Mental Illness in Movies & TV: The Last Year

Epp! Okay I know, New Years crap is over. Resolutions are made. Gym memberships paid for. And I’m sure there were tons of countdown episodes on entertainment TV and like MuchMusic and MTV (I only have an antenna and Netflix now so I’m assuming here). But I’ve been dying to write about how mental illness is portrayed in movies and television for a long time! It’s become a hot topic lately. So let me say, this will be my last “2018” post, I promise.

The two biggies in entertainment that touched on mental illness that I would love to discuss are: A Star is Born and 13 Reasons Why.


A Star is Born 

I am not going to repeat the storyline for A Star is Born – go watch the film and come back and read this! What I would essentially like to comment on is the end of the film. The second main character, Jackson Main (Bradley Cooper), struggles with alcoholism throughout the film and finally succumbs to suicidal ideations and hangs himself. Now, if you are a true fan of this film, you will know that it is a remake, the fourth remake actually, so the ending is well known. I was not however aware of this and was quite shocked. (I was ready to bawl in the theatre at the end but the friend I was with, was not having it! i.e. my emotional antics.)

For someone who has dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts for so long I actually felt a disconnect with this storyline. Shocking, right? I couldn’t exactly pinpoint what the issue was until recently. I think for me, I could not connect to his alcoholism and how it led to the suicide. He was clearly losing it however does this mean he was depressed and an alcoholic that whole time? Early on in the film, he recalls a story about how he had tried to commit suicide in his youth. This foreshadows the end of course and that to me is a huge indicator of future risk for further attempts. I guess for me I’ve never thought well someone could be an alcoholic and depressed, which would create quite a beast as those two illnesses mixed and mingled, exasperating one another. Perhaps, the film could have displayed his depression by itself in a few scenes. Instead, there was a focus on his drunkenness and the extremely embarrassing shameful things it would bring him to do. I do know however what it is like to suffer daily with a mental illness and not finding joy in anything. That I understand. It drives you to certain places, that I get. I just don’t know what it’s like to be an alcoholic. It has opened my eyes however to the comorbidity of these two illnesses.

*Kept my commentary short but would like to add this is an incredible movie, it gives me goosebumps again simply watching the trailer. I forgot that Lady Gaga is tremendously talented. I believe it deserves all the accolades. And let’s be serious, they are going to clean up during the awards season.

13 Reasons Why

Oh boy. I could say so many things about 13 Reasons Why.

Firstly, how could so much happen to one girl at one high school? Is this an example of American high schools (I’m Canadian)? Is this what high school has become? I need answers!

I had initially been very adamant that in Season 2 they went too far, particularly with the broomstick bathroom scene. I cringed watching it as it was very disturbing, unsettling, disgusting…I could go on. Many of my friends agreed. It was too much….then in late 2018 it was revealed that the same unfathomable (to me) act had happened at a Toronto boy’s prestigious private school, St. Michael’s College. This blew my mind. There is no way a young person would actually do that to a classmate IRL. Am I that naive? But it did happen. Given this real life occurrence, one could argue well then it’s a good thing they covered it in the show. But is it? To me it just shows cruel people possible cruel things to do. And I have to ask, has that happened at St. Michael’s long before the show? Is this a good ol’ bullying tradition in their repertoire?

But the broomstick scene is a whole other bag of worms, let’s focus here. What I really wanted to discuss was the entire concept of the show (originally a YA novel). A teen commits suicide and before she does so she records 13 tapes basically explaining how 13 of her peers drove her to take her life. Did they really make a show outlining…more or less how to get revenge on those who wronged you? I would never in my right mind, let my young child watch this show. It shouldn’t be marketed to youth at all. I find it very upsetting. What a way to plant ideas in young people’s minds!

I will however commend the show on discussing depression, suicide (in general), rape, consent, bullying, addiction, loneliness, race, parenting, slut-shaming, privilege, as well as school shootings. I also appreciated, the fact that they showed many adults who did not pick up on clues and took very little action (in particular the guidance counsellor). You have to ask though, is this show doing more harm than good?

I am very interested in what they will bring to the table in Season 3. But please for God’s sake, no more broomstick scenes.

Sidenote: My apologies this post is a bit rushed, I wanted to get it out before the Golden Globe’s tonight! And honestly, you could write a whole thesis on 13 Reasons Why but ain’t nobody got time for that.

What are your thoughts on either pieces of entertainment?

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