Confirmation tells the true-life story of the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearings where Thomas’ former employee, Anita Hill, accused him of sexual harassment. But one detail of the hearing has us baffled: Anita Hill was accused of having a psychiatric condition called erotomania. We did a little research on erotomania and discovered it’s a real thing. But could Hill have actually had it?
According to Wikipedia, erotomania is “a type of delusional disorder where the affected person believes that another person is in love with him or her.” Erotomania is also said to occur in people with psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Typically, erotomania causes a person to believe they have a secret admirer, usually someone famous or of a higher rank than themselves, like a celebrity.
A person with erotomania thinks a specific person is sending them special glances or telepathic messages to secretly communicate their desire. Sometimes, the person even thinks body posture or the arrangement of objects are signs of the other person’s yearning.
The afflicted person returns this perceived attention by sending letters or gifts or making phone calls or visits to the other person. When these efforts are rebuked or ignored, the person with erotomania justifies it by thinking the other person is merely trying to keep the potential romance a secret.
There are a couple of famous cases of erotomania. One is John Hinkley Jr., the man who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Hinkley’s erotomania is said to have been focused on actress Jodie Foster. Hinkley became obsessed with Foster after watching the movie Taxi Driver. When Foster attended Yale University, Hinkley moved to New Haven, Connecticut, and stalked her.
Unable to establish any meaningful communication with Foster, Hinkley devised several plans to get her attention, including a plan to assassinate Reagan. Just before the assassination attempt, Hinkley wrote this to Foster:
“Over the past seven months I’ve left you dozens of poems, letters and love messages in the faint hope that you could develop an interest in me. Although we talked on the phone a couple of times I never had the nerve to simply approach you and introduce myself… The reason I’m going ahead with this attempt now is because I cannot wait any longer to impress you. — John Hinkley, Jr.”
After the assassination attempt, Hinkley was tried for the crime but found not guilty by reason on insanity. Since then, he has spent most of his time in a psychiatric facility but has had supervised visits at his parents’ home.
Another famous person said to have erotomania was Margaret Mary Ray, the woman known for stalking both astronaut Story Musgrave and talk show host David Letterman.
Ray was charged with trespassing onto Letterman’s property eight times, even stealing his Porsche and claiming to be Letterman’s wife. Ray killed herself by kneeling in front of a moving train on October 5, 1998.
Both Hinkley and Ray have a long history of behaviors that characterize their mental illness — unlike Hill, who has lived an incredibly stable and productive life full of awards and achievements for her work as a law professor.
In the real-life proceedings, psychiatrist Park Dietz suggested to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Hill may have erotmania. Rumors in Hollywood claim that Dietz was the inspiration for Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the Silence of the Lambs books and films. Could this imply that Dietz has a few delusions of this own?
In a 1993 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Dietz discussed his career chasing psychopaths and admitted there was a dark side to his work. “I only recently realized that it all has an effect on me… It gives me an entirely different outlook on humanity, what I expect will happen,” Dietz said.
So, the question becomes, is it possible Anita Hill suffered from erotomania? It seems highly unlikely, if not an outright ridiculous and sexist accusation. To us, accusing Hill of having extreme delusional fantasies about Thomas is just another way to dismiss a woman for being too emotional or simply crazy. It is an attempt to damage the reputation and emotional stability of all women. It is also an attempt to protect men and their position of status at any cost.
Thank you, HBO, for making Confirmation and exposing more evidence of the “war against women” we are still facing in America today.
Before you go, check out our slideshow below.