Mental Health in Movies

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I want to talk about a taboo subject that seems to be ignored in movies. Mental Illness. In society even mental illness is such a taboo subject. People tend to not understand anything about mental illness. Physical disabilities are taken seriously, even to the point that someone can receive a job just for being disabled. This is not the case with someone with a mental illness. Someone can be excluded from work for disclosing mental illness when applying for a job and despite attempts by the government to stop this, it cannot be prevented. Employers can easily say that the person was not what they were looking for or were not qualified but at the end of the day people do not have the time or resources to find out if this was the case when seeking employment.

So how can we understand this taboo subject? Cinema and TV are important as this medium reaches out to so many people. Despite now living in the internet age TV and Cinema still hold a place in society and a great deal of opinions are formed from the portrayals in this medium. The film One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest is probably the most famous film to tackle mental illness. The portrayal of mental illness in this film however is not positive. A lot of the inmates and I use that term loosely are aggressive, unstable and unpredictable. The fact is a film like this could destroy someones reputation. If someone is exposed to have a mental illness they are not greeted with care but the opposite, they are almost cast out of society, almost seen as not human. We have to remember that films are works of fiction and even if they have been based on a true story many elements will have been added in for better story telling.

More recently a film that has dealt with mental illness is Silver Linings Playbook, I thought this was a fantastic film and I feel that this portrayed mental illness in a much more realistic way as well as being kinder about the people who suffer with mental illness. Some elements of the film still show the taboo but that is understandable, mental illness is a taboo. I feel that this film shows its audience that people suffer from this and it has a real negative affect on their lives. However they are still human.

A problem with this film though was none of its content but how it was marketed to the audience. This is only my opinion but Silver Linings Playbook was Art cinema for me, it was marketed to us as just another romantic comedy and frankly there was nothing special about it. The film contains two very powerful and moving performances from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Jennifer Lawrence received and Academy Award for her performance whilst Bradley Cooper only received an Academy Award nomination. Both performances gave a realistic portrayal of sufferers of mental illness. I feel that this film could have done wonders for the taboo around mental illness but because of the way it was marketed the taboo still exists.

Even if it was marketed in the right way the taboo would still exist. I like to think there has been a step taken to destroying the taboo. I think now more films may tackle the issue on mental illness and this is an important step to destroying the taboo completely.


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