[237130, A3] Wk 12: Publishable Blog Post (Draft 2 of Final)

The global era – the time in which technology allows the sharing of media on a global scale – allows the everyman to act as a change agent by sharing perspectives which educate the masses (Mirzoeff 296-298). As Nicholas Mirzoeff proposes in his book How to See the World, it is the responsibility of our generation as citizens in the global era to challenge injustice (Mirzoeff 298).

It is with this in mind, I chose to act as a change agent to give my perspective as a sufferer of depression and anxiety through the medium of ‘outsider art’, as a form of visual activism. The issue is one I feel strongly about, as one of the 582,000 New Zealanders currently suffering from mental disorders, and one of the estimated 61.5% of suffering adults who avoided seeking treatment due to fear of social stigma (Mental Health Foundation). Considering the influence of the entertainment industry in the global era, I wanted to challenge the perpetuation of social stigma against the mentally ill within misrepresentation in the entertainment industry.

My enquiry into this led me to analyse the works of other artists within the outsider art movement tackling stigmatisation of mental health. By connecting their works to academic research done in the field of stigmatisation through misrepresentation in film and television, I could shape my approach to the project.

Artists connecting visual media to education on the realities of mental disorder such as Toby Allen and Lisa Buttery give people new perspectives via mass media sharing (Allen), (Buttery). These perspectives could act to encourage more critical examination of film and television, allowing viewers to determine fact from fiction (Livingstone 119). While education is a key factor in changing perspectives on mental illness, it has not been proven to directly relieve stigmatisation (Pescosolido 6-8). This is why I felt it appropriate to adopt a more satirical than informative approach to my project, similar to the style of Celeste Mountjoy Hugs’ (Mountjoy).

I chose the format of a movie poster to show the sensationalising of mental illness within the film industry. The format was emulated by studying patterns within film posters of the romantic/drama genres; stark contrast between white backgrounds and black font, condensed fonts to fit a maximum of information on the support, use of italics and serif font, close-up photography of leading characters with high contrast and warm tones. The intention was to capture this with a sarcastic tone, to underscore the absurdity of the entertainment industry making light of mental illness through misuse of language, thus perpetuating stigmatisation of the mentally ill. The poster plays on the trope referred to as the ‘manic pixie dream-girl’; a stock character which is often portrayed as mentally unstable free spirit, whose role is to provide a love interest to the leading male.

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.