The psychologist who joins FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench to study criminal behavior in the show is based on Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess, whose work treating trauma and abuse survivors is internationally recognised. Dr. Burgess is still a professor at the Boston College Connell School of Nursing and was named a living legend by the New England Chapter of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association in 2013.
As with any TV show or movie portraying real events, Dr. Carr is simply based on Dr. Burgess. But, like the fictitious character, the real psychologist did invaluable work trying to understand how violent criminals think.
The professor has spent decades researching sexual abuse, rapists, and serial killers (which explains her presence in the show). While working with the FBI in the 1970s, Dr. Burgess studied connections between child abuse and future criminal behaviour.
In Mindhunter, Dr. Carr, played by Anna Torv, is the first person to tell agents Holden and Tench that studying serial killers could offer revolutionary insights. "Psychopaths are convinced that there's nothing wrong with them, so these men are virtually impossible to study," she tells the federal agents during their first meeting. "But you have found a way in near perfect laboratory conditions. That's what makes this so exciting and potentially so far-reaching."
After giving Holden and Tench the encouragement they needed to keep interviewing men locked up for multiple murders without much support from the FBI, she begins working with the duo to make their study more scientifically sound.
So, if you needed an excuse to binge Mindhunter (although you never really need a reason), just tell yourself you're studying up on a legendary female psychologist who was ahead of her time.
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