Lars and The Real Girl is a sweet movie that shows the power of true community integration. It’s the story of a young man who needs help and finds it with his family, friends, co-workers and church. It’s the kind of story that needs to be told more often in the face of the cynical stories told today.
William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet around 1600, telling the story of a prince dealing with the death of his father and the quick remarriage of his mother to his uncle. The play uses mental health, both real and faked, as a way to show human behavior. Commonly studied in high schools all over America, this tale has had a profound effect on the way mental health is viewed.
Mental health conditions are as old as human beings, maybe older. As a result, humans have been talking, singing and writing about mental health for as long as we’ve existed. Stories like Nikolai Gogol’s “Diary of a Madman” are a good reminder that people have been talking about mental health for a long time, if not from their personal experience.
The Bell Jar, a 1963 novel by Sylvia Plath, is best known for being a semi-autobiographical work about the troubled life of the author. While it is definitely that, it’s also an interesting look at a peer support relationship, even if it never gets that title.
Movies have a set language they use to discuss issues. Short of a few outliers here or there, movies about mental health conditions use the same visual language to explain mental health to the audience. They use similar shortcuts to describe everything else. It took a master filmmaker like Alfred Hitchcock to subvert them so completely, and inPsycho, he fundamentally changed the way shortcuts about mental health in movies were depicted.
Crime is usually connected to mental health in fiction. What that really means and what that looks like in fiction may vary a bit, with some stories showing empathy for the person and others favoring lock them up and throw away the key scenarios. Often the interactions are cheap and over simplified and cater to the lowest common denominator. A perfect example of this is Primal Fear.
It’s October, so I thought I’d use this month’s blog posts to go back to where we started, with horror. (I’m not reviewing this season’s American Horror Story.) The perfect place to start is with Fatal Attraction, with one of the most obvious villains with mental health conditions in film history.
The ‘90s don’t seem like that long ago, certainly not 20 years. But having watched a bunch of ‘90s movies for this blog, I’ve come away with the thought that things really have changed. Nell brought that point home very clearly.
One of the great things about this blog is finding unknown or hidden places where mental health conditions are being addressed and looking at what is being said about them. One of the great, positive frontiers is children’s television. Newer shows seem much more willing to take a look at these controversial issues head on. One recent example is Adventure Time’s season four episode “I Remember You.”
Tender is the Night is one of those books that has been on my to read list for as long as I can remember. Considered one of the classics of American literature, its reputation precedes it, to the point of obscuring what the novel is actually about. A scathing review of the idle rich and mental health in the 1920s and 1930s, the novel illuminates one ugly, persuasive view of psychiatry.