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Halloween: Damage Control October 20, 2009

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness, Psychotic.
Tags: , ,

Halloween’s coming around, and with it comes the worn-out old stories about the mentally ill.  The slasher movies and the guts and gore of the horror-filled inspirational costumes- all coming to a theater near you.

Norman Bates in Psycho, a 1960 horror movie, was inspired by Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein.  The insane Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a 1974 horror movie, and Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs were both inspired by the same serial killer, a man whose “guilty but insane” conviction landed him in a mental  hospital.  In The Shining, Jack Nicholson gave a good impersonation of a psychotic man.  Dr. Jekyl was clearly insane when he became Mr. Hyde in the 1931 classic Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.   Then there’s the classic: Halloween, about a young insane murderer who escapes from his Sanitarium (mental hospital) after being locked up for 15 years- ever since he was 6. Over and over the mentally ill are exploited for the benefit of the media.  In fact, out of the top 50 best horror movies of all time, over half involve mental illness. Mental illness is, after all, scary.

Unfortunately for those of us who are mentally ill, the media makes no distinction between delusional people in the middle of a psychotic episode,  insane murderers, schizophrenics, and what I like to call garden-variety mentally ill people (bipolar, depressed, OCD, etc). We’re all, in their collective minds, the same as Ed Gein, the Wisconsin serial killer who inspired both Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There’s nothing scarier, after all, than a mentally ill person.  Especially a psychotic one.   It’s no wonder that nobody wants to be identified as mentally ill. Who, after all, wants to be Ed Gein?



1. Serial Insomniac - October 21, 2009

This is one of my hobby-horses. I hate media portrayals of mental illness. I mean, I enjoy a film about a ‘psycho’ as much as anyone else, but I wish they’d make some sort of disclaimer that such individuals are very much the exception to the rule.

I read recently that people with some of the most serious examples of schizophrenia are actually 14 times more likely to be the victims of violent attacks, rather than the perpetrators. I wish the media would show some perspective like this.

2. Crazy Mermaid - October 21, 2009

I know it’s too late and all that, but in my world they’d rename Psycho to something else. I don’t know what. But everyone knows its an abbreviation of psychotic. Having been psychotic, I really resent throwing me into the same category as Ed Gein. BTW, did you know that Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre were all based on the same character?I didn’t know that until I did some research on horror movies.

About the victimhood of schizophrenics, do you think it’s because of the large number of them who are homeless?

J - October 21, 2009

Yes to your question about people with schizophrenia diagnosis that become crime victims. We need to do more to protect and assist the homeless population.

Many excellent points in this blog entry. I’m a movie buff (but not horror movies, some psychological thrillers, yes) but I hate that I often have to compromise some of my beliefs in order to simply finish watching the movies. However, some filmmakers are improving. However, stereotypes still frequently prevail and every person (and character) can still be the exception (or the rule).

Psychosis definitely freaks people out. People think that if you have become psychotic, you have the potential to be a murderer. I don’t think that’s true–not true for me anyway. More people murder others that are not in a psychotic state, than those that are.

Crazy Mermaid - October 21, 2009

Very interesting point. Especially the last.

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