Philosophy of The Big Society

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Saturday, 11 April 2009

The portrayal of the mentally ill on tv - Steriotypes are us

Due to having one of those days where I feel totally crap, both physically and mentally, I spent yesterday slumped on my bed with the tv pretty much talking away to itself.

Had managed to hang on in there, whilst watching a programme about Ramesis and the story of Moses (on Discovery Knowledge channel). The purists could argue that a scientifically based programme would wish to disregard and try and undermine bible stories but I think it was an interesting reflection of views towards religeon at the time (Ramesis reverting Egypt to a multi god faith in complete contrast to his predecessor), in addition to looking at the 'iconic' happenings such as the plagues and the deaths of the first born sons (no evidence to show that first born sons were killed by wrath of God).... Seems more likely (on evidence shown) that Ramesis' first born son died in battle. However, I retain my view that history changes (as in how it is portrayed) after the event and dependant on who is giving the account.

I sort of zombied out (thanks to extra lorazepam use) for most of the afternoon and zoomed back in when 'Doc Martin' came on. Hadn't seen it before. Don't think I will be watching it again. Apart from the main character who is a single minded, misery guts with the bedside manner of a Koala (yeah, they look great but you wouldn't want to be messing with one) the sub plot involved a character with Bipolar Disorder. You think Doc Martin is a sterio-type!!!

I hold my hand up to having my own pre-set biased (based on previous viewings of tv characters with mental illness) on how the mentally ill are portrayed but this programme did nothing to dispel my view that we are either there to add comic value or to reinforce images those without illness have of us.

The character, who was the friend of a nare do well and wrapped up in some scam, hadn't been taking their medication (naughty naughty)and ended up holding several key members of the cast hostage...on the grounds that they were part of some big conspiracy against them.

Where was the counter balance? I didn't see one. Several comments such as them being 'barking', 'bonkers' were made by the Doc and overall I think the person with the illness was made to look like a total tosspot only fit to be treated like the village idiot (which they duly were).

I wouldn't have minded so much if there had been anything remotely relevant to looking at providing the right treatment for the person, rather than them being presribed a medication without any medical evidence that that was the medication they had previously been in no checking up by the Doc.

All in all it was pretty shite. Doc Martin lovers will most probably think it is power for the cause, although as the Doc is portrayed as a stoic stickler to the science (rather than showing any empathy towards the interpersonal side of providing care) the writer/s made it a pretty contradictatory story line.

Nope! I won't be watching any more of that twaddle!

As some reward for following the story line to the bitter end, I was rewarded with a film about Cole Porter. Knowing so little about him, it was an eye opener. The relationship with his wife (tested by his external marital relationships with other men) was the core of the film. People will think of him what they will but his wife stood by him (not without trying to make a stand for herself) until she died. In his own way, Cole Porter stuck by her.

Don't think the film would be everyone's glass of champers but, as a brief look into his life and marital relationship, it was good enough for me and the 'cameos' from singers such as Alanis Morrisette and Robbie Williams were an added bonus.

Today, I will be trying to avoid feeling as cruddy as I did yesterday. Not sure how but it may well involve keeping the hot water bottle topped up with hot water, serious comfort eating and additional sedation.

The DVDS I ordered have arrived so am looking forward to watching 'The Dark Knight' and 'Music and Lyrics'.


  1. I always get pissy about the way TV shows portray mental illness. I remember the Anorexia storyline in Hollyoaks not so long ago. It was great that they were trying to address an issue like ED, but the laughable approach to it got my goat big time. The character miraculously recovered in about 6 weeks, and the storyline bit the dust about 4 weeks after that. I know they need to keep audiences interested, but the fact it's never been raised again irks the hell out of me. Ex-anorexic Hannah seems to bare no resemblance to someone who was sectioned and landed up in a hospital because of her ED. It has now vanished without a trace. Leaves me feeling inadequate, and the public believing that ED's are ten weeks away from "cure"


    Lola x

  2. Although I could say it serves me right for watching something as puerile as Hollyoaks....

  3. I kinda had a deja vu reading that. I hadn't seen Doc Martin before and whilst lying prostrate on my bed eating lots of bad things and feeling pretty shitty, followed it up with the film about Cole Porter. Spooky! Or was there bugger all else on TV last night?

    I came to much the same conclusion too. Quirky looking guy, usually does comedy, had to play the unhinged dangerous character didn't he? Beautiful people can't possibly be crazy can they? Oh it was just cringeworthy!! Lola makes a good point, that these so called 'soap operas' have good intentions but do little to reflect real life. It's no wonder that mental illnesses are completely misunderstood and treated with fear and suspicion. People on the telly are of course portrayed as perfect examples of humanity, lovely and well balanced in every way. It's this kind of biased message that makes the us all feel somewhat inadequate. Complain to ITV Mandy! Be a grumpy and make a fuss!

  4. Hi Lola

    My daughter is a big Hollyoaks fan. I wanted to write something about 'snobbery' towards certain types of in I don't think there is anything wrong with watching soaps anymore than watching say The Simpsons or anythinge else.

    What gets me about tv more than anything is the masses of channels and not that much choice. Although I am working hard to find things I like watching (because I have to). I don't think I am a snob, more that the sort of things I like the most aren't general viewing.

    I don't watch soaps that often because the storylines all seem pretty much the same and it is all mega drama (and as you wrote things sort of get cleared up in a few episodes and then it is as if nothing happened at all).

    I do know there is a 'Bipolar' character in Eastenders. I watched it a couple of times to see if she was believable and I think she is just made out to be infantile and stupid (although maybe I haven't watched it enough to see any depth the writers have put in her character).

    Did you get to see the programme with Fern Cotton about the pro-anorexia blog sites and networks? I didn't but wonder if that was a fair reflection of how things are???? Or that it just identified extremes?

  5. Hi CC

    It was very deja vu. Both had crap days. Both slumped, eating stuff (for me it was the easiest things to eat...minimum fuss jobby) and both watching the same evening tv.

    Glad that it wasn't just me who felt Doc Martin totally missed the mark.

    I might well complain to ITV. If I can hunt out the right email addy. Are these addresses easy to get hold of?

    I still have a pending complaint against the backlash of ignorant parents who insisted a physically disabled woman was taken off CBBees because they said the woman's disability would scare their children. If you put that theory into everyday practise should disabled people be kept off the streets and away from shops (anywhere children might be) in case they scare little children?

    So much for the PC society. It is PC when it suits and not when it counts.

    Ah well it's Easter, which means another excuse to pig out on choccy!!!