The sudden change between fantasy and reality among the characters suffering from schizophrenia intrigues film directors for several decades. Usually, directors want the viewers to enter the horror world of abnormality, complexity, and field of the unknown. Schizophrenia is a devastating mental illness which confuses the individual in distinguishing reality from illusion. In movies, it is presented either the observable matter from the outside or take the viewers into the same mental state as the character.
Movies tend to glamorize and oversimplify diseases and disability instead of bringing home a sensitive message by mentioning the condition explicitly. It’s frustrating to the person watching especially if he knows it firsthand what it’s like to live in such a situation. Autism, for example, must not be portrayed in movies as something that we should feel pity with, instead, it must depict the condition as something different from us that we should learn to live with it.
Disclaimer: The narrative written in this article are all based on the writer’s opinions and interpretation of the movie. The writer was not paid by anyone, or someone who has connection with the film for advertisement and increase of movie sales. All lyrics of the songs were taken from the writer’s personal CD of The Greatest Showman.
The human spirit is known to withstand any tribulations. This is depicted in many movies and songs over time. These films served as inspirations and as a way to retell how the characters have overcome human strife. The latest film to depict this theme was the personal story of P.T. Barnum, the person behind the famous P.T. Barnum Circus.
The movie starts with a young Barnum, portrayed by Hugh Jackman, accompanying his father, a businessman of all sorts, to a grand mansion to sell textiles and dress the lord of the house. He met the young Charity Hallet (Michelle Williams) who immediately captured his innocent heart and from that day, vowed to be the only girl he’ll ever love. However, because of his status in life, the parents were against his intentions.
His father died, and he was left alone to face life’s challenges and injustices. Nonetheless, this did not stop him from pursuing the woman he loved. With a simple dream, they started to have a family, and the real trials just began for them.
Discrimination And Acceptance
“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me.”
His dream was grand and straightforward at the same time- to provide for his family and to prove his in-laws that he can surpass their wealth. But his methods were surprisingly out of this world as he began to gather and organize a group of queer and eccentric individuals for an exhibit in a museum. The viewing public is not yet ready for this kind of display of human oddities; thus P.T. Barnum and the rest of his company was taken as an outcast. The discrimination they received were demonstrated in a song This Is Me (sang by Keala Settle). The intense lyrics of the song is a battle cry for believing and accepting who you are despite your inadequacies and faults. You are not to be dismayed by any challenges and should face loud and proud of all the hardships that you encounter.
Believing In One True Love
“Hand in my hand and we promised to never let go
We’re walking the tightrope
High in the sky
We can see the whole world down below
We’re walking the tightrope
Never sure, never know how far we could fall
But it’s all an adventure
That comes with a breathtaking view
Walking the tightrope.”
P.T. Barnum and his wife have this I-will-stand by you no matter kind of love. Charity, despite her family’s extreme wealth, left this kind of life to be with Barnum. They started from scratch and was happily contented with the things they have. The song Tightrope professes the lady’s love for her husband and never to let go. Then again, just like any normal married couples, they have their fair share of conflicts and misunderstandings. When Jinny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) joined the P.T. Barnum’s show, and both went on a concert trip all over the country, Charity was left with her own musings that a relationship between her husband and the Swedish Nightingale was in the background. As far as Barnum explained in the latter part of the movie, Jinny Lind was only a business partner and nothing else. They settled the problem and returned to each other’s arms.
Rising From The Ashes
“From now on
These eyes will not be blinded by the lights
From now on
What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight
Let this promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
From now on
From now on.”
Another adversity that tested Barnum’s faith and resilience was when the building where the show was held burned accidentally. For someone who has lost his only means of living, this is a very traumatic incident and can lead to the development of psychological conditions such as depression, panic attack, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Barnum did not wallow much long in these dark times of his life. Notwithstanding the event, he immediately thought of another plan and a way out to start all over again, and this time he succeeded in bringing the Barnum & Bailey Circus to everyone.
The Greatest Showman is indeed a remarkable film of hope and inspiration, of not giving up on your dreams, and to continue fighting with everyday challenges until you have proven your worth.
Listening to rock music brings out the energy and liveliness in a person. It helps to release all the tension from the body and increase adrenalin and endorphins creating a state of happiness. For those who don’t like rock music, the opposite is achieved. This could be a headache, chest pain, and temporary deafness, and mental irritation from all the loud music and intense sound coming from the rock song, not to mention the shouting of the crowd if the person listening is in a concert or public area.
Watching your child’s favorite cartoon can be a form of bonding. But do you know that some cartoon characters may demonstrate some hidden mental disorders?
Child psychologists are very keen on how young children are exposed to TV shows. They are imposing that TV shows, including cartoons, need to be screened and allowed to be shown at a very early age.
Alcohol is a common sight in any social gathering. Taken for the first time can release any inhibitions such as if a person is shy, it can help him initiate or maintain communication. Too much alcohol, on the other hand, can alter one’s cognitive processes, changes mood, and behavior, and can be a cause of violent conflicts.
Since details about counseling are shown in the cinemas and on your television screens, it might be the truth, right? Wrong!
Onscreen Therapists – Not Your Average Characters
There might’ve been the possibility that you’ve seen therapists shown on your screen a couple of times and more often than not, what you see is mostly misrepresentation of what real-life therapists are. Pop culture’s notion of what happens during treatment sessions is mainly based on what they wanted therapists to be – fictional – rather than being authentically faithful to its source. Unfortunately, most high-quality flicks show inaccurate depictions of counseling.
“Therapy is intended to be a place to carefully and safely start to turn toward whatever it is you’ve got.” Molly Bowman, MS, LPC said. So when movie and television scripts exaggerate or use their privilege to show an unreliable rendering of an essential medical profession, it is the audience’s duty as their viewers to pinpoint what’s real from what’s not efficiently. After all, it’s just television. But if television can influence the viewer’s perspective, representation should be close to the truth.
Fallacies Versus Accuracies
Below are frequent inaccuracies and errors that are shown in films and the reality behind them.
Fallacy #1: Therapists Fix Problems
Fictional counselors or therapists that you see in movies and on TV mostly provide all the answers to their clients. Even the infamous Dr. Phil who is not fictional at all offers advice and gives lectures on air. People should understand that “therapy is a lot of work and this is important to keep in mind before starting. It’s imperative to understand this so that you can set realistic expectations for yourself.”
Accuracy: Real-life therapists provide guidance and support and let their clients figure out the answers and best solutions to their predicaments. From time to time, if warranted and on certain occasions, therapists might provide suggestions on altering a particular behavior by giving activities in between sessions. This type of method is more of a directive than advice because it allows the person to explore their capabilities and inner knowledge to address their grievances and dilemmas. “While many therapists are qualified to treat common challenges such as anxiety or depression, if you are interested in working with a specialist to address a specific challenge, you should consider looking out-of-network.” Stacy Donn Cristo, LMHC said.
Fallacy #2: Therapists Are Bad At Keeping Secrets
There’s always that one therapist in a specific show that spills out all the details about a particular client to a friend or other people. And sometimes, they are even one of the antagonists of the story.
Accuracy: Therapists are sworn to secrecy by their profession and are obligated to maintain strict confidentiality at all times. Whatever conversations or experiences you’ve shared with your therapist will never be shared with anyone without your permission. However, there are always certain exceptions to the rule, especially when imminent danger or threat is looming. Usually, before the session begins, your therapist will inform you about the terms and conditions of your relationship.
Fallacy #3: Therapists Often Form Romantic Relationships With Their Patients
Vulnerability and dependency of a person who is always seeking the help of his or her therapist is somehow a written plot device for the two characters involved. Sometimes, it gives this bad impression that real-life therapists can be predatory and will take advantage of their client’s susceptibility.
Accuracy: “The foundation of therapy is based on the relationship you build with your therapist. When seeking someone out it’s important you feel comfortable with them.” says Elana Schechtman-Gil LMFT, But ethically, having sexual contact or forming relationships with people who seek professional advice is inadmissible. Dual relationships created between the patient and therapist is harmful and can be ineffective to the overall treatment.
Always remember that the majority of whatever you see on television or in movies about counseling is mostly counterfactual. Real-life therapists are bound by their profession to practice within the scope of their responsibility. Expectations and goals are first laid out before the therapeutic process begins to create a trusting and efficient relationship between the patient and the therapist.
In the eventuality of a preposterous deed of random chaos or violence, a lot of people seem to be inclined to brand the perpetrator a “lunatic” or, the more popular one, “crazy.” Granting the antagonist may be experiencing mental problems, immediately assigning the said brands creates a massive disservice to people who suffer and live with mental illness on a daily basis.
Reality is, anybody who has mental health problems is more likely to be the victim rather than what the media illustrates them to be–the perpetrator of cold-blooded violence. Daisy Chow, LPC, NCC once said, “Just because I’m in therapy it doesn’t mean that I am crazy. No one is going to invalidate your problems.” Therefore, labeling a violent crook “crazy” spreads malicious and dangerous stereotype that deceives the complicated connection between mental illness and criminality is trash. This controversial link only alarms most psychiatrists or people who are in the medical field dealing with mental conditions.
The Deceptive Stigmatization
Media is a powerful and influential source of information that teaches us new things about individuals with whom we do not interact routinely. This continuous flow of visibility exhibited on people’s television screens provides incessant social telltales about the behavior and nature of specific groups of people, which includes those who should be scorned or praised. “The rise and growing significance of social media has caused an influx of mental health concerns, such as low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Now is the time to start paying attention to how social media is influencing your life choices and mental health.” That is according to Brie Shelly, MS, LMHC, RYT.
The portrayals of people suffering from mental health issues often distort toward either trivialization or stigmatization. Consequently, the majority of media outlets —including social media, newspapers, films, televisions, and magazines – have been thoroughly criticized for propagating inaccurate characterizations and negative stereotypes of those who struggle with mental health conditions. Thus, the stigmatization of mental illness happens.
Based on an article published in the Journal of Health Communication, some of the common stigmatizations that are currently being provocatively and unabashedly shown by the media are the following:
- People With Schizophrenia Are Dangerous And Must Be Isolated
When people realize that one has schizophrenia, the first notion that usually comes to mind is a person with a severe mental disorder who is disruptive and should be isolated from society. This idea is probably the most defamatory stigmatizations of a mental health problem in media, usually being given antagonistic roles. Eminently, schizophrenic characters are mostly presented as killers, slashers, or homicidal maniacs, either in film or television.
- Problematic Focus
Rather than framing the behavior and indifference of the mental health issue as a societal concern, media mostly accounts its focus on the person. For this reason, consumers of media content usually blame mentally ill people for whatever perceived wrongdoing instead of setting their attention on the factors that caused the condition to surface. This type of thinking is worrisome for it misconstrues the audience’s perception and also increases the chances of prejudice and discrimination by society.
Not one mental disorder is similar to another, which is why there are categories and classifications. However, the media seems to have abused its power to narrate psychological health problems wherein a majority of storytelling revolves around the overgeneralization of mental illness portrayals. This part is where everyone who is mentally incapacitated is to be portrayed precisely like the other. Not everyone who has depressive disorders is prone to suicide, same as not everyone with schizophrenia hallucinates.
According to Deborah Serani, PsyD, “Misinformation about mental illness shames and discriminates those suffering with depression from getting professional help.” Sadly, media portrayals have discounted the reality that a lot of people who have mental illness are also audiences who see themselves being negatively portrayed either in the big or small screen. When people who struggle with a specific mental health condition only want to be understood and cared for, media has managed to alienate them from societal acceptance. Though there are portrayals that are getting closer to its source, a lot is yet to be done to achieve positive representation.
Oh, the struggles of young adulthood: starting college, finding a good job, moving out of home, getting into relationships. They’re serious enough to make us miss early teenage problems such as acne and schoolgirl crushes. Then, of course, some things may come at any time, and may not leave so quickly: mental health issues.