Psychopaths do have a poisonous influence on people who are around them for a long time.
2. Egocentric & Grandiose – All of Weinstein’s bullying behavior points towards a strongly egotistical and power obsessed person. Nothing about anything that has been reported of him points towards any kind of vocational or gentler, more human traits. Everything is about power and material gain – strongly ego focused. Nothing deeper about his character.
3. Lack of Remorse or Guilt – Nothing in any accounts points towards any kind of remorse towards his behavior. In fact it appears he did the opposite in a lot of cases and continued to flaunt his abuse in their faces afterwards.
Also, if someone feels genuine guilt and remorse for their behavior towards others, they make efforts to never do that to others again. They actually reform and modify their behavior.
There is no evidence of this with Weinstein; in fact he continued the same behavior for decades without changing anything, and this after multiple private settlements had to be arranged to compensate victims for his behavior towards them.
Psychopaths cannot feel remorse or guilt and so don’t have this emotional brake-check that is so crucial to growing and maturing as a person. They stay the same toxic, invasive person they have always been, and don’t feel bad about what they have done to others.
4. Lack of Empathy – An insidious trait that runs through all the accounts of his behavior, from the bullying and belittling behavior of him and his brother Bob at the studios they ran, right through to all the sexual abuse and assaults.
The poor treatment of others in general often stems from a lack of empathy – not treating others as you would like to be treated – and with the psychopath it is extreme, since they have not just lessened empathy, but no empathy at all.
They literally cannot conceive that their behavior may harm or hurt another – it doesn’t register with them that they are invading someone’s space or treating them badly. They simply don’t “get it” in this regard. They want what they want, and that’s that. If someone gets hurt in the process, too bad, as far as they’re concerned.
This kind of obliviousness is evident in accounts of his interactions with women. He’s not interested in their feelings or whether they’re interested in what he wants to do. It’s what he wants to do, so that’s whats going to happen as far as he’s concerned.
There’s no respect for other people’s boundaries. They don’t exist as people to the psychopath, but only as objects to be used for their own ends (as a qualifier, psychopaths do have a very finely tuned “cold” empathy, where they can very quickly and accurately “read” and gauge others, but this is only purely intellectual, and used to manipulate and exploit others. Genuine emotional empathy remains absent in all psychopaths).
5. Deceitful & Manipulative – Has always denied wrongdoing when confronted on his behavior, despite a huge amount of evidence and testimony now suggesting otherwise. Happy to lie and use get out of jail promises like “I swear on my wife/children’s/parents life” – see the embedded video from Zelda Perkins below for more on this.
Also manipulative in the way he smooth-talked women and got them into compromising positions. Very skilled at telling them what they wanted to hear, appearing interested in their interests/work, but all this was totally simulated and false to gain their trust. Links to the glibness and superficiality traits mentioned above.
6. Shallow Emotions – Again nothing of the accounts of Harvey Weinstein points towards a person capable of any genuine connection with anyone. Interactions were purely power based and for his own ends. May have been able to simulate empathy and interest in others but not actually capable of true emotions. A cold, callous personality, emotionally limited and sterile as it is with all psychopaths.
7. Impulsive/Poor Behavior Control – We put these two together as they are so closely related. Little or no self control regarding his behavior towards women. If he saw something or someone he wanted, he just went for it in that impulsive way that is typical of psychopaths.
They want what they want now, and whichever way is easiest and quickest. There is little or no restraint. If there is any resistance to this, they can quickly flip to a more frightening and demanding aura/persona to get it.
Put differently, the psychopath will get what they want, regardless of how this affects the feelings of others. Because they lack empathy, they often leave a trail of destruction in getting from A to B, because other people’s feelings simply don’t enter the equation for them. It’s only about them and what they want (also links to ego-centrism).
8. Need For Excitement – Covered extensively in the embedded documentary. His form of stimulation seemed to be from pestering and foisting himself on women. Psychopaths need to generate some kind of extreme excitement or stimulation to counteract the emotional deadness they feel inside. They are also naturally hedonistic anyway, seeking only pleasure and constantly fleeing from any kind of pain or suffering.
This means they often have to do more and more outrageous, boundary violating things to others get the same “rush” or “high”, which adds an addictive and ritualized element to their behavior patterns.
There are common threads that have come out about familiar rituals and patterns Weinstein engaged in – his refined his predation down into a predictable set of tactics and patterns of manipulation.
9. Lack of Responsibility – Could be argued that he took on a huge amount of responsibility in terms of looking after his film company and promoting his films. But on a deeper level he took no responsibility for his own behavior, and continued to act in irresponsible ways for years, considering himself too powerful and protected to ever face consequences.
Fundamentally an irresponsible person who put the careers and reputations of others at risk, and continues to not accept responsibility for his behavior.
10. Early Behavior Problems – Not much documented evidence on his very early life, but plenty of evidence that his bullying and inappropriate behavior towards women went right back to at least the 1980s, before he was even well known. See the documentary for more on this.
Appears to have displayed psychopathic traits for all of his known adult life. Moreover, his brother Bob Weinstein was also reported to be a bully, which perhaps points towards parental influences which shaped both the Weinstein’s characters from an early age. Psychopathy is often found to originate from an abusive and neglectful childhood when one digs deep enough.
11. Adult Antisocial behavior – Evidenced by everything we cover in this article. The bullying, intimidation, abuse and assaults on women, manipulation, toxic aura, abuse of power all point towards what is now called Antisocial personality disorder – the modern day term for psychopathy.
This disorder is named as such because to people with this disorder, any and all communication/interaction is an opportunity to abuse, deceit and exploitation. As such, people who display these traits have a cancerous and poisonous effect on any environment they come into contact with, in that their behavior constantly goes against socially accepted norms that keep society together.
Other Psychopathic Traits of Harvey Weinstein
Let’s pull back a little from matching up specific traits to Weinstein’s behavior, and instead look at some more broader, unifying principles which run through all of these separate behaviors of the psychopathic personality.
Chief among these is power and control, as well as the psychopath as the predator of the human race, exploiting those in a weak position.
Also, in spite of any persona or image or power they may be able to project, the psychopath is also fundamentally a parasitic character, and this is important to bring out in relation to some of the things his former confidants have said about him which is in our opinion giving him more credit than he deserves.
Let’s look at each of these psychopathic traits in turn.
1. Predatory Mindset – Psychopaths are often described as predatory characters, in that they are calculating and selective in the targets they choose. This becomes very readily apparent once you watch a psychopath’s behavior closely.
They are smart enough to see when certain people are “protected” in terms of backup, support systems, strong psychological makeup and so on, so they usually don’t go for these people.
Instead, they tend to go for people with some kind of weakness, in terms of their support systems or psychological disposition. They especially look for people who are isolated, vulnerable, or who have weak or diffuse boundaries within themselves and so can be easily manipulated, conned and gas-lighted into doing what they want.
Here is what Rose McGowan said of him in the documentary embedded near the top (see the 2 min 10 mark):
“Skilled predators…look for the weakest one in the pack, the one without protection. Because there are actresses he didn’t target because they had better representation, or better people around them. Or they didn’t have that crack (weakness) maybe. But he targeted an awful lot, and like a super predator, with night vision goggles on, he saw what he needed to see, and he did what he needed to do. His whole world was set up to rape, to consume, to eat people’s lives.”
We have covered this predatory aspect of psychopathy extensively on this blog. They do look down on the rest of the world with a cool detachment, considering themselves superior to others in that they don’t have these same things others do called “empathy”, “conscience”, and “remorse”.
They are master observers and manipulators of other people. Elsewhere in the documentary, another of his close former colleagues said of him “He knew how people worked. That’s why he made such great movies”.
“Personally, I think he enjoyed “the switch”, where he comes out. He’s naked, it’s a whole different tone, the energy is different, it’s much more aggressive and angry, and he watches us, almost like the prey, like ‘now what are you gonna do?’.
I think he loved the power struggle, I think he loved to watch in our faces the fear”
2. Obsession With Power and Control – This is the biggest and most commonly reported psychopathic trait of Weinstein without doubt. It shows up constantly, in almost all the accounts of Weinstein that have surfaced – he was obsessed with power, control, and dominance over others – making them submit to his will and ego.
“The psychopath is strictly will to power….They are working strictly on the enslavement of your mind”
Unslaved Podcast – see here
With his interactions with women, it is reported several times in that above documentary alone how he can suddenly “flip” and change tone, from seemingly charming and personable, to hostile, angry and intimidating. They all report the same feeling of “being caught in his web” – just another way of saying his obsession with control.
This is common with psychopaths as they have this “mask of sanity” on them – the charming, normal persona they present to the world, which is just hiding the real person underneath, which leaks out when these interactions turn more toxic.
Being able to suddenly “flip” and change on a dime is also of use to a psychopath psychologically and energetically. Keeping everyone around you on tenterhooks and afraid keeps the psychopath in control. Being unpredictable and inducing fear in others is part of the power game.
Similarly, the tone verbally also changes with psychopaths, with a rapid switch from glib smooth-talk to aggressive, dominating, controlling language, if there is any resistance to them gaining power and control in an interaction.
“Just stand there and be quiet”, he orders one woman when she resisted his sexual advances, as he then pleasured himself in front of her. He blocked her exit so she had to watch, whether she wanted to or not. See the 7 min 25 mark of the documentary for this account.
Psychopaths will get you to submit to them and be under their control, one way or another. They are obsessed with it. If you block off one attempt, they’ll try something else, then something else, and so on.
“Just the callousness of it, the ‘just stand there and be quiet then, because this (sexual act) is gonna happen whether you participate or not’ – that struck me as something that he’s done before”
Power and control is the primary aim with any psychopath – sexuality is just a secondary layer of this, and isn’t the end goal in itself. Power is always prior to sexuality, and focusing on the sexual aspects just gives predators like Weinstein a convenient excuse to hide behind – that he’s a “sex addict”. Let’s put this to rest right away:
“I don’t think (Harvey Weinstein) is a sex addict. He’s a power addict. Everything he did, everything that drove him, was about dominance, with men and women.
He put an enormous amount of energy into humiliating men, and an enormous amount of energy into getting women to submit, and getting men to submit. That was what drove him, his over-arching need for power.”
Zelda Perkins – former assistant to Weinstein.
See the full interview with Perkins here:
Another facet of power and control which comes out in the documentary is the tendency of Weinstein to gloat and taunt some victims of his behavior after the fact.
See the 12 min 50 mark of the video at the top for an account of him gloating to someone he had exposed himself to, for no other reason than to gloat.
This is typical of psychopaths, in that they love to toxically place themselves in the psyche of their victims, aiming for them to occupy the majority of the victim’s thoughts on a daily basis.
Part of the power game they are always playing is that they want to dominate and control their victims, but also make sure those victims know after the fact that they know they dominated them and made them submit. This is deliberate and intentional on the part of the psychopath; part of the mind games they are constantly playing with those they target.
3. Destructiveness – This is another constant theme in the documentary, and of psychopaths in general – fundamentally they are not creative people, but instead destructive and toxic people. They lay waste to others and the world around them in pursuit of what they want.
There are countless accounts of careers and lives ruined by his behavior, which he will not have given a second thought about. Missed opportunities, destroyed careers and reputations (see the video above from his former assistant for an example of this), and psychological damage done, whether you gave in to his demands or not.
Weinstein held an enormous amount of power in the film industry, and used this to his own ends. He could decide whether women (and men) made it or not. If you didn’t go along with what he wanted, then he could ruin you, or at least make sure you never made it.
Victims of Weinstein that did in some way resist are often left with a sense of regret, sadness and mourning at what could have been. Those that did submit are left with the trauma of what they experienced. Whichever way you cut it, being involved with this man in any way caused damage to a lot of people. This is the poisonous nature of the psychopath.
All of this negativity and distress caused to others is just so the psychopath can have his or her way. This is not a normal way of interacting with the world, but psychopaths are not normal people.
To state the obvious, to be successful, it is not necessary to cause such an enormous amount of distress and trauma in the lives of others. But this is not how the psychopath thinks.
Everything is win-lose (zero-sum) to them. For them to gain, someone else has to lose. Win-win, and shared success is not something they care for. It has to be them only who has success and power.
For them to get ahead, the psychopath often causes an enormous amount of distress, loss and trauma for others. In this sense, they are a cancer on the world, which is why awareness of them needs to grow. In getting from A to B, they literally ruin the lives of countless others without a second thought. This is the destructive nature of the psychopath.
“There are very many women who are saying that their careers could have been so much more illustrious had Harvey not set about destroying them”
Louise Godbold – Therapist
4. Parasitic – Some people who were around him during the 1980s and 1990s describe him as a “brilliant” and “creative” man, but I believe this is being too generous to him.
At the core, the psychopath has no creativity whatsoever, but is instead a purely destructive character, and also a parasitic one. They don’t create success of their own, but rather feed off the success, energy and creativity of others and portray it as their own.
Looking at this differently, you can put together this air of brilliance and creativity he managed to project and link it up with his almost vampiristic tendency to create fear ridden environments where everyone was on edge and in fear of how he was going to react next.
Some people describe Weinstein as someone who could “suck the energy out of a room” and this is particularly relevant here.
We suggest that, rather than, being inherently creative and stimulating himself, Weinstein instead created a fear ridden, adrenalised environment and then parasitically soaked the energy up out of this environment, which he then used to project this image and aura of a powerful man, a leader in his industry who did brilliant things.
At his core, it makes more sense to see Weinstein as a pathetic, fear ridden individual who wasn’t creative but fed off the creativity and energy of others. Any power and charisma he appeared to have was manufactured through the manipulation of his immediate environment.
Psychopaths are always manipulating and using others for their own ends; they usually aren’t actually high performers but mimic and feed off the true high performers. This is how they work their way up through any power structure and there is no reason to believe Weinstein was any different.
5. Toxic bonding – You will find several accounts in the documentary of how Weinstein had an ability to very subtly and insidiously alter the energy and tone of his interactions with women to manipulate them into giving in to his demands and sexual advances.
This pattern of alternating between mean and sweet, nice and nasty, charming and frightening, is typical of psychopaths, and is done to wear down a victim psychologically, keeping them unsettled and afraid and breaking down their resistance through a combination of confusion and intimidation.
It also happens fractally, in other words within individual interactions but also more generally over a longer term relationship with a psychopath.
They keep alternating the energy and vibe that is given off to an individual to keep them confused, second guessing and eventually completed eroded psychologically and dependent totally on whatever breadcrumbs of approval the psychopath chooses to throw them for any sense of self worth.
“Almost every day, people who join our forum, they say ‘why did I stay in this (toxic relationship) for so long? How could I have been so stupid?’
The way that emotional abuse works is that it targets our most vulnerable human emotions in a way that – unless you’re aware what’s happening when you’re in the cycles of it – all it does is make a more and more intense bond ”
Jackson Mackenzie – see here.
See our article on the psychopathic bond for more on this.
Put differently, psychopaths are constantly testing and pushing the boundaries, seeing what they can and can’t get away with, and trying to erode a person’s boundaries and tolerance more and more. There’s a relentless drive for power and control over others, which we already covered, but is important to re-emphasize, as it’s a key way to spot them in your life.
With Weinstein, his encounters with women rarely lasted that long. He was more interested in manipulating them in the moment to get them in positions where he had control and where they had to submit. But the same pattern applies – keep altering the mood and tone of a conversation to confuse and destabilize the person and break down their resistance.
Victims describe being so utterly confused that they feel they almost must give in, or seem to just “find themselves” in compromising situations. This may sound strange to some onlookers – some might ask, are they not just making excuses?
Not with psychopaths. Anyone who has dealt with one long term knows how they have this remarkable ability to con, confuse, and bewilder even people who are otherwise usually very smart and strong minded.
They have an uncanny knack of manipulating people and situations not just psychologically, but even energetically, to the point where we get drawn into something in the moment that we can clearly see afterwards was ridiculous and a huge mistake, but at the time we are caught up in their spell.
Lifelong psychopathy expert and profiler Dr Robert Hare sums this up very well:
“All the reading in the world cannot immunize you from the devastating effects of psychopaths. Everyone, including the experts, can be taken in, conned and left bewildered by them. A good psychopath can play a concerto on anyone’s heartstrings”.
Dr Robert Hare
You can enter a conversation with a psychopath totally convinced of something, and leave dazed and confused, with them having convinced you the opposite is true. Or they can seemingly charm you in the moment, only for you to leave the room and later realize they just completely insulted or devalued you, yet you never realized it at the time.
They have this strange way of manipulating people face to face that is hard to explain or put into words. They can put out a strange aura that seems to block any rational thought or objection whilst you are around them – an “aura of falsehood” that makes anyone around them go along with their view of reality, however twisted and distorted.
They have a malignant form of charisma that they can use to very easily manipulate and influence those around them. The key factor here that gives this dynamic so much power is the victim themself is not aware of the dynamics that are unfolding, nor that it is intentional and deliberate on the part of the psychopath.
Harvey Weinstein as a Pure Psychopath
The evidence of Harvey Weinstein being a psychopathic personality is so overwhelming that it is surely one the easiest diagnoses you could ever make at a distance.
Whilst an expert may argue that technically the diagnosis of psychopathy can only be made via formal assessment and evaluation, the evidence against him is so strong, and contrary evidence of opposing traits such as humility and decency is so scant, that it is safe to say we don’t need a formal diagnosis to see who this man truly is.
Almost every single account of his behavior I could find in some way reveals psychopathic traits and behavior. I struggled to find a single account that did not reveal these traits in some way. For this reason, I believe he thoroughly deserves the lengthy jail term he is currently serving, since his behavior points to him being a danger to literally anything and anyone he comes into contact with.
Here are some other good interviews regarding Weinstein that paint much the same picture: