The Misconception of Bi-Polar

Annette Signorelli

Bergland

Pop Culture  

November 30, 2015

Bipolar disorder and the media

Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) is a mental illness where people experience manic phases; extreme highs (such as shopping sprees, anger, promiscuity, and other spontaneous activities) and very low phases of depression where even getting out of bed seems impossible.  You’ve seen it plenty of times in the media: on your TV, in the newspapers and even in your favorite books.  Too often the news will immediately connect a shooting to the shooter being bi-polar.  You can see this again and again from Aurora to Santa Barbara.  Is it really an illness that is properly portrayed by people in the news and media? In popular culture, bipolar disorder is negatively portrayed in movies such as:  Silver Linings Playbook, Yves Saint Laurent and the television show Shameless (US version). Hollywood over dramatizes bipolar disorder leading people to believe those with the disorder are incapable of leading normal lives.  

Silver Linings Playbook is a movie about two people with mental illnesses that become romantically entangled with one another. Pat (Bradley Cooper) is a bipolar school teacher who loses his job and his wife due to an outrage he has while catching his wife cheating. He ends up violently assaulting the man his wife was with, winding himself up in a psych ward. Throughout the movie, Pat exhibits erratic behaviors; such as finishing a Hemingway book with unhappy ending.  Watch this short clip to see what happens, and to see an example of what a manic episode could look like.

  He has no regards towards other people’s feelings, blurts out inappropriate statements, and shows signs of very low self-esteem. Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) is a widow with an illness never mentioned; though according to my psychiatrist, the behaviors she exhibits is bipolar disorder. One of the main signs is her promiscuity. Her moods tend to change quickly and she acts out without any regard to anyone around her, or how it affects the other person.  

 

silver linings 

Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Even though Pat does exhibit bipolar traits he doesn’t exhibit the natural flow of the illness, extreme highs followed by intense lows, it’s all manic, so this portrayal in Hollywood is inaccurate, except in very rare cases. Due to the nature of the film being a comedy, it presents the illness from a vulnerable and light hearted point of view, which engages with the viewers. As Dr. Steven Schlozman states, “they did a very nice job of depicting manic depressive illness or bipolar disorder in somebody who’s quite bright, and who has limited but present insight on it.” (Watkins). Silver Linings Playbook may show negative aspects of the illness, but it also shows that people who are bipolar can lead normal lives.

 Yves-Saint-Laurent-still-6-Vogue-11Mar14-PR_b

Pierre Niney (Yves Saint Laurent)

Another media source that portrays bipolar in a negative light which also has a lead character with the illness is a movie based on the biography of Yves Saint Laurent. If you are remotely interested in fashion then you know who I’m speaking of. The movie titled “Yves Saint Laurent” talks about the history of Yves (Pierre Niney), including his personal life, which he kept hidden, and his mental illness. At 21 Yves became one of the world’s greatest fashion houses. Many troubled artists from the past have shown signs, or were diagnosed as bipolar. Throughout the movie, Yves goes from being a shy, yet very imaginative and bright boy, to someone who lives out his days in anguish. As the polar opposite of Pat, Yves exhibits mainly depression and the lower aspect of the illness. His portrayal is more realistic, as the viewers watch him heavily self-medicate. Since there was no real treatment for the illness during the time he was diagnosed, Yves develops risky behaviors. He has sex with strangers, doing does drugs, and doesn’t give a second thought to how his partner would perceives his actions. Yves is constantly reliving his patterns with highs and lows. Unlike Pat, he never becomes so enraged to the point where he physically assaults another person, but there are moments in the movie which show his manic phases.  

The movie also gives viewers a glimpse of how bipolar can take a toll on relationships, tarnishing them and leaving no trace behind, but is it accurate? Bipolar is such a broad illness and there are various types, what the audience is being shown is the extreme end of the spectrum and it paints a generalized picture of what the illness is to anyone who is unaware. Perhaps, the more tortured he appears in the movie the better chance he had of winning an Oscar. As the article Inside The Life of YSL stated, “The film reveals the darker side of Saint Laurent’s personality, but the underlying message is positive as the designer sought to channel his troubles into creating beautiful pieces for women. It makes for a moving and inspirational watch.” (Raynor, 2015). So maybe there is a positive aspect to the film and also points to another topic about how many creative people suffer from bipolar and they channel their illness into creativity. Yves was no doubt talented, but how much did bipolar play a factor in that?

 

Ian is in the hospital due to his episodes.

Ian is in the hospital due to his episodes.

Cameron Manogham (Shameless)

 

Finally there’s the television show Shameless (US version) in which two of the characters are bipolar. You have a household of six children who have learned how to raise themselves. Their father is an alcoholic who is worried about where we will get his next fix and their mother Monica (Chloe Webb) suffers from bipolar disorder, who rarely makes appearances, but when she does it is very unpleasant. You also have Monica’s son Ian (Cameron Monagham) who starts to show signs of the illness in the later seasons, but let’s start with Monica. A mother of six who has abandoned her children to live in the moment, she is also a drug addict who seeks validation through many lovers and always keeps getting mixed up in bad situations. It seems like an extremely negative portrayal of the illness, especially when she decides to come home and play mom, hoping she can pick up where she left off only to finally slit her wrists due to being off her medications. Now, in severe cases and without seeking professional help, yes bipolar disorder can lead to suicide and death. That aspect of the portrayal I do agree with, but the fact that she’s a hot mess doesn’t contribute to the illness as much as it’s made out to be. You don’t have to be bipolar to be a bad mother and a drug addict, though self-medicating can be a sign of the disorder. I would like to say that this was an isolated case for the show, but Monica’s son Ian also starts to show signs of the illness, but instead of mostly intense lows of depression he exhibits behavioral patterns of manic episodes. Ian steals a helicopter from the military, runs away to become a stripper, does ecstasy on a daily basis, and he even steals a baby and tries to outrun cops. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone (and I’ve met a lot of people with the disorder) who has gone as far as stealing babies and helicopters.  

Shameless presents a few signs that the show portrays accurately which is stealing, drug use and dips between highs and lows. The show does have a decent mix of the two unlike Yves Saint Laurent which was mainly lows and Silver Linings Playbook which was all manic episodes. Still, they could have done without some of the things Ian does. They really wanted to show how the illness can be dangerous and affect people around the ones who are diagnosed, though it’s done in such a way that it seems like they are desperate for ratings.  

So what’s society think of people with bipolar disorder? With what has been presented I can only think that viewers have seen portrayals of the illness which leads them to believe that those with bipolar are unstable and out of control. It’s over done to sell ratings and make a strong point, but can dangerously mislead the public on what bipolar actually does to a person. As The Daily Beast stated about the portrayals of bipolar in the media they are usually seen as, “a crazed killer in a police procedural or an unstable individual in a chance encounter.” (Lacob). How do we stop the stereotype and spread awareness?

There are certain undeniable truths that I have learned throughout this course and through this paper.  The interaction of media and society is manipulative.  It’s not that I didn’t know this before, but knowing of something and seeing it in action are two wholly different things.  Media has eccensualized bipolar disorder to get ratings, and to sell tickets.  They exaggerated some truths about the disorder, and made up others.  Worse still, they have made connections to the disorder that has no factual basis.  Even in advertising, such as in the Blu e-cigarette advertisement, manipulation is employed to sell a product.  The biggest thing I will carry away from this class is taking a story, picture, or video and being able to analyze it.  Analyzing it and breaking it down will help me understand the truths and falsehoods if I take the time to think and research about the subject.    

Learning moment:

I feel like I’ve learned a lot from this class. First I’ve learned a different way to communicate with people, which is learning how to form a collective online and getting to know people through a computer screen. I’m so use to sharing my personal information to people in person, but having to meet everyone and form connections online has been a new experience to me. I’ve also learned how to better my writing and critical thinking skills. The videos we watched helped out a lot at asking myself the right questions in order to get the best out of all the reading materials presented in this course.

Works Cited

Rayner, Jess. “Inside the Life Of YSL.” The Global Panorama. 22 Mar. 2014. Web. 9 Nov. 2015. Pages 1, URL: http://theglobalpanorama.com/inside-the-life-of-ysl/

Watkins, Gwynne. “Ask a Psychiatrist: How Does Silver Linings Playbook Handle Mental Illness?”

Vulture. 3 Dec. 2012. Web. 9 Nov. 2015. Pages 1, URL: http://www.vulture.com/2012/12/askapsychiatrist-how-does-silver-linings-playbook-handle-mental-illness.html

Lacob, Jace. “‘Homeland’ and ‘Shameless’: Television Tackles Bipolar Disorder With Realism.” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 10 Apr. 2012. Web. 9 Nov. 2015.Pages 1, URL: http:// http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/10/homeland-and-shameless-television-tacklesbipolardisorder-with-realism.html?

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Annotated Bibliography

Source 1

Write Bibliographic information here (title, author, director, producer, publication, URL, etc.)

Watkins, Gwynne. “Ask a Psychiatrist: How Does Silver Linings Playbook Handle Mental Illness?”

Vulture. 3 Dec. 2012. Web. 9 Nov. 2015. Pages 1, URL: http://www.vulture.com/2012/12/aska-psychiatrist-how-does-silver-linings-playbook-handle-mental-illness.html

Write at least two complete paragraphs 1. summarizing the source and 2. discussing how it relates to, contrasts with, or extends your own ideas about your primary sources.

1. Vulture is an online culture magazine, this article is reviewed by a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Dr. Steven Schlozman. This article seeks Dr. Steven Scholzman’s professional opinion about whether the movie Silver Linings Playbook is implying a few different things, one of them being if Pats medication was doing more harm than good or if the characters get off too easily, their symptoms falling by the wayside as soon as they find one another?

2. I think this article relates with my artifact for the movie Silver Linings Playbook, mainly because this article talks about how the main character Pat (Bradley Cooper) has a very unusual case of Bi-Polar. He is all manic and no depressive, you see high intensity irritability with him trying to control it by jogging, bouts of anger over the smallest things, and racing thoughts. There is no actual come down from the manic phases, which is something that was different from my other artifacts. All the the other artifacts and characters had long periods of depression that accompanied the manic phases. Something that contrasts is the fact which I just noticed while reading this article is that Pat stopped taking his meds early on in the movie, but he claims to be back on his meds towards the end, though the audience doesn’t get any proof of it. I said that this movie shows with the right medications you can lead a very normal life, but now I’m not sure if I can use that argument in my paper.

Source 2

Write Bibliographic information here (title, author, director, producer, publication, URL, etc.)

Lacob, Jace. “‘Homeland’ and ‘Shameless’: Television Tackles Bipolar Disorder With Realism.”

The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 10 Apr. 2012. Web. 9 Nov. 2015.Pages 1, URL: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/10/homeland-and-shameless-television-tacklesbipolar-disorder-with-realism.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+thedailybeast%2Farticles+%28The+Daily+Beast+-+Latest+Articles%29

Write at least two complete paragraphs 1. summarizing the source and 2. discussing how it relates to, contrasts with, or extends your own ideas.

1. The source is an online article for a website named The Daily Beast and is about how it’s rare to see a bi-polar character as a protagonist or a primary character, but with new shows such as Homeland and Shameless people with the illness are shown realistically and as important if not main characters. Characters with bi-polar are usually shoved on the sides as lesser roles, such as the crazes killer or an unstable individual in a chance encounter. The article also talks about how films have showcased bi-polar disorder in more significant roles. My artifact is about Ian Gallagher, but the article talks about his mother Monica in the show and her disease, which I also talk about in my artifact research.

2. This relates to my artifact because I discuss Monica and her relationship with her son Ian. She is also diagnosed with bi-polar and you see the many dangerous aspects of the illness. I also state that Ian’s bi-polar disorder is inherited through his mother Monica and these examples of her behavior in the show is a good example of what the audience had in store for Ian’s mood swings, only his is type I (more manic, less depressive). Majority of bi-polar cases are inherited and this nicely compliments the chosen artifact. One thing that contrasts with my artifact is the fact that this article is glamorizing manic episodes calling them “fun”, “What is it like to be with someone who has bipolar disorder and goes through these incredible ups that can be so energizing and really fun for the people around her and these crashes that are so low and awful?”. There is nothing fun about manic episodes, to sit here and call an illness fun glamorizes it and that does contrast with my research.

Source 3

Write Bibliographic information here (title, author, director, producer, publication, URL, etc.)

Rayner, Jess. “Inside the Life Of YSL.” The Global Panorama. 22 Mar. 2014. Web. 9 Nov. 2015. Pages 1, URL: http://theglobalpanorama.com/inside-the-life-of-ysl/

Write at least two complete paragraphs 1. summarizing the source and 2. discussing how it relates to, contrasts with, or extends your own ideas.

1. Inside The Life of YSL is an online article published by The Global Panorama, it is a review of the biopic movie Yves Saint Laurent. It talks about the history of Yves, including his personal life, which he kept hidden, including his mental illness. At 21 Yves became one of the world’s greatest fashion houses. The article describes the film as “unflinchingly candid by critics, as Lespert delves into the darker side of the influential designer.” The film reveals the darker side of Yves personality for the first time the public is able to witness.

2. This article extends and reinforces my own ideas of the artifact being very dark and raw. The article explains that, “The film reveals the darker side of Saint Laurent’s personality, but the underlying message is positive as the designer sought to channel his troubles into creating beautiful pieces for women. It makes for a moving and inspirational watch.” Many troubled artists in the past have suffered from bi-polar disorder, as this movie shows very clearly his tournament and anguish mixed with Yves distracting himself with designing and constantly reliving behavioral patterns. The article also brings up a point I never thoughtabout mentioning, which is how the illness can affect relationships. This movie is centered around Yves and his partner Pierre Berge and all the struggles that came with lovingsomeone who is sick. I may add that in to my paper and further discuss the statistics about marriages and bi-polar, it would be a great addition to my paper!

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