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Fatal Attraction: Everything That Went Into Fleshing Out Alex's Disorder

The 1987 erotic thriller "Fatal Attraction" was a feature perfect for revitalization in the current reboot culture. Unlike other projects revived for purely nostalgic purposes, Paramount+'s "Fatal Attraction" challenges the idea of the original film. After getting over the shock factor of the boiled bunny of it all, you have to acknowledge that the film has not aged well. The story of an everyman, Dan (Michael Douglas), stepping out on his wife and making Alex (Glenn Close) the villain is ethically complicated at best. Now Paramount+ has the opportunity to tell a more modern story full of complex themes — and far less misogyny.

"I think, if anything, it's an examination of how we as audiences have completely changed," Lizzy Caplan explained of her version of Alex. Instead of characterizing Alex as an obsessed harpy out to bring down a good man, the series carefully considers Alex's psychological state. Showrunner Alexandra Cunningham used her previous work on Hulu's "Chance" as a template for research. 

She told The Hollywood Reporter that they had a mental health consultant on set who "read all the scripts and then talked to the actors whenever they had questions, and [explained] about personality disorders and the genetic pathways that are necessary for them to take root." 

Almost four decades after Close objected to the hamfisted ending of "Fatal Attraction," her character finally gets her due.

Alex gets an official diagnosis

Before the ending of "Fatal Attraction" was changed, Glenn Close famously put a lot of work into researching mental health. In the original ending, Alex dies by suicide and frames Dan for her murder. The theatrical conclusion is much different, with almost no consideration for her mental state. Now, the Paramount+ show doesn't specifically name what she is dealing with, but Alexandra Cunningham modeled Alex's symptoms after Cluster B personality disorders. According to the DSM-V, these illnesses include antisocial and histrionic personality disorders among others. But blaming her behavior on mental illness alone would be an oversimplification. Cunningham continued to explain that stress in the real world is also a determining factor.

"If Cluster B personality disorders have a genetic component, a neurological pathway that's present in you, that can be affected by the way you're treated and what you're told about yourself and who that makes you think you are. We showed that's present in Alex's life, that her parents, for better or worse, are also struggling," Cunningham noted. With an absent mother and an emotionally abusive father, Alex has a big hill to climb. She was not only abandoned by her mother but has a father who essentially tells Alex she deserves it. This would cause anyone to experience insecurity. And while this doesn't excuse her behavior, these details contextualize Alex and make her a fully formed character.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.