TV & FILM: THE REPRESENTATION OF MENTAL ILLNESSES

TV | by Kevin Dooley [CC BY 2.0]

Media productions involving TV and Film are the world’s largest distributors of media. Whether that’s the fight between the cinema or TV screenings, it’s bound to be that you, reading this right now, have watched one or the other. With nearly 20 million UK cinema admissions in August 2018 and the average UK viewer watching an average of over 4 hours of Television per day, it’s no doubt that TV and film have impacted our lives in some way! The increase in technology over the past decade has spun a spanner in the works with the likes of catch-up and on demand taking over on mobile devices and handsets. It’s a media system that is cultivated around us and continuously injected into our day to day lives. But how has this exactly ‘affected’ your lives? Well, with every programming and every narrative messages are endorsed for a multitude of reasoning’s. Political, informative, social. You name it, those messages are sent out into the world purely for your entertainment and understanding. These messages are mainly innocently derived but sometimes, as TV and Film have evolved with society, messages can be toxic.

 

So how does mental health come into all this?

 

As mental health has become a huge issue in today’s society, and is on the rise, the media have taken thought upon their own representation of mental illness. As the TV and Film industry have evolved so has the critiques of productions messages on mental illnesses. The Psych Central commented that mental health is often misrepresented in terms of the mentally ill seen on our screens. Major productions are involved in these ‘misrepresentations’ but where exactly did they pin point where they went wrong?

 

Television Representations

Firstly, let’s look at TV over time. The creation of television fell not to shortly before the computer when the first electrical television was invented in 1934 and was a new coming of age. Mental illness was little to none in the news at this time and so TV shows never brought mental health to light until recently. Children’s cartons however reflected the same as that of adult TV, whereby a character defined as ‘mad’ was expected to be violent by the children. Television soon realised this misconception and honed in on problematic misrepresentations.

 

TV is now representing mental health in a more realistic tone however, with a TWIST. A multitude of different platforms such as animation, drama and web series from huge cooperation’s such as Netflix and Marvel are reaching a WORLDWIDE demographic of audiences and fans. Not only is Television stepping out of its boundaries in terms of genre but is showcasing mental health in a VARIETY of modes to a VARIETY of audiences. Television might be stepping away from stigmatisation after all!

 

TV SHOWS SHOWCASING MENTAL HEALTH 


  • Jessica Jones (2013)
  • Skins (2007)
  • My Mad Fat Diary (2013)
  • Please Like Me (2013)
  • BoJack Horseman (2014)
  • 13 Reasons Why? (2017)

 

Film Representation  

Film has followed a slightly different pattern. From the first depictions of mental illness there was a rocky start. Mental illnesses were exploited for audience engagement through dramatic conflicts and often presented as psychosis. The cinema has carried this stereotyping along way with the current publics attitudes towards the mentally ill as characteristics of ‘violent’, ‘weird’ and ‘likely to kill violently’. The cinema has induced a satire comedic effect on mental health. Old cinema constitutes to the 68% of the British public who believe that schizophrenia is a split personality. This was foregrounded in early cinema with schizophrenia depicted by the symptom of violence when this is medically incorrect.

 

Cinema, similar to Television, has however altered the way in which mental health is currently represented. As a hot topic of today, mental health has been the major feature of blockbuster films with messages to stamp out stigma and give mental health the awareness it truly needs! Contemporary films have thrown away the psychopathic traits and hit hard at real life mental health in real life situations. Yes, although some films may a tune to over dramatising some cases, the latter has generally mellowed and inspired others to create content to normalise the stereotypes around mental illness.

 

 

FILMS BEFORE 


  • Off to Bloomingdales Asylum (1901)
  • Dr Dippy Sanatorium (1906)
  • Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1920)

 


FILMS NOW


  • Girl Interrupted (1999)
  • Black Swan (2010)
  • Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

 

 

Let’s take a look at what the professionals think of these representations!

Video source: buzzfeed.com/video 

 

The Nitty & Gritty: Are these representations justifiable?

After looking into these productions differences in representations, it’s clear that portrayals of mental illness are slowly improving over time. TV and Film use these portrayals to share a message, so is misrepresentation possibly justifiable? Are the productions just sharing their own view? At the end of the day everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. This statement is true when a director is simply encoding his idea to be shared, however when publicising to the public eye, it’s important that the representations are authentic. Films glorify mental illness through horror conventions when mental health is in fact reality. This technology has however grown alongside societal messages and now aims to showcase mental health through real life scenes. The question stands, should TV and Film be changing the way they represent mental health to fit societal changes? Has this digitally impacted the way we see mental health today? The answers are not necessarily facts but collective perspectives. What is your perspective?

 

Make sure to bookmark this page and tune in EVERY 3 DAYS AT 7PM to catch up on all things mental health in the digital world. What did you learn today? Drop a comment to let me know and feel free to follow my Twitter in the meantime.

 

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