With the seventh season of The Walking Dead approaching there’s one name on every fan’s lips…Negan. Love or hate him, there’s no doubt he’s going to make a serious impact (no pun intended) on the post-apocalyptic world. He’s charming enough to amass a large group of followers, brutal enough to keep numerous communities under his thumb, and smart enough to lure Rick and his crew into a deadly trap. Given these characteristics and his seeming delight in cruelty it’s understandable that one of the more frequent labels thrown at him is psychopath.
The question is: Is that an appropriate label for the leader of The Saviors?
If we look at a key tool in diagnosing psychopaths – the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) – and compare Negan’s behavior (in the show and comics) we might find our answer…
(Note: Going forward there will be spoilers for the comic…Possibly the show.)
Grandiose Self Worth
Negan definitely has this. He calls his people The Saviors and believe he’s best able to keep order and “save” the world, which is hugely arrogant. He boasts his way is the only way and rolls eyes at other’s opinions, suggestions, and feelings. His people kneel as if he were king and, while others have to earn what they get, Negan shows no hesitation in taking whatever he wants for himself – including other men’s wives – as if he had the right to them.
Need For Stimulation/Prone To Boredom
Negan seems to get a kick out of fighting the undead and living alike, even when it might be easier to just let things go. He frequently admonishes Rick for taking things too seriously and, after a vicious fight in the comics, he laughs it off as all good fun. When others bring a gun, Negan brings grenades and happily declares how excited the destructive chaos makes him. From all appearances Negan isn’t someone looking for peace or quiet, he’s a man who seeks out adrenaline rushes, which means he meets this criteria.
Because the comics (and show) are from the perspective of Rick and his people whether Negan has an issue with lying or not is tricky to determine. Oddly enough, he appears to be pretty honest. Even Jesus in the comics admits that Negan’s reasonable in that the deal he agrees to, he follows through on. He might hike a price on what he’s owed, depending on circumstances, but whether that’s a lie or not is debatable. Given much of the time Negan comes across as honest, let’s say he doesn’t qualify for this trait.
The best argument for Negan having this beyond what might be considered normal in The Walking Dead universe is how he recruits wives. In exchange for luxury and not having to work women in Negan’s group can agree to be his wife…but as one they are expected to wear lingerie and sleep only with him.
Lack Of Remorse Or Guilt
Negan shows no remorse or guilt concerning victims of his physical attacks. What he does is explained as “just the way things are”. His punishments for even small infractions are shockingly cruel and violent, but dismissed as what must be done to keep order. Negan blames his victims; they broke the rules so they brought it on themselves. There is one incident in the comics though where, after mocking an overweight woman, Negan seems to feel guilty enough to apologize (and offer sex as a peace-offering) once her level of upset is pointed out to him. …But one incident doesn’t break the pattern creating this trait in Negan.
Shallow Affect/Superficial Emotional Responsiveness
We often see Negan cracking jokes one minute, dead serious the next, then back to joking. Switching that fast suggests neither emotion is deep, but it’s hard to be certain he isn’t capable of deep feelings when not in front of an audience. The closest we get to the truth is likely in his ongoing prequel comic, “Here’s Negan”, where his emotions come across as deep, genuine, and appropriate. …In truth, it’s far more likely the Negan’s grown numb than he’s completely without emotional depth.
Callousness/Lack Of Empathy
For the most part, Negan shows severe issues with empathy. He can be pretty callous in both action and speech, whether intentionally or not. At one point in the comics he makes Carl cry and appears downright oblivious to the boy’s tears or being the cause of them. That said, a few panels prior, he made Carl cry for the first time and, almost instantly, showed his own signs upset as he apologized and tried to lift the boy’s spirits. It’s likely Negan does have empathy, but not much and closed himself to the little he had to survive in the post-apocalyptic world.
Negan’s community lives off other communities and Negan himself seems to live off the hard work of everyone else around him. That’s parasitic.
Poor Behavioral Controls
Much of what Negan says seems to go directly from head to mouth, with no filter whatsoever. There are times when he has outbursts of rage, but most are verbal rather than physical. Oddly, for all his unedited speech, Negan tends to keep the rest of his behaviors in control. Whether that makes his violence more frightening is up for debate, but it rules out him having poor behavioral controls.
Negan has a harem full of wives in the comic and, in “Here’s Negan”, was unfaithful to his wife. The man hits on pretty much any female he sees and there’s little doubt, if allowed, he’d go through on every overture. Negan definitely has this trait.
Early Behavior Problems
Impossible to say as we have no background aside from what occurred in “Here’s Negan” just prior to the Walker outbreak, but it seems like a no.
Lack Of Realistic Long-Term Goals
It’s not completely clear what his long-term goals are outside saving the world…which is pretty unrealistic, especially given he plans to do it by extorting other communities.
As noted in “Poor Behavioral Controls” Negan’s speech is pretty impulsive. That said, most of his behavior isn’t. Consider how much planning must have gone into ensnaring Rick’s group in the season six finale and, in the comics, he seems to plan nearly every move he and his people make. If he were impulsive, these things would’ve been impossible.
He certainly doesn’t pull his weight in his own community and, though he boasts about keeping people safe, one could point out he doesn’t show up until his men have taken all the risk in rounding up Rick’s crew. In the comics he drops by Alexandria to collect supplies, but with other communities that task appears to fall to his men. Of course, whether he’s absent because he’s irresponsible or busy doing more managerial tasks is unclear.
Failure To Accept Responsibility For Own Actions
Negan often complains about those around him rather than accept his own part when faced with failures. Add to that the fact Negan blames others for his violence towards them, he certainly qualifies for this criteria.
Many Short-Term Marital Relationships
As far as we know he’s only been married once, which ended when she passed, but he also had a mistress and there’s no word if it was just the one.
Impossible to say as we have no background on him concerning his childhood.
Revocation of Conditional Release
As far as we’re aware Negan has never been in prison or any other facility in which he would have a “conditional release”, but given he was a school teacher this one’s probably a no.
With the fall of society previous laws no longer apply and, by the time Negan’s introduced, nearly everyone on the planet has trespassed, stolen, killed, and/or committed a wide variety of other crimes. Given there’s no mention of Negan breaking the law prior to the apocalypse and no suggestion he would have if the apocalypse had never happened it’s likely Negan doesn’t, technically, qualify.
While Negan hits a number of psychopathic characteristics, he doesn’t have nearly enough unless you presume “yes” on the unknown and debatable traits. Also, this isn’t a normal world he’s living in and we’ve little idea what he was like prior to the apocalypse or what happened to him between then and his first appearance in The Walking Dead (show or comics). His personality has malignant traits – he’s emotionally immature, egotistical, sadistic, and a giant bully – but that doesn’t make him a psychopath. In the end it’s far more likely Negan was always an immature, bullying, type who, as a result of having to survive, developed certain psychopathic tendencies.