Mental Illness in the Horror Genre
Something that pissed me off the other day.
Talking to a guy who knows my parents but doesn’t know me very well, and he tells me that his friend (indeed, a very nice and talented actor) recently put out a horror movie. And I’m interested until I hear the words “So it’s about this guy with OCD…” and at that point my mom and I give each other a sidelong glance.
I say, “I don’t know, because I have OCD and it’s a pretty serious thing for me.”
To which he follows up, “Oh, you don’t have it like this guy! You’re totally functional!”
Okay, dude. Yes, I am standing before you in a fancy club, dressed nice, and looking relatively balanced. But you do not know me. You do not know OCD.
You do not know that I have been non-functional, and that in order to maintain my current balance of sanity, I take daily medication and see a weekly therapist, and I still have downward spirals and panic attacks.
OCD can add to a story, for sure. The Aviator is a great example–albeit, it was on the voyeuristic side, kind of “check out what a weirdo this guy really is”, but his condition was portrayed in a realistic and *sympathetic* manner, because it focused so hard on his anxiety and entrapment.
I don’t need a horror movie about my disorder for a couple reasons.
1. I already live the horror movie that is OCD.
2. Just like people with psychosis, schizophrenia/schizotypal disorders, dissociative identity disorders, and any other number of mental disorder that makes us act in unusual and yes, sometimes frightening ways, I don’t need it to be the hinge for your horror flick, a handy device that makes more people like you scared and misunderstanding of people like me.
3. And for people with the above disorders who may not be diagnosed, they don’t need to be told that they are dangerous monsters and cause them to avoid treatment out of fear. (This goes double for people who experience paranoia or delusions as part of their symptoms.)
This post ended up way longer than I meant, but really, truly, hear me out creators:
MENTAL ILLNESS IS A TRAIT AMONG AN INFINITE VARIETY OF PEOPLE. IT IS NOT A CHARACTER FLAW, AND IT IS DEFINITELY A POOR PLOT DEVICE FOR THE HORROR GENRE. YOU CAN DO BETTER.