As long as we have had cinema, we have seen males as a prominent role. Here in the United States, we have seen a change within the last few decades, a shift of characters, situations, and roles, all into something more realistic and more relatable. Female actresses have been given more prominent roles, and have been seen as main characters. As the focus of the essay, I will be looking at the portrayal of characters with mental illness, how they have been perceived and how they have changed. Characters with mental illness have changed in cinema in the last few decades, for the better.
From both ways of seeing it, even if some people appear to be distressed by the change in portrayal of the mentally ill, it is for the better. Writers and directors have shifted from using their disabilities as reasons to make them evil, into almost motivations to make them stronger heroes. The role of females has also changed, gaining them lead roles and more recognition in the Hollywood scene. In time, these situations will become more and more common as the current generation grows up into positions of writing and filmmaking, being raised on films that were more tolerant and favorable towards the mentally ill than the previous generation.
In a recent article published by Deseret News National, the conventions of portrayals of people with mental illness are brought into play. Initially, it talks about a woman who, due to the unpopular portrayal of people with depression and anxiety, chose to hide all of it from her family and her friends, even her long term boyfriend. This shows that this portrayal through media can often create unhealthy views, or create unhealthy situations just based on what we see on TV. While the article does note that some newer shows, like the show “Homeland,” have become better at this portrayal, people are still stuck in their old ways of the fear of those with mental illness, or the social separation, just because of what we saw on TV.
More recently in our society, we see women taking on larger roles in films, theater, or media in general. Martha Sorren in her article on Bustle.com talks about Mila Kunis’ recent win for Best Villain at the MTV music awards from just last weekend. Kunis was obviously flattered by her victory, as Sorren says that in it’s 23 years since introducing the award, only 5, 6 including Kunis, have won the award. Now, what does this say for the future? Within the next few months we have more and more films coming out starring females, for example the Disney Film “Maleficent.” Despite being the first female in 10 years to win the award, she was also the only female even nominated for this award, a huge victory for her in that regard as well.
While we here in the United States have been able to create a respect and more accurate portrayal of mental illness in movies, that’s not true for the rest of the world. In the article from The Aerogram, Farah Naz Khan highlights recent films from Bollywood that haven’t done the best job at portraying the mentally ill. While the first movie looked at deals with alcoholism, not entirely a mental illness, but one caused by the own user, it still portrays it entirely inaccurately. Khan says that the protagonist of the film “he goes on an alcohol abstinent weekend getaway with his girlfriend, where he miraculously suffers little to no alcohol withdrawal symptoms.” If you were struggling with an addiction such as alcoholism in this context, then this portrayal is entirely inaccurate and handled wrong in this context. However, the film may not be entirely centered on this, and may only be trying to convey that “love can fix anything,” which isn’t entirely true in this sense.
In accordance with the article, a recent study has shown that females make more money in films, and allow for bigger budget films. The most recent films to back this study are “The Hunger Games” and the Disney hit, “Frozen.” The article ends in saying that women with prominent roles in films perform well in contrast to men. What may have caused this change? Is it simply the changing of times, and that we prefer to see a female lead in contrast to the male leads? Or was it something as simple as the writing in the film being cast for a female lead over a male lead? It may be up in the air as to what created this change, but make no doubt that women are able to perform as well, if not better, than men in films.
We often see people portray characters with mental illness, without actually having an illness; it’s all a part of acting. However for this film, actress Halle Berry wanted to deliver a message to the world, and fought heartily to prove that message. The article reports that the film had been planned since the 90’s, and only just recently was finished and brought to the spotlight. The film itself is about a woman suffering from multiple personality disorder, a role that Berry claims to have enjoyed playing. While many people take a role for simply the money, Berry seemed very into the role, and very ready to make the sacrifices for the character necessary. This shows how strong some actors, or especially in this case, actresses are when it comes to their roles in films.
Article to be attached later.
Reflecting upon some of this academic journal’s points, the author initially points out the difference between kids and adults views on characters, and then even the depiction of mental illness in films. Now, the author starts with saying that adults aren’t fond of it, even to a point of saying that their portrayal is “overwhelming negative.” However, this wasn’t the case for younger children. From my perspective, we have seen almost simplified and more of an approachable series of mental illnesses in recent films, Disney films in particular, as the journal also notes. In my own interpretation, this shows almost the power of a generation gap. While we were growing up in times where characters were presented with these problems in adventures and tales that lead them to greatness, those older than us weren’t exposed to the same situation at that age, and were raised on different values and beliefs.
The academic journal is listed below: