Elissa Washuta is white and Native, bipolar, and lost her virginity to rape. Her first book, My Body is a Book of Rules, is a modern coming-of-age memoir that reaches into these tangles of the body and mind through American pop culture. “I didn’t want to create just a rape memoir, or a bipolar memoir, just a memoir of one small segment of my life,” she says. “Everything I have experienced has been so intertwined.”
In the second season of Orange is the New Black, Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren (Uzo Aduba) gains surprising depth.
Recently on Tumblr, I came across pictures of pregnant women who were in prison. In these photos, women nursed babies, gave birth, and cared for their children, despite their prison sentence. One woman was handcuffed to a bed while giving birth. When I showed the pictures to a friend, he commented: “I wonder what they did to get in there.” Then he walked away. His response really struck me.
A medic—who was sent away—checks out James Chasse's injuries as police sip coffee.
Cases of police brutality are reported time and time again across the country. And yet, despite the passing of years and supposed reforms, we are always taken aback when new cases arise.
Seven years after one particularly awful case in Portland, Oregon, the new independent documentary Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse captures the horror once more. The film is a chilling, intimate look at one case of police brutality and the flawed justice system that allows officers to act with impunity.
I originally intended for this to be a companion piece to my previous post about the 2009 film Adam. Mozart and the Whale is a 2006 romantic "dramedy" about a man and a woman with Asperger syndrome and, in many ways, it makes a very neat thematic companion to the other film. In Adam, the protagonists' relationship ultimately fails because the title character's autism prevents him from fulfulling an appropriate "masculine" role. In Mozart and the Whale, the relationship succeeds because both characters are autistic; neither of them can successfully maintain a relationship with a "normal" person but, as the tagline says, "They don't fit in. Except together." The troubling implication is that if autistic people are going to pursue romantic relationships, it's best if we stick with "our own kind."
"Crazy" people aren't the only ones who are a bundle of stereotypes in popular media. We also see examples of therapists (including psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors) being presented in a very negative light. In the following examples, I highlight pop culture therapists who are incompetent in a variety of ways.
Some of these movies and television shows are, of course, comedies. Not only are therapists being mocked, but so are a variety of other people. What's interesting here is how similar a lot of the mocking of therapy is across various genres.
Throughout this list I've used the catch-all term "therapist" for consistency's sake. I've also used "incompetent therapist," although "incompetent" is often in the eye of the viewer.
This post includes spoilers for the movies Single White Female, The Craft, and Perfect Blue. These three movies have several things in common:
The main point-of-view character in each one is what I've called "fake-out crazy." Each one exhibits some sort of behavior within the movie that could be viewed as "insane," but unlike the villains, these women end up being "strong enough" to overcome this. (Earlier in the film, the "crazy" character always accuses the "sane" one of being "too weak" or "pathetic".)
None of the characters are actually diagnosed with anything within the films, although psychiatrists are contacted in all cases. The Internet has provided the "crazy" characters with a variety of diagnoses.
Two of the movies have a red herring character who is "crazy" and is obsessed with the main character.
Each movie uses sexual behavior as a way of showing how "out of control" one of the characters has gotten.
Last year in Canada, there were two nation-wide campaigns to fight mental health stigma.
The first focused on the financial cost of mental health. It was launched by one of our major banks, and had a slick advertising campaign full of dark colors and statistics. There were multi-page discussions in the national newspapers, as well as multiple bus shelter advertisements driving home the point: Mental illness is a cost to the Canadian economy.
The other, Stand Up For Mental Health, was launched by actual people with mental health conditions. The program is open to people with a variety of diagnoses, and trains them to become stand-up comics, making jokes and wise-cracks about the experience of being mentally ill, as well as other aspects of the lives of the comics. Last year, Stand Up for Mental Health did a cross-country tour to university campuses in the hopes of raising enough awareness to get a Pepsi Refresh Grant so they could get more funding for their work.
I encountered both of these programs at university.
If you read popular anti-street harassment blogs and media coverage of the topic, a pattern of perpetrator name-calling rapidly emerges, and some of the most prevalent terms you'll hear to describe the guys who "holla" at women and girls in public spaces are "pervert," "asshole," and "creep." I've always felt uneasy at this type of dehumanizing, knee-jerk response, and at this defining stage of street harassment, it would be wise to interrogate its purpose and meaning in shaping a new narrative regarding violence against women.