Popcorn Reviews wrote: ↑
Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:23 pm
I had a discussion in a Discord server I belong to on the film Split
as most of the people there believe it did a poor job handling the topic of mental illnesses due to how it portrays them as a threat to other people's lives. Here's the counter point I made:
"Admittedly, I usually don't care for films which portray people with mental illnesses as dangerous. However, I didn't mind it as much in this film as I usually do, because since it's not aiming for realism in the sense that Crumb has superpowers and superhuman strength, I don't think it's as dangerous to society as most films which do this are. I just can't see anyone saying "I fear that this person with DID will kill me with his superpowers". If it wasn't for that angle, I probably would've had an issue here, but knowing this helped me to overlook that in favor of its other merits. Although, this doesn't mean that other people shouldn't criticize it for this. This is just my take."
Anyone have any thoughts on this?
Whether the main character's mental illness (or physical abilities) are real or not, the film still plays into the stereotype of a deranged crazy person who is a danger to others.
Now, I think that there are two arguments to make here.
On the one hand, it is true that there are some people with mental illnesses who are a danger to others. You could argue that most films will focus on extreme situations and outliers, and so it's not out of line to focus on a version of mental illness that allows for a story with suspense and intrigue and danger.
But I can see the opposing argument, that by having most films about mental illness involve someone who is dangerous, it perpetuates the stereotype that people with mental illness are dangerous or ticking time bombs. And it's also very true that we are often presented with Hollywood versions of mental illnesses (just as we are presented with Hollywood versions of what it's like to be a doctor, or police procedures, etc) that can perpetuate misinformation about how mental illness actually presents.
Underlying this discussion has to also be the fact that our society is poorly equipped to handle people who are mentally ill. While some people do have violent elements to their mental illness for one reason or another, it's also true that a lack of care and a lack of compassion can push mentally ill people to a place of violence. My sister works with pre-teens/teens who have emotional disabilities, and she'll talk about watching teachers escalate confrontations instead of diffusing them, so that something that could have been a conversation turns into a desk being flipped.
While I regarded everything in Split
as fantasy (especially the "science"), I can see how people who are sensitive to portrayals of mental illness might have seen the film as deepening the stigma against those with mental illness. The film also doesn't do much to show any counterpoints--we don't see someone who is functionally mentally ill, or who is dealing with the same "disorder" and managing it without harming anyone.