Mental Illnesses in Television and Film: Stigma in the Media

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Stigma in the Media
Most people gather what they know about mental illnesses from television and film. Unfortunately these media portrayals are inaccurate and create stigma. They depict people suffering from mental illnesses as different, dangerous and laughable. Characters are often addicted to drugs or alcohol, are violent, dangerous, or out of control. Horror film characters like Norman Bates in Psycho, Jack Torrance in the Shining, or Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs associate the typical 'psycho- killer' with people who suffer from a mental illness. But dramas and horror films are not the only film genres that create stigma. Comedies like What About Bob and many others not only stigmatize, they also make fun of mental illnesses and the people who suffer from them. This paper will discuss how the film Me, Myself & Irene is an inaccurate, offensive and stigmatizing portrayal of an individual suffering from schizophrenia. It also discusses what can be done to counteract the stigma created by these types of films. Me Myself & Irene

The film Me, Myself & Irene was a blockbuster hit released in 2000. The comedy stars Jim Carrey as a Rhode Island state trooper who is portrayed as having two personalities: Charlie and Hank. Charlie is a sweet, mild-mannered, non confrontational character who is too nice for his own good. Hank is his maniacal alter-ego being the complete opposite of everything he is in manner. When ‘mild’ Charlie forgets to take his medication for schizophrenia, he turns into the ‘aggressive and violent’ Hank. Complications arise when he's assigned to escort a woman named Irene played by Renee Zellweger back to New York and ends up falling in love with her.

Me, Myself & Irene reinforces the many common stereotypes and often destructive media images about mental illness, associating it with sustained violence, abusive language and gross sexual behavior. It promotes misinformation either out of ignorance or to make for a more...
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