Hollywood's portrayal of mental illness more harmful than helpful
My first period psychology class is often thought-provoking. We talk about topics that I often don't think about. Topics have ranged from mental illness to meditation.
The class provides countless opportunities to explore aspects of psychology that I wouldn't normally have. For example, recently I started researching dissociative identity disorder (DID).
In short, it's a disorder that is characterized by someone having two or more identities that have different personalities. This disease has no cure besides medications and therapy to help curb the symptoms.
Dissociative identity disorder was in the media recently with the 2016 movie "Split" by M. Night Shyamalan. James McAvoy plays a man with DID who kidnaps three teenage girls and treats them differently with each of his personalities.
The film is marketed as a horror movie — the trailer is filled with quick cuts, eerie music and scared faces. Although the film does show some aspects of this disorder, the generalization of DID is extremely harmful to those who have it.
Some may say that the film brings awareness to an illness that isn't often featured in popular culture. I would argue, though, that this "education" on DID is too broad a generalization to properly inform the public.
To draw audiences in, movies often hyperbolize stories, and audiences eat up the drama. "Split" is evidence: The film made $278.5 million during its run.
The reason I was drawn toward picking DID as my topic of research was because of the preconceived notions I had about the disorder. "Split" had made me think that the disease automatically turned someone into a dangerous criminal, when in fact, that isn't the case at all.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Hollywood may sometimes choose to glamorize illnesses that many struggle with. OCD is a prime example. Movies and TV love to make OCD seem like a fun "quirk" that someone has when in reality, OCD can impair one's quality of life.
The film "As Good As It Gets" features a man with OCD, who through new friendships, is able to begin changing his life for the better. The happy ending that accompanies the film isn't something that is an option for everyone with OCD though.
The "picture perfect" culture that Hollywood likes to create hurts those who genuinely struggle with disorders like OCD. These types of movies can make it harder for society to genuinely understand how difficult OCD can be for some people.
Hollywood is so detrimental to our public perception of mental illness. There seems to be no gray area with mental illness; either it is made to seem easy and light, or it is scary and demonic.
Of course, there are exceptions. Some shows or movies use their platform correctly to bring awareness to these topics. By not promoting these extreme views, they have the opportunity to help change the way we as a culture view these topics.
The glamorization or alternatively demonization of mental illness is so damaging to not only society's view of people with mental health struggles, but also to those who actually struggle with them.
We, as a society, should re-evaluate our support of films to continue to stereotype those who don't always have a platform to share their truth. Making someone feel either demonized or weak for not finding an easy solution to their problems is worth infinitely more than a profit at the box office.
Alyson Johnston is a junior at Wilsonville High School.
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