[237130, A3] Wk 11: Weekly Project Development

Research

In consideration of the path I have chosen to take my project, I feel it is important to focus my research at this time. As such, I wanted to create a plan for how to approach the research process and best apply that knowledge to my project.

Iteration 1- 24 Jun 2016.png

Fig. 1: Flow Diagram for How to Tackle Focussed Research

1) Scholarly Articles & Print Resources

  • Eisenhauer, Jennifer. “A Visual Culture of Stigma: Critically Examining Representations of Mental Illness.” Art Education 61.5 (2008): 13-18. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/20694752&gt;.

Eisenhauer discusses in-depth the origins of social stigmatization of the mentally ill, and explains how the stereotypes founded centuries ago are still prevalent in modern media. Furthermore, it uses these findings to make a case for how art-based education on the effects of harmful stereotypes present in visual culture could reduce stigmatization of the mentally ill in society.

Particularly of interest was her argument that “History and contemporary depictions reflect an underlying desire to image mental illness as a means of controlling the boundaries of ‘normality’” (Eisenhauer 18). This is to say that throughout history, confinement of the mentally ill is used as a means to keep the ‘normal’ (i.e. the sane) safe from the ‘other’ (i.e. the insane), as opposed to being for the benefit of the confined (Eisenhauer 15). Thus, depictions of the mentally ill in visual media – across fields ranging from the medical to the entertainment industry – is a method of defining the normal versus abnormal, promoting negative stereotyping and stigmatization of the mentally ill.

Supporting this argument were some interesting statistics raised by various sociological studies of mental illness in children’s television in the past 50 years. “Wilson et al. (1999) examined one week of children’s television shows from two channels and they found that 46.1% of the week’s episodes contained reference to mental illness… In this study, the most common words documented included crazy, mad, ‘closing your mind,’ nuts, ‘driven bananas,’ twisted, deranged, disturbed, wacko, cuckoo, loony, lunatic, loon, insane, and freak (p.441)” (qtd. in Eisenhauer 16).

Another quote of interest originally from a sociological study by Lawson and Fouts (2004) states, “These references were commonly employed to segregate, alienate, and denote the inferior status of the character(s) to which they referred – a finding consistent with the overwhelmingly negative portrayal of mental illness found in adult media (pg. 312)” (qtd. in Eisenhauer 16).

Livingstone predominantly discusses how film portrayals of mental illness present a distorted view of the true nature of mental illness. The article proposes how critical analysis of these representations can offer valuable insight into visual culture and how it affects inclusion in society.

A quote from the article of note: “Without guidance, viewers only “get” what the director wants them to see, contributing to the hegemony of individualistic rather than sociological explanations of behaviour … film represents their main source of information about minority groups, and it often distorts ideas about older persons, ethnic minorities, and minority groups whose members are hidden or invisible to the public” (Livingstone 119).

  • Pescosolido, Bernice A. “The Public Stigma of Mental Illness: What Do We Think; What Do We Know; What Can We Prove?” Journal of Health and Social Behaviour 54.1 (2013): 1-21. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/43186830&gt;.

Pescosolido analyses the argument proposed in 1990 that there was a noticeable decrease in stigmatisation of mental illness in society in previous decades, despite studies by the contemporary scientific foundation that stated otherwise. The article discusses the nature of stigma and how it is expressed against individuals with mental illness.

An analysis of sociological studies on the prevalence of stigmatisation of the mentally ill since the 1960s indicates a trend towards greater sensitivity towards mental illness sufferers, though little change in inclination to social inclusion (Pescosolido 6-8).

  • Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to See the World: A Pelican Introduction. London: Pelican Books, 2015. Print.

Mirzoeff’s chapters entitled “Changing the World” and the accompanying Afterword discuss the social responsibility of ‘citizens in the global era’ to utilise the potential for media sharing via internet to challenge injustices in our communities. The author refers to ‘visual activism’ – visual texts and works by designers/artists used in protest of injustice – and how promoting visual literacy is the first step in changing the world.

  • Wahl, Otto F. Media Madness: Public Images of Mental Illness. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2003. Print.

Wahl discusses in-depth the nature and extent of stigmatization of the mentally ill as a direct result of film and television in the form of mass media. The source provides extensive – though somewhat outdated – examples of the positive and damaging depictions from film and television from the 1960s to present.

The article discusses how the most damaging depictions of the mentally ill in mass media are the references in passing; jokes and insensitive language (As aforementioned in Eisenhauer) which suggest the mentally ill as childlike and inferior (Wahl 10).

  • Wedding, Danny. Movies & Mental Illness: Using Films to Understand Psychopathology. Boston: Hogrefe Publishing, 2014. Print.

Wedding discusses the misrepresentations of mental illness in film, more to understand the difference between the depictions and actuality of mental illness, and not necessarily in the light of the stigma this disparity creates.

The discussion centres on the false representations of psychopaths and schizophrenics as being consistently violent and homicidal (Wedding 46). He also notes that most films present the fallacy that mental illness is the result of traumatic aetiology – that mental illnesses stem from traumatic events in early childhood development (Wedding 47).

2 & 3) Research & Analysis of Artists’ Work

While I aim to analyse the work of the chosen artist, I will do so in bullet-point format to allow for elaboration in a polished blog post.

Considering the amount of textual analysis I have found discussing the stigma propagated by the entertainment industry against the mentally ill, I find it odd that I haven’t encountered more creative media discussing the topic. Most of what I have found is in the form of comics, as seen with the work of Celeste Mountjoy (aka: FilthyRatBag), and not specific to depictions by the film industry.

Another artist working with more satirical depictions of the stigmatisation of mental health goes by the pseudonym ‘Robot Hugs’. The work I found of particular interest takes the form of individual comic panels combined in a single artwork entitled Helpful Advice, which challenges how society views mental illness as being of less severity than physical illness.

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Fig. 2: ‘Helpful Advice’ by Robt Hugs (2013)

  • Title is ironic, and designed to make the audience understand the gravity of the statements.
  • By applying common ‘helpful advice’ stated to sufferers of mental illness in situations of physical illness, the artist makes a point of the absurdity of taking mental illness lightly.
  • Minimalist artistic style, with clean use of black outline filled in with block colours, reminiscent of the works by Keith Haring.
  • Bright colours, and simple style give the work a sense of innocence. It makes the satirical message less aggressive towards the audience, making it more likely to be received positively. This is more effective in promoting change through the visual text.
  • Medium of choice is digital art, which is efficient in creating media to upload to the internet. It allows for a sleek, flat texture which directs focus to the text on the panel.
  • The character depicted are of various races and genders, but do not contain distinguishing facial features or detail. This makes the situations depicted more widely relatable to the viewer, as they can project personal experience into the panels to fill in missing detail.
  • The font is typed, as opposed to hand written. The use of Calibri font – a universally recognised default font – has a similar effect of making the work more widely accessible because it eliminates the possibility of the text being illegible.

4) Implementation of Research in my own Project

The textual research I compiled from academic databases and print materials will be utilised to compose my final blog post. They will also allow me to identify the misinformation on mental illness presented in film and television, which I can manipulate to represent in satirical light.

The artist reference listed above has presented some useful techniques to make satirical art into less of an attack on the audience, and more an attack on stigma as a whole. This allows the work to become informational in effort to challenge stigma.

Define Terms

Agency: The potential to have an effect or make a difference in your surroundings.

Social Responsibility: The duty of an individual to have a positive impact on the society of which they are a part.

Transformative Practices: In this context, the practices – the methodology an individual puts into action – by artists and designers which have greater effect on their surroundings.

Creative Work & Development

I have decided to create 3 different designs for satirical movie posters, and pick 1 which I will realise using Adobe Photoshop.

Design 1- 25 Jun 2016

Fig. 3: Design 1 Proposal for Final Project

Iterations 2- 24 Jun 2016

Fig. 4: Design 2 Proposal for Final Project

Design 3- 25 Jun 2016

Fig. 5: Design 3 Proposal for Final Project

I’ve decided I want to finalise Design 3: Manic Pixie Dreamgirl for my final project in Adobe Photoshop. While the design doesn’t tackle the more problematic stereotype of mental illness and violence prevalent in the movie industry, it is the only design directly referring to a character trope (the ‘manic pixie dream girl trope’). It is also the more sarcastic of the designs, and targets the trope as problematic in stigmatisation instead of audience. This will make the viewers more receptive to the message that the entertainment industry perpetuates stigma of the mentally ill, because it promotes education instead of designating blame. I was inspired to take this approach by the artist reference listed earlier in my research, Robot Hugs.

Works Cited:

  • Eisenhauer, Jennifer. “A Visual Culture of Stigma: Critically Examining Representations of Mental Illness.” Art Education 61.5 (2008): 13-18. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/20694752&gt;.
  • Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to See the World: A Pelican Introduction. London: Pelican Books, 2015.
  • Pescosolido, Bernice A. “The Public Stigma of Mental Illness: What Do We Think; What Do We Know; What Can We Prove?” Journal of Health and Social Behaviour 54.1 (2013): 1-21. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/43186830&gt;.
  • Wahl, Otto F. Media Madness: Public Images of Mental Illness. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2003. Print.
  • Wedding, Danny. Movies & Mental Illness: Using Films to Understand Psychopathology. Boston: Hogrefe Publishing, 2014. Print.
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