Mental Illnesses In The Movie Mommie Dearest

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Beyond the absurd appearance that often corresponds to mentally ill characters, oftentimes those with mental illnesses are demonstrated as acting nonsensical and with behaviors that border on comical. In my introduction, I described a scene from the movie Mommie Dearest, in which a mentally ill mother realizes that her daughter is using wire hangers to hang her dresses and has a mental breakdown, ripping clothing from the closet and savagely beating her daughter. Throughout the duration of this scene, all the mother can screech about is the fact that the daughter is using wire hangers. The reaction of this mother seems ridiculous, with all this fuss over a simple wire hanger, and this sort of outrageous response makes people shake their heads …show more content…
This aim to terrorize people is usually accomplished through reinforcing the image of the mentally ill as being unstable or dangerous to others. In 1989, Gerbner’s Media Watch of television portrayals of mental disorders studied the way in which mentally ill characters were represented. Raters were asked to choose from a list of ten positive and ten negative adjectives which they thought best described the mentally ill, and the traits most often applied included “active, confused aggressive, dangerous, and unpredictable”. The selection of these words as the “most common adjectives” provides reasoning behind why mentally ill characters are frequently used as villains in media. Descriptions of villains in film often contain references to mental illness, referring to the antagonist as a “lunatic” or “deranged”, as well as having unattractive physical features such as “rotting teeth, bad breath, and unruly hair”. These antagonists were primarily known for “[engaging] in criminal acts such as kidnapping and attempted murder”. When this inaccurate, dangerous reputation of the mentally ill pairs with the stereotypical image of a villain, the resulting film character not only becomes a source of fear, but a source of misleading portrayal of those with mental

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