Super Monk to the rescue: How mental illness is now TV's favorite superpower
Some recent TV shows may not perpetuate openly harmful stereotypes of mentally ill individuals, but many are portraying mental disorders as a superpower, according to Esther Breger at New Republic.
That's problematic because filmmakers aren't depicting "complicated, fully realized character(s)," Breger explained. She wrote mental illness is often treated as a "magic tool for crime-solving." For example, Adrian Monk, a sufferer of OCD, and Dr. "Bones" Brennan, who has an "Asperger's-like detachment," are able to solve cases others cannot because of their disorders.
"It's an idea that, in its way, might be as harmful as more overtly stigmatizing stereotypes of the mentally ill," she said.
ABC's new show "Black Box" also depicts a mental disorder as a professional asset, but it relies on stereotypes of bipolar disorder as well.
"(The main character) has what television imagines bipolar disorder to be, mired in cuckoo Jekyll/Hyde stereotypes," wrote Hank Stuever at The Washington Post. He said Dr. Catherine Black, a neuroscientist who undergoes a manic episode (or episodes) every episode, diagnoses mental disorders other doctors cannot fathom.
The show's greatest weakness is it tries to "say something meaningful about the stigma of mental illness when everything about the show is pure crackpot," said Stuever.
However, other TV shows illustrate disorders more accurately, according to Dr. Cirecie West-Olatunji, president of the American Counseling Association. West-Olatunji told the Deseret News episodes of certain TV shows, such as "Homeland" and "Elementary," have received awards from the Voice Awards program, which recognizes people and media productions that have helped raise awareness about mental health. In the award-winning "Homeland" episode, an explosion causes Carrie, who suffers from bipolar disorder, to have a major manic episode.
A Time article also praised shows (and "Homeland" in particular) for depicting mental disorders more accurately.
"I think (“Homeland”) does a lot of things that are not only accurate but are commendable. In terms of accuracy, It shows someone with bipolar disorder who has episodes," Dr. Vasilis Pozios, a American Psychiatric Association member and forensic psychiatrist, told Time. "Instead of being someone who is (either) happy or sad this shows the actual major depressive episodes, the manic episodes and also the psychosis that can happen with bipolar disorder."
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