[237130, A3] Wk 11: Publishable Blog Post

I felt the need to take a more structured approach to my research, by stepping back and understanding the dynamics between social stigma, the reality versus the myths surrounding mental illness, and their portrayals by the entertainment industry. I deemed it most appropriate to take an academic stance on research in these fields, focusing exclusively on academic print sources from the local library, and online articles from respectable journals found via Jstor.

The sources I found were unanimous in their explanation that the most harmful mentions of mental illness in film and television were those in passing (Eisenhauer 16); jargon connoting words such as ‘crazy’, ‘mad’, ‘cuckoo’ ‘disturbed’, ‘twisted’, and so forth, with inferiority and instability (Wahl 10). Portrayals of characters with afflictions such as schizophrenia and psychosis as violent and homicidal are also damaging, but such representations are more easily challenged by critical analysis (Livingstone 119). These fallacies are less believable due to the extraordinary circumstances depicted in film, thus are less entrenched in society than the negative language surrounding mental illness (Wedding 46). However, there seems to be a divide between whether there is direct correlation between education promoting sensitivity towards the mentally ill, and decrease in social stigma (Pescosolido 6-8). It is therefore the duty of citizens in the global era to challenge injustices such as the stigma surrounding mental illness through the possibilities presented to us through mass media sharing and visual activism (Mirzoeff 297-298).

This background knowledge to how social stigma is linked to damaging depictions of the mentally ill in the entertainment industry is vital in informing my approach to my project. In the Workbook section of my work across week 11, I proposed various designs for movie posters which would point out the damaging representations of mental illness in film. The research conducted through this week revealed that the more damaging depictions are not the violent, less believable characters – they are the depictions which trivialise mental illness through misuse of language (Wedding 47). Thus, I decided to choose the 3rd proposed design entitled ‘Manic Pixie Dreamgirl: The Movie’ to realise using Photoshop, because it challenges the more harmful representation which perpetuates social stigma. Utilising a satirical approach to the movie poster in a similar style to the works of Celeste Mountjoy (as included in research across week 10), I aim to challenge this stereotype through highlighting the absurdities of the stigma.

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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