Narcissistic Behavior in the White Oleander Film

By | March 2, 2017

In my review of narcissistic behavior in the White Oleander film I will show movie clips to illustrate traits and behaviors of the narcissist, mother Ingrid Magnussen, and her victims, boyfriend Barry Kolker and daughter Astrid Magnussen. I also cover the movie’s soundtrack, the storyline, some of the main narcissistic traits and behaviors in this movie, how to recognize them, and some quotes.

For other movies about narcissists and linked reviews, go to: movies-about-narcissists



Astrid, the 15-year-old daughter of the narcissistic, self-centered mother, Ingrid, is the narrator in the film. Her father, Barry, left when she was very young and she doesn’t remember him.

Ingrid abuses Astrid either by neglecting her or by smothering (being all over) her. When Ingrid is still with Astrid’s father, a crude man, she discovers that he betrays her with younger women, and their relationship ends.

Out of jealousy, Ingrid poisons Barry with a liquid made from white oleander, a poisonous plant. Ingrid is sentenced to life in jail, and Astrid, who is more mature than her mother, ends up in foster care.

Her first foster mother is Starr, who used to be a stripper and is recovering from alcoholic addiction. She is also a born-again Christian. They first get along well, but then Starr suspects Astrid is having an affair with Ray, her live-in boyfriend, and shoots her in a fit of rage.

Astrid is briefly placed in a violent group foster home, where she starts a relationship with Paul, a young artist. After that, Astrid starts living with Claire, who used to be an actress. She is loving and caring and brings more stability in Astrid’s life.

HOW TO Narcissist in White Oleander Film - Ingrid Magnussen

Ingrid in White Oleander

When Astrid, together with Claire, visits her mom in prison, Ingrid is jealous of Claire. Claire has no defense against the nasty comments and tricks of Ingrid. Both Claire and Astrid end up getting upset.

Claire is suspicious of her husband Mark having an affair and planning to divorce her. Claire commits suicide and Astrid needs to find another foster home again.

Astrid refuses to go to better foster parent candidates. She prefers to live with a lady from Russia, Rena. However, it turns out that Rena exploits her foster children by cheap child labor practices.

When there is an opportunity for Ingrid to appeal for release from prison, she tries to persuade Astrid to testify that she did not kill Barry. A reluctant Astrid first wants Ingrid to give her missing information about her childhood.

Ingrid confesses that she left Astrid with her babysitter Annie for more than a year when she was younger. Astrid now understands why she still feels abandoned.

Astrid finally agrees to testify. However, Ingrid has a change of heart at the last moment and prevents her lawyer from calling Astrid to testify. After the hearing, Ingrid’s lawyer informs her that her appeal was denied. The final scenes show Astrid and Paul starting a new life in New York City.

The Narcissist

Mother Ingrid Magnussen, played by Michelle Pfeiffer

The Victims

  1. Boyfriend Barry Kolker, played by Billy Connolly
  2. Daughter Astrid Magnussen, played by Alison Lohman

Movie Clips

Narcissistic Traits and Behaviors of Ingrid

Except for the end, where Ingrid spares Astrid the agony of falsely testifying to help her mother, Ingrid’s self-centeredness is evident throughout the entire movie.

Ingrid also has strong fanatical, absolutist views, which she seeks to impose upon her daughter. Ingrid is obsessed with the color white, symbolic for purity, which is how she portrays herself to the public, albeit in very frigid and sterile ways.

Ingrid’s true inner character, far from white, is the blackness of her jealousy and envy, her murderous past, and then first her shameless defense through self-justification, followed by her complete denial of it.

This brings us to anther trait of Ingrid’s character: Black-and-White thinking, also known as All-or-Nothing thinking or All-Right-or-All-Wrong thinking. In psychology, this type of thinking in extremes is called “splitting,” one of the four classic defense mechanisms.

All Narcissistic Traits Categorized in 12 Groups around a Clock

I discovered that each narcissistic trait and behavior can be categorized under one of twelve main groups, which I call The Twelve Faces of the Beast ™ of Malignant Narcissism.

In my free video course Mastery Over Madness, I explain the narcissistic traits of each of these twelve groups and how they relate to what I call The Six Axes of Evil ™.

The twelve groups and the six axes of evil, including the four classic defense mechanisms, are all charted on a clock. For more information on how to recognize all narcissistic traits and behaviors and how to access my free video course, go to: Course Mastery Over Madness

How to Recognize Ingrid’s Narcissistic Traits and Behaviors on the Clock

Ingrid’s neglecting and abandoning of Astrid during her early childhood, as well as her “white” frigidity and sterility, are narcissistic behaviors associated with the 1 o’clock group.

Engulfing and smothering, practiced by Ingrid when Astrid is older, are narcissistic behaviors belonging to the 7 o’clock group. Together with those of the 1 o’clock group these traits are part of the 1-7 axis of evil.

One of the characteristics of self-centeredness is desperately wanting someone else, usually a child, to be an extension of yourself. Ingrid tries to accomplish this with Astrid through a practice called “Projective Identification,” one of the four classic defense mechanisms.

“I raised you to think for yourself” –Ingrid

“No you didn’t… you raised me to think like you” –Astrid

In addition, Ingrid also uses the well known narcissistic tactics of controlling and manipulation. Along with projective identification, these aspects of Ingrid’s character are connected with the 3 o’clock group.

Ingrid’s lies and denial along with the earlier mentioned Black-and-White thinking or “splitting,” one of the four classic defense mechanisms,  are narcissistic behaviors that belong to the 9 o’clock group. Together with those of the 3 o’clock group these traits are part of the 3-9 axis of evil.


“I never had a Father…” –Astrid

“I raised you! Not a pack of Bible thumping trailer trash!” –Ingrid

“I raised you to think for yourself.” –Ingrid

“No you didn’t… you raised me to think like you.” –Astrid

“If thinking for yourself is evil then every artist is evil.” –Ingrid

“I don’t want to be redeemed! I regret nothing!” –Ingrid

“It is good that you try to identify evil, bastard.” –Ingrid

“Evil is tricky. Just when you think you know what it is, it changes its form.” –Ingrid

“I will not lose you. Not to them. Those people are the enemy…” –Ingrid

“You are my daughter and you are perfect. Remember!” –Ingrid

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