Social Anxiety in Movies: The Chumscrubber


The Chumscrubber is about Dean (Jamie Bell) a high school loner whose only friend, Troy, commits suicide. Dean has to deal with school bullies who want him to steal a stash of prescription drugs from Troy’s room. Plus, he and the other kids in the town have to deal with their parents, who aren’t exactly model citizens themselves.

The Chumscrubber [2005]

Directed by: Arie Posin
Written by: Arie Posin (story), Zac Stanford (screenplay)
Starring: Jamie Bell, Camilla Belle, Justin Chatwin, William Fichtner, Glenn Close, Ralph Fiennes

Psychoanalysis: Warning! Full spoilers ahead…

Dean discovers his friend Troy hanged himself in his room, but doesn’t tell anyone, or seem to react at all.

Dean, I know Troy was your best friend.
Actually, we weren’t really friends. We hung out sometimes, that’s all.
Did you have a better friend than him?
I don’t really have any friends, Dad. You know that.
So, strictly speaking, Troy was your best friend.

Social anxiety prevents us from making friends, and also from getting close to the friends we have.

Dean’s dad (a psychiatrist and best-selling author) is concerned that Dean is not more broken up over Troy’s suicide.

This is called Viloprex. Now, don’t fight me on this, I prescribe this to lots of kids.
You want me to take that?
It’s just something to give you a little… balance.
OK, let me have it.

Dean takes pills right away like it’s nothing. It’s not prescribed for his social anxiety, but more for his depression–or his lack of depression. Whatever the case, overprescribing teenagers with pharmaceuticals is an issue.

At school, Dean eats alone at lunch, until Crystal suddenly shows interest and joins him.

I’m Crystal.
I know. Everyone knows who you are.
You don’t like to talk much, do you? Or is it just that you don’t like talking to me?

Some people may not realize we have social anxiety and assume we don’t talk to them because we don’t like them, which is usually not the case. We’re just afraid to talk to them.

Crystal apologizes for the prank her friends did, mocking Troy’s suicide.

Nice friends you have.
Well, better to have no friends at all?
Honestly? Yeah. Yeah, it is.

Dean’s isolation at school isn’t entirely from social anxiety. He seems to genuinely not like his schoolmates. And from what we’ve seen of them, you can’t blame Dean for that.

You really don’t care what people think, do you?

Social anxiety comes from constantly caring about what others think. So either Dean is lying, or he probably doesn’t have social anxiety.

Crystal tries to talk to Dean about Troy, but he’s evasive.

It’s impossible trying to talk to you.

Trying to have a conversation with someone who has social anxiety can be like pulling teeth, which is frustrating for both parties. Some will give up and cease trying to talk to us.

Lee and Billy, the bullies behind the prank, reveal that Crystal was just talking to Dean to get him to steal the pills from Troy’s room for their illegal prescription drug ring at the high school.

You were right about something else. It’s not that I don’t like talking. No. It’s just that I don’t like talking to you.

More proof that Dean doesn’t have social anxiety. He just doesn’t like the kids at his school, especially people like Crystal, Billy, and Lee, who use him.

Billy and Lee kidnap Dean’s little brother Charlie to force him to steal the pills, but they kidnap the wrong Charlie. The second Charlie’s mother is so obsessed with her wedding that she doesn’t even realize her son is gone.

Charlie doesn’t have a lot of friends yet. He’s not really socially gifted. But he’s a good kid, basically.

Charlie shows some signs of social anxiety, though it’s natural to be shy and afraid when you’re kidnapped by older high school students.

Anyway, I have to go.
What? No. Where are you going?
Do I have to explain everything I do? I’m just meeting some friends.
Don’t act too surprised, Mom.
No, why would I be?
‘Cause no one likes him, Mom.
Oh, Charlie.
Everyone thinks he’s crazy.

Social anxiety can make us not want to tell others our plans, for fear they’d judge us. Though in this particular case for Dean, he has good reason not to tell his mom the truth, since he’s going to steal pills to pay for a kidnap ransom.

Dean gets arrested after getting in a fight with Billy at the exchange, because his little brother, Charlie, swapped the pills with their mother’s vitamins. Throughout the film, the kids tell their parents exactly what they’re doing–the drugs and kidnapping–but they either don’t believe them or don’t pay attention.

Listen, I spoke to a colleague of mine at the hospital. These are a stronger version of what I’ve already given you, but, listen, they’re perfectly safe, OK, pal?

Again, Dean takes the pills right away, with no care. I was eager to take antidepressants for my social anxiety, thinking they’d be the miracle cure, but they weren’t. Nor is Dean’s medication for him.

Dean’s dad wants to go to the wedding, while his mom wants to go to Troy’s funeral.

As a therapist, it’s my opinion that he should avoid anything upsetting.
As a mother, it’s fucking important he learn how to function in the real world.

That’s poor advice coming from a therapist, at least as it pertains to social anxiety. Complete avoidance of social situations that upset us will only make our social anxiety worse.

Troy’s mother tried to remain stoic after his suicide, but she eventually breaks. Dean comforts her.

It’s my fault. I know it is. I didn’t even know him. I didn’t know my own son.
He had a crush on this girl…that he never talked to. But he probably wished he would’ve. He was really, really smart. But he kept all his ideas to himself, unless you asked.

We never see Troy alive, but the way Dean describes him, (afraid to talk to a girl he liked and afraid to share his ideas) it sounds like he may have had social anxiety. The reason for Troy’s suicide is never given, but there have been some real-world cases where severe depression from social anxiety can cause suicide. If you feel suicidal because of social anxiety, know that you are not alone, and please seek help.

Dean shows some signs of social anxiety because he has no friends and is alone at school, but that seems to be mostly by choice, as the students at his school are not very friendly. Dean’s friend Troy may have a more explicit case of social anxiety, but we never actually see him alive in the movie.

The Chumscrubber as a movie: 7/10
As a portrayal of social anxiety: 6/10


1 thought on “Social Anxiety in Movies: The Chumscrubber

  1. Pingback: Social Anxiety in Movies | Tim Barry Jr.

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