Harvey Dent: Three by Two
by Scott Summers

Mr. Harvey Dent, Esquire, is a gentleman who appreciates the many fine things in life—and especially those fine things divisible by two.  He digs those split-down-the-middle Armani suits.  He incessantly flips a double-headed coin.  His complexion is as two-toned as a ’66 Chevelle.  Harvey is practically shouting out to the American Psychiatric Association for a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID—what once was known as multiple personality.  A complicated man of twos (and sometimes threes), he naturally would not be satisfied with a single diagnosis.

Once upon a time he was a straightforward “multiple,” with a submerged personality called Big Bad Harv popping up weekly in sessions with Dr. Nora Crest.  Harvey Dent’s inability to remember or control Harv’s actions sealed the deal: a clear dividing line existed between one personality and the other.  Ergo, DID.

But life went on, electrically charged acid vats exploded, and Batman intervened.  Suffice it to say that Harvey Dent went through an early mid-life crisis, and afterward, his fiancée could barely recognize the men he once had been.  After the accident, Harvey soon stabilized.  Yes, he tended toward reckless outbursts of anger—coupled with equally reckless bursts of machine-gun fire—but those outbursts had become integrated into his new self rather than farmed off into a time-share personality.  Plus, his relationship with old friend Bruce Wayne assumed an on-again, off-again quality, not dissimilar in its inconstancy to Harvey’s newly bifurcated view of himself.  In this way, the whole Harvey earned a new diagnosis: borderline personality disorder.  It’s as if Big Bad Harv, that vicious, mercurial thug, had gained the upper hand.

 This new, more solidified character, known as Two-Face and sporting a coin-flipping tic (through which Harvey effectively abdicated responsibility for his alter’s actions), didn’t last long before it fragmented again.  Soon Big Bad Harv was acting on his own, without the foreknowledge of the Harvey Dent personality.  He kidnapped himself to stop an operation that might have undone his disfigurement and submerged the Harv persona.  Not only was Big Bad Harv still separate from Harvey Dent, he hated Dent with a passion.

And just as a bad marriage produces unhappy offspring, this discordant union gave birth to a third personality: the Judge, who attempted to reconcile Harvey Dent’s law-and-order sensibility with the abject brutality of Big Bad Harv.  The Judge confronted Dent’s enemies, handing down bloody verdicts with the perfect clarity of the truly disturbed.  Apparently the Judge could effortlessly tease apart good and evil, black and white; again, he had split the world in two.  With this Harvey scored a hat trick, cramming three difficult, agitated, mutually exclusive borderline personalities into one body.  (Not even the brooding original Harvey Dent can escape the borderline diagnosis: he’s often depressed and tantrum-prone, and, quite understandably, he’s got identity issues.)

So from two independent personae, a single one emerged, and then another.  And not a single one of these surplus personalities has an integrated core identity to fall back on.  It’s tragic to watch Dent’s pathology subside, only to be replaced by new and different mental illness.  Borderline personalities do tend to improve with intensive psychotherapy, though usually a therapist has the luxury of treating them one at a time.

DSM-IV-TR Diagnosis: 300.14 Dissociative Identity Disorder, 301.83 Borderline Personality Disorder (Harvey Dent), 301.83 Borderline Personality Disorder with Compulsive Features (Two-Face), 301.83 Borderline Personality Disorder (The Judge)

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