CAT 125 Oral Presentation
Mental Illness in Movies
In modern society, we consume a lot of media, which can be good like all of you making a living directing movies, but there are some downsides as well. How many of you have ever been stereotyped by media, for your gender? your age? your race?
My name is Henry Ding, and I’m a Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience major at UC San Diego. As an Asian male, I’m always seen as someone who probably really smart, but can’t get girls, but just because I’m single right now doesn’t mean anything alright? I always thought we had it tough,
but once I went further in the study of neuroscience, I realized something. Not a scientific breakthrough, but that there was a demographic that has it even worse. Those with mental illness. Much of what most people know about these disorders comes from media like your movies.
I’m sure most of you have friends and family that suffer from them, or maybe know someone that does. Others see them as people that have something wrong with them, but they’re not wrong, just different, just like how I’m different from some of you in this room.
Some of you may have included characters in your movies that suffer from some kind of psychiatric disorder and thought nothing of it, but your audiences will generalize them to a population of more than 18% in the U.S. alone. You may or may now know this, but your portrayals
of mental illness have shaped public opinions and views of mental illnesses and those living with them as well. I want to show all of you some examples. So a movie came out somewhat recently,
M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split,” which is about a man with DID, or Dissociative Identity Disorder, who kidnaps and torments three girls. This gives people watching the movie others like it the impression that those with DID are violent, but research suggests that the mentally ill are more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators of violence.
Here’s another example in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise, where one of the heroes Drax, shows signs of being on the autism spectrum. He’s a hero and autistic kids look up to him. It’s great to see a character like him not just for people with autism, but also for those who don’t really know much about it.
However positive of negative, people suffering from these psychiatric disorders are still only being portrayed in one or two ways. People with DID are crazy and violent, people with autism are bad socially but are capable of doing extraordinary things. These depictions still aren’t showing them as regular people like you and me,
which is “Bad News Bears” because it creates stereotypes and misconceptions about mental illnesses. These include but aren’t limited to being violent and unpredictable, being either evil, foolish, or wonderful, and people being afraid or cautious towards them.
But why should you care? This isn’t about a movie, but rather a TV show called “Wonderland” The opening scenes show a man with schizophrenia go on a shooting spree and even stabs a pregnant lady in the stomach. The series goes on to show the hopelessness of being mentally ill.
This caused heavy criticism from mental health groups and was quickly cancelled because of it. You all know the time, money, and effort it goes into making something like this and when it flops, you lose that time, money, and effort and are also left with less support of investors and audiences for future projects.
These representations don’t just affect how people view those with disorders, but also how those same people with disorders view themselves. The fear of stigma can prevent individuals from seeking treatment. I know if someone I cared about was going through something that I wouldn’t want them to be scared to get help.
I urge you to educate yourselves as well as your audiences by showing that people suffering from mental illness aren’t all the same, that they’re like everybody else who goes to work, goes to school, has friends and family, and who just try and enjoy their lives.
Diverse and accurate representation in movies will greatly help with misconceptions and encourage research and treatment. It won’t just benefit them, or me, but I’m sure you all as well. Thank you.