UNIT 8: MENTAL DISORDERS: POPULAR MYTHS NİLAY AVCI
Heath Ledger’s Joker 'exacerbates stereotypes about mental health' Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning depiction of the Joker in the latest Batman film gives the public the wrong impression of people with mental health problems, charities have warned.
Hollywood shows schizophrenics and those with other mental illnesses only as either stupid or evil, according to a new report for the Time to Change Campaign, which is backed by the Mind and Rethink charities.
The latest Batman film, for which Ledger won a posthumous Oscar, is criticised for pandering to a false stereotype of schizophrenics, that they have split personalities.
Dr Peter Byrne, a film expert and consultant psychiatrist at Newham University Hospital in London, who wrote the report, said that the humour and violence of the film was based almost entirely on this common misunderstanding.
He said: “Batman describes the Joker as a schizophrenic clown, and when the film’s second hero Harvey Dent becomes “Two-Face” and embraces evil, the familiar stereotype of schizophrenia is activated."
He added: “The incorrect stereotype in both cases, to a lesser and greater extent, is that schizophrenics have multiple personality disorder, and that that second personality is always evil.
“This is omnipresent in cinema misrepresentations – the psycho killer is immortal and sadistic, motivated by madness and in almost all psychosis films, that character will kill.”
He added: “Mental health stereotypes have not changed over a century of cinema.
“If anything, the comedy is crueler.”
Hollywood is still prejudiced against people with mental illness, even as it becomes increasingly accurate in its depictions of racism or homosexuality, he said.
He also criticised Me, Myself and Irene, released in 2000 and starring Jim Carrey as a man with multiple personality disorder, which he said involved “laughing at people with severe mental illness”.
However, Dr Byrne singled out Russell Crowe’s performance in A Beautiful Mind, as a more realistic portrait of schizophrenia.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, starring Jack Nicholson as McMurphy, a convict who pretends to be mad and is sent to an insane asylum, was still the film most remembered by the public for characters with mental illness acting violently or strangely, the study also found.
A survey of 1989 people, commissioned for the report, found that 49 per cent had seen people with a mental illness acting violently on screen.
In total, 44 per cent of those asked believe that people with mental illnesses are more prone to violence.
Sue Baker, Director for Time to Change, said: “This report highlights that movies are the main source of information that reinforces negative stereotypes of mental illness above and beyond any other form of media.
“We need to make it clear to directors and producers that they can still break box office records without wrecking lives.”