Andrew Neiman Character Analysis in Whiplash

This post includes a character analysis of Andrew Neiman, the protagonist of Whiplash (2014).

Directed by Damien Chazelle, the 2014 drama stars Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman, an aspiring drum player studying at the fictional New York Shaffer Conservatory. Spoilers ahead.

In Whiplash, Andrew Neiman enters the school of his dreams only to face another nightmare. His days at the New York Shaffer Conservatory are hard under the guidance of a ruthless professor (Terence Fletcher). During this period, Andrew Neiman’s ambitions, dreams and even his own sanity are put to the test.

Andrew Neiman – Character Analysis

Whiplash presents Andrew Neiman as an ambitious student who is incredible passionate about music. Neiman’s biggest dream is to become one of the top drum players in the world.

In terms of personality, Andrew Neiman is incredibly driven but he is also socially inept. His lack of social skills often makes others view him as an outcast, an awkward individual. Sometimes, Neiman can also come across as extremely self-centred and arrogant. Just like Terence Fletcher, Neiman also likes to use the “pursuit of excellence” as an excuse for his poor behaviour.

Throughout the film, it’s very easy to label Andrew as a victim. However, is he though? From the way how Andrew speaks to his father or Nicole, one can tell that he’s a very self-centred person and kind of insecure.

Andrew Neiman’s Entitled Mentality

Deep inside, Andrew looks down on his father. The young man doesn’t see his father as a role model nor a successful person. At the moment, Andrew has a profound disdain for those who couldn’t make a career out of their passion. Andrew’s father used to be a writer, but he couldn’t make a living out of it. Therefore, the man is currently supporting his family as a high school teacher.

Andrew’s insecure side really shows when he is socializing with other people. The young man has this weird habit of making everyone his “enemy”. Needless to say, that attitude led him to have very few friends. As a matter of fact, Andrew has no friends or a social life. That’s why he is so awkward during family dinners and around Nicole. However, not being socially smart is not Andrew’s biggest problem, but his strong sense of entitlement is.

When Andrew was having a casual dinner with some close relatives, the young man couldn’t stand the fact that he wasn’t receiving the same amount of compliments as his cousins were. That alone, already shows how entitled Andrew is. Basically, the young man thinks that his life aspirations are harder / better than others. Therefore, in Andrew’s mind, people should be acknowledging him for his “valiant” efforts.

Andrew’s lack of empathy and arrogance is also very evident during his first date with Nicole. He couldn’t grasp the fact of why Nicole is not in her “dream school”. Since Andrew is where he wants to be (Shaffer), he also believes that others should be doing the same. Again, the young man wants the person in front of him to know that he is pursuing big things.

Despite of his negative traits, one cannot deny Andrew’s incredible will power. The young man’s passion for drum playing is consistent throughout the film. Andrew dedicates most of his time to drum playing. The reasoning behind his “sacrifice” is very simple: Andrew’s best version of himself is the top.

Although, Neiman dedicates most of his life to music, he also craves for something else. Secretly, the young man longs for a sense of normalcy in his life. This is very evident when he watches Ryan Connolly with his girlfriend. The path to success is often an incredibly lonely journey.

Andrew Neiman and Nicole’s Relationship

Nicole is probably Andrew’s first girlfriend. However, things go sour real fast between the two. The young man didn’t handle things very well when he decided to break up with her. When life wasn’t going his way, Andrew blamed it on Nicole for potentially hindering his dreams.

It’s important to highlight the word “potentially”. Here is the thing, Nicole never did or said anything to stop Andrew from pursuing what he wants. This just goes to show that Andrew might be just as self-centred as Fletcher. After all, the young man has no problems with hurting other people, if that means getting what he wants. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

Andrew’s life changed the day he met Fletcher. Having said that, did Fletcher actually teach something to Andrew? Meeting someone as ruthless as Fletcher definitely made Andrew more disciplined and humble about his own skills and limitations.

Before meeting Fletcher, Andrew thought that he was a good / talented drummer. But, the young man was wrong. Andrew was good, but with Fletcher’s push, Andrew was able to reach new heights.

Having said that, is there a method behind Fletcher’s tough teaching style? For those who are looking for a more in-depth discussion about this topic, here is an article including my personal thoughts on whether Terence Fletcher was right or not.