This article was extremely beneficialfor my research as it supported my initial thoughts towards the portrayal ofmental illness in films and television programmes that the general consensus isoften “negative and based on erroneous beliefs (Jorm, 2000) “It exploresthat the non-fiction works often stigmatise those with mental illness andrepresents them often as dangerous or violent which supports other sources Ihave analysed.
The article details how what we view on screen is particularlydamaging for those watching and those already suffering from mental illness andit presents them as different from other characters and often get labelled withdamaging labels such as “psycho” and “loony” which trivialise such damagingconditions . The public perception will be particularly negative and even be asdamaging to affect those with mental illness in seeking the appropriate andmuch needed help. The literature review explores the idea that whilst theportrayals can be used as form of entertainment, there needs to be a muchhigher level of sensitivity in regards to how these illness are shown. Ifpeople from television and film companies were to work closely with those thathave the expertise in mental health and create material that can be positive increating awareness and educating those that may not know better. It can alsowork to counteract those portrayals already out there that are inherentlynegative and further the stigma surrounding mental illness. An element which Ifound extremely interesting was the discussion of “cinematherapy” which I hadnot come across before but shows that film can used with specific casesinvolving patients and have the industry promote real positive change whichshould really be in their minds when creating such portrayals and not just boxoffice success or awards which I also looked at the Otto Wahl book.
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Ron Roberts’s book is very importantbecause of the detail in goes into in regards to how it examines psychiatry andthe role it plays in cinema. Roberts discusses how film plays a particularlyimportant viewpoint into our society at the time and even us and the way inwhich we live. As with the Extent, Nature, and Impacts article hediscusses how what the audience views on the big screen (in regards topractices and treatment of mental illness) is often a reflection of how weregard it at the time and helps to shape an audiences ability to understandsuch topics.
I particularly found this book helpful because of how Robertslooks at not just cinematic psychiatry but real psychiatry too and itstreatment of women and ethnic minorities which was an area I initially wantedto look at closely as many of the films I had been studying involved heterosexualwhite men at its core. He examines several important films such as “A Beautiful Mind (2001)” andthrows his own thoughts which helped to make me look at this material in a newperspective and highlight certain inaccuracies. For example with this film,John Nash stated that he never voluntary entered a mental hospital which thefilm depicts, this shows that with many films that deal with mental illness thefilmmakers may often taken creative liberties in order to present adesensitised version of the truth in order to show a more user friendly and shyaway from the ugly side. Roberts’s use of analysis helps the reader to separatethe reality within in the fiction of what we view and avoid a sense offalsehood which perhaps many audience members may fall into as they take whatthey view on the screen as reality.
In thisarticle Vera Chouinard examines the Hollywood film, Girl Interrupted(1999) and looks at the ‘cultural narratives of the lives and places’ of womenwith mental illness. This article has helped me to think more broadly in termsof feminist perspectives and various types of conceptual ideas such asCresswell 1996 who discusses how cultural constructions of otherness have beenused to bring attention to if people either belong or don’t. This is especiallyimportant in gaining an insight into how women, in particular, are viewed and especially from the limited socialgeographic literature concerned with the lives of persons with mental illness.It examines how we, as the viewer, engage with particular depictions of the’mad woman’ in film and post-modern constructions of the ‘monstrous’ shape ourunderstanding of different ways of being a ‘mad’ woman and of where women whoperform madness in various types of ways belong. The monstrous aspect comesfrom the fact that women are supposed to “motherly” and “caring” and anybehaviour which does not conform to this is inherently “wrong”. Vera also looksat the cultural representations of the identities, lives, and geographicallocation of a persons with mental illness.
The most common of this being thatthose who are mentally ill pose a threat to others, are villainous, evil andprone to violence, with research showing that 67% of those who were depicted asmentally ill prone to violent attacks. Again, this article helped me to focusmore directly on women with mental illness and how there is a particular genderstereotype. Women depicted with mental illness fit into a certain place insociety which in Girl Interrupted is the asylum which literally shut them awayfrom society and in particular men.
As made evident by Girl Interrupted, thereis a complex discursive negotiations of meaning, and gendered processes ofmeaning-making. In some ways this only help to reaffirm mad women’s lives andin others perpetuate negative stereotypes about women with mental illness andwhere they belong.”For better or worse, movies andtelevision contribute significantly to shaping the public’s perception of thementally ill and those who treat them”.- Steven E. Hyler.
The book uses thisquote which I feel is incredibly important and helped shaped my ideas for myresearch. Whether or not the depictions are positive or negative, any type ofportrayal shapes peoples’ perceptions and creates debate and discussion whichis extremely important in going forward. Throughout the book, Wedding andNiemiec provide extremely useful and detailed sources of films featuring mentalillnesses and highlight the importance that film can have in teaching studentsengaging with psychiatry and garnering an audience response from those whoperhaps may be not as engaged with such studies.
The book itself has gonethrough numerous editions which has proven necessary as dozens of new filmshave been released each depicting various types of mental illness in moresuccessful ways than others previous. For example, the addition of Michael Haneke’sAmour (2012) is needed becauseof how it deals with Alzheimer’s, they argue that he captures the “raw emotionand a vivid power that can never be had by simply reading about neuropathology”this show the need for film to tackle such subjects and the need for it beachieved with a level of sensitivity. This point is consistently put forwardthat certain films such as SilverLinings Playbook (which deals with bipolar disorder) provide a richintensity which lectures and written work cannot and as more time and understandingis given to such illness this will come through in how contemporary films handletheir depictions.
In Otto Wahl’s’ book, he looks atmental illness in American media covering a twenty year time span. From his studieshe concludes that a dominant theme which is repeated throughout is that manymurderers and aggressive characters are those seen as suffering with mentalillness and even when they’re not “evil” characters rarely are they shown withany degree of sympathy. Wahl also notes how, even the physical way in whichthey’re presented is often in a very “other” type of way and they’re made tolook unconventional which cause them to stand out. He even notes they are oftenshowed as unemployed, unmarried and lonely which is significant because itcauses the audience to view them with a lack of humanity as they are rarely seenas three dimensional. He also picks up on how various Oscar winners have wonfor roles which depict “mentally ill characters” such as Anthony Hopkins,Dustin Hoffman and Ingrid Bergman so it could be seen that the actors will tryfor such parts because they often result in personal career gain such as criticalclaim and result in award success.
Whilst it could be beneficial for bringingawareness to a mainstream audience, they are often done because they can beseen as good material for actors to showcase their ability. An importantelement of this research to note is that it was published in 1997, whilst itdoes not reflect contemporary characters with mental illness it is important,especially for my research, to see the progressive journey that has been madeand the breakthroughs in regards to more positive and rounded portrayals. The bookis most definitely a reflection of the times and shows a lack of understandingfrom society from this period and whilst this still happens today, it isconsiderably different.