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Movie Characters With Social Anxiety

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Updated August 07, 2013

Movie characters with social anxiety tend to be featured in two types of films -- thought-provoking or laugh-a-minute. When these types of characters show up in the latter, you can be sure their awkwardness and social bumbling is there to generate laughs. But when the main character suffers from something akin to social anxiety disorder, a window into their internal world is often opened for viewing. This can either leave the audience scratching their heads or nodding in understanding, depending on their own experience with social anxiety. Below are some characters that you may (or may not) be able to relate to.

1. Calvin (Rob Benedict) "Waiting" (2005)

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Photo Courtesy of PriceGrabber
This cult classic among the restaurant crowd takes place over the course of a day at "Shenaniganz", a cookie-cutter establishment filled with anything but average staff. Calvin (Rob Benedict) is a server at the restaurant plagued by constant self-doubt and awkward social behavior -- the main defining aspect of his character being his inability to urinate in a public restroom.
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2. Joel Barish (Jim Carrey), "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004)

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Photo Courtesy of PriceGrabber
Writer Charlie Kaufman brings us this tale of a man who -- upon discovering that his ex-girlfriend has undergone a procedure to erase all memories of him from her mind -- decides to do the same. During the process, however, Joel (Jim Carrey) discovers that he isn't ready to let go of Clementine (Kate Winslet). The anxious aspects of Joel's personality, including his inability to speak with strangers and his near hermit-like lifestyle are emphasized in contrast with the extroverted Clementine.
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3. Deb (Tina Majorino), "Napoleon Dynamite" (2004)

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Photo Courtesy of PriceGrabber
Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) steals the show in this film about teenage awkwardness, apathy and angst. However, Deb (Tina Majorino) brings to the screen a social awkwardness different from that of the lead role. While Napoleon is awkward and indifferent, Deb is aware of how others perceive her and it shows in her self-conscious behavior. This is never more evident than in their first meeting when Deb nervously tries her hand at door-to-door selling.
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4. Barry Eagen (Adam Sandler), "Punch Drunk Love" (2002)

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Photo Courtesy of PriceGrabber
Adam Sandler stars as Barry Eagen, a hen-pecked entrepreneur with seven sisters, intent on exploiting a loophole in a pudding promotion to cash in on free flights. Although prone to fits of rage, Eagen may be the character who most resembles a social phobic, with his odd self-conscious mannerisms and private self-loathing. Subplots include a love interest (Emily Watson) and a soured relationship with a phone-sex operator.
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5. Amelie Poulain (Audrey Tautou), "Amelie" (2001)

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Photo Courtesy of PriceGrabber
Amelie is the story of a woman who, despite her own shyness and inability to connect with others, embarks on a voyage to bring happiness into the lives of others through arms-length manipulations. This film brings into question the impact of an isolated and sheltered childhood on later social anixety. Although capable of bringing happiness to others, Amelie struggles with her own loneliness and inability to find love. It is only with the help of an eccentric neighbor that a relationship eventually develops with an attractive stranger.
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6. Iris Chapman (Toni Collette), "Clockwatchers" (1997)

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Photo Courtesy of PriceGrabber
Clockwatchers follows the lives of four office temps who become fast friends in a boring-turned-hostile office environment. This film pokes fun at the 9 to 5 work-a-day world, but it does so in the style of a black comedy. Although an ensemble cast, Iris (Toni Collette) quickly becomes identified as the lead role, which is unusual given that she is the most shy of the group, waiting timidly for two hours to be noticed on her first day of work.
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7. Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock) "The Net" (1995)

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Sandra Bullock stars as Angela Bennett, a hermit-like computer programmer in Southern California who works out of her home and "lives" on the internet. With the exception of her ex-therapist/ex-lover (Dennis Miller) and her institutionalized mother, she has no friends and no in-person social contact. When she stumbles upon a computer program capable of world-wide security breaches and becomes a target of international computer hackers, her solitary existence becomes a terrible handicap.
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8. Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis), "Now, Voyager" (1942)

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In this 40s classic, nervous and repressed as a result of a domineering mother, Charlotte Vale is transformed into a confident and beautiful woman by a kind psychiatrist (Claude Rains). With a fresh perspective, Charlotte embarks on a cruise where she meets Jerry (Paul Henreid), an architect trapped in an unhappy marriage with a troubled daughter. Although the relationship is ill-fated, Charlotte takes solace in being able to help the daughter as she has been helped herself. Known for the line -- "Don't ask for the moon--we have the stars."
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