Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Ten Traits of an Assassin

Jenna Elfman plays Ellena Roberts in
the 2002 Lifetime movie, Obsessed.
In one of my favorite Lifetime movies, Obsessed, from 2002, Jenna Elfman plays a character by the name of Ellena Roberts who is infatuated with a well-known surgeon.  When her infatuation crosses the line from fantasy into reality -- in the form of Ellena harrassing Dr. David Stillman and his family -- her behavior becomes criminal.  One of the reasons that I love this movie so much is because so much of the plot is ambiguous, leaving the viewer to wonder just what the initial nature of their relationship was, and exactly what the hell was going on in Ellena's head?  The way that Ellena views the world is also very different than reality: colors are a bit more vivid while the "focus" is more fluid and romantic, as opposed to the hard matter-of-fact point of view as voiced by her victim, Dr. Stillman.  While a lot of the dialogue may be overdramatic and lacking credibility (such as Vlasta Vrana's psychiatrist character declaring that Ellena Roberts has "seven of the ten traits of an assassin"), the story's interesting twists and various plot devices makes this movie a guilty pleasure that you can really sink your teeth into. 

Like many people, I couldn't help but search the internet to find out the real traits of an assassin.  Unfortunately, it would seem that the writers of this classic have invented such criteria.  What might they look like?  Here's my list:

1.  Lack of conscience.  This has got to be the number-one requirement in traits of an assassin.  If the subject feels the least amount of remorse, it will be difficult to carry out destructive tasks.  Regret should rarely occur, and when it does, can be easily replaced with delusions and rationalizations.
2.  Cunning.  An assassin must be able to "think outside the box" and determine as many methods as possible toward achieving the final outcome.  Unconventional or unusual ways of looking at the world -- or clever ways of acquiring and applying knowledge -- is an advantage to the assassin.
3.  Versatility.  The ability to use many tools in order to get the job done is vital, so the subject should be able to learn quickly and adapt to new surroundings.  Assassins will also treat other people as useful tools in order to complete their work.
4.  Charm and glibness.  Because assassins often need to infiltrate their prey's surroundings in order to get the job done, the assassin must have extra-special powers of persuasion.  Knowing how to manipulate other people will go a long way toward completing their malicious goals.
5.  Pathological tendencies.  It's a lot easier to be a mercenary of any sort if you're more able to justify your nefarious actions.  Assassins never feel remorse, and in fact, may have an "avenging angel" complex.
6.  Risk taking.  Someone with assassin tendencies will naturally be duplicitous and have no problems with treacherous or tricky scenarios.  He or she can easily adapt to treacherous conditions, and may even enjoy the thrill of dangerous situations.
7.  Restlessness.  An assassin doesn't like to sit still for long.  Someone who is truly cold-blooded or devious very likely craves drama and excitement.  Any adrenaline junkie will tell you that once you've experienced a rush like this, it's hard to stop looking for thrills.
8.  Untrustworthy.  An assassin will do or say anything to gain access to their prey's demise.  Lies come easily.  Cheating, stealing, and lying -- all destructive acts -- come easy to the assassin, especially if there is something to be gained from them.
9.  Chaotic life.  Problems may abound for an assassin, who has difficulty understanding and respecting the boundaries of others.  This type of poor judgement often manifests in chaos and drama of his or her own making.
10.  Nothing to lose.  While this trait may appear to contradict the previous one, you must get inside the mind of an assassin to truly understand. A person like this may have fragile (if any) real connections to anyone or anything, and can easily abandon those connections if it's advantageous of him or her to do so.

Because Ellena didn't actually perform any violent acts in the movie, it would seem that her crimes (at least the ones that she committed) were more of the emotional variety.  I would classify her as more of an emotional vampire than an assassin.  However, many of the traits above do seem to describe her character.

This movie was based on a true story, about a woman named Diane Schaefer who stalked an oncologist in New York for many years.  She was eventually sentenced to 2 years in prison during the 1990s.

Photo Credit:  Thanks to Greg Hernandez who made this photo available under a Creative Commons license.  (It has been altered, the original can be found here.)  I appreciate it, and I'm sure so do those who have come here searching for the 10 traits of an assassin! :)

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