How shitty the represantation of mentally ill people can actually be
nice that we have more and more representation of people with all sorts of
mental illnesses – from the worst ones that make life awful and unbearable to
the most common ones that many people fight and live with every day. Some of
them are brought to us straightforward, like with Even from Skam and his
bipolar disorder, which was a very important topic in 3rd season of
the show, where we could see a very good representation of said issue with all
sorts of stuff like how it affects a person and his mood, actions, words, views
on life, etcetera, etcetera. Some of them are brought to us hidden in a metaphor,
like with Sebastian from The Mortal Instruments, whose ‘demonic blood’ was most
definitely a metaphor for some serious mental issues, whose real personality we
can see later in the books right before his death, which was a metaphor as
well, which showed us how different a person is without all those awful things occupying
his mind. Some of them are a bit more straightforward than TMI, but a bit less
of a ‘punch in the face’ than Skam. Like, for instance, Nathan From Life Is
Strange or Josh from Until Dawn. Josh is definitely schizophrenic, having a
post-traumatic disorder because of the death of two of his sisters that happened
thanks to his own friends’ prank and that he blames himself in, even though at
the time of the prank and their death he was passed out and couldn’t possibly
do anything, besides that probably having some other issues on his plate as
well. And Nathan, most likely being sociopathic, being abused by his father his
whole life and being manipulated by a man, who has done some awful things and
who most likely has a lot of mental issues himself, in his worst untreated
state and obviously having some other mental issues that he tries to deal with
using drugs, and by drugs I don’t mean meds, which he actually doesn’t use, but
actual drugs, like cocaine, meth and all that stuff. As you can tell, both of
the guys have some serious mental issues, but the player, if he wants to, can
most definitely not pay attention to those details or even skip them, because
they are not a huge topic of any kind.
You know what is a huge topic in the games, though? How awful and bad those guys are and how much you can hate them. Now, let’s step aside from our first and second examples. Because, even though I’m convinced that Sebastian’s situation is, in fact, a metaphor for mental illnesses, it’s not a confirmed theory and, at the very end, it’s a fantasy world. It’s still ‘demon blood’, which canonically can’t be treated or cured in any way and which is still an imaginative thing and all that, so I’ll let it slide. We’re also not going to talk about Even, because I already talked about how good the representation is, so the only thing we can do right now is genuinely clap our hands and step aside, letting Skam do its own beautiful thing. Who I want to talk to you about are Nathan and Josh. More specifically about how poor and unfair was their representations as individuals and the representation of the mental illnesses themselves.
Let us start with Josh, I suppose. Joshua’s mental illnesses are a bit more visual and by paying attention to the details and searching every little corner in the game (which not every player does, by the way), we can see his diagnosis and also understand that he was visiting many psychiatrists throughout his life. But, unfortunately, we also find out that every one of them was fucking awful, because each and every one of them (including the one we can actually interact with in the game) thought he had a depression, giving him the wrong meds, which made the situation even worse. If the player’s brain works at least a little bit, he can also figure out that the one sitting in the psychiatrist’s chair all this time wasn’t the player himself, but Josh, which leads to an obvious, but not detailed enough, conclusion of Joshua being mentally ill. And, all of this is pretty cool. You know, under certain circumstances of the player being clever, attentive and willing to spend hours researching every flipping room, which can be pretty boring and can take a good amount of time, the job would be kinda done and the representation would be pretty good. Why am I so angry, then? Well, let me explain you something. If you haven’t played UD, the player, making the right choices and clicking right buttons at the right time, can save everyone. Yes, every fucking annoying teenager, including that bitch Emily. Well, not exactly everyone. Everyone, apart from Josh. So, here’s your conclusion. Every teenager in the game has done some pretty bad things. They were fully capable of controlling themselves, they knew what they were doing. I already talked about a prank that they pulled and that killed two girls, which they stress out about much less than Josh himself, who didn’t have anything to do with it and who supported and loved his sisters dearly. There is a guy, who can literally point a gun at a girl and shoot her. But, no. That’s fine. He deserves to be saved. You know who doesn’t? A person with a package of mental illnesses, who can’t control himself and can’t acknowledge what he is doing. What he is doing, you ask? Well, he is pulling some scary pranks on his friends. What? No - no murders, no injuries. Can you repeat that for me please? Oh yes, a bunch of assholes should be saved, but the most innocent person and the biggest victim of all can either turn into an actual monster a.k.a. wendigo or die from hands of said monster. A horrible-horrible death. You know like, full on GOT Oberyn death. Yeah, I’m going to stand up and sarcastically clap my hands right about now. Good job, guys! Good message! Great representation!
Now, let’s move on to Nathan. If the representation of Josh’s issues in Until Dawn was pretty good and the conclusion is what I have an issue with, Life Is Strange here pulled a reversed card. Well, kinda. Our main character hates Nathan and so does her partner in crime/ex best friend/girlfriend/I still haven’t fucking figured out what exactly they are to each other – that’s not the point. One day they sneak into principal’s office and find out that Nathan has some issues. What issues? Who the fuck cares? I mean he’s crazy, right? Everything else doesn’t matter. Every clever player already figured out that Nathan has some serious mental illnesses and starts sympathizing him immediately, seeing a pattern I personally call ‘oh, that’s why he’s such an asshole’ and realizing every Nathan’s move is not his fault. Then, we find out that his father is a dick, who mentally and, possibly, physically abused him his whole life. And, after that it turns out that a manipulative abuser and killer is, well, manipulating him into doing some things that make him feel much worse and affect his mental health a whole lot. Some clever players look at Nathan totally different now. How does the game, meaning every character in the game, meaning most of players as well feel about Nathan? Oh, all the same. He’s a fucking crazy prick and they hate him. That’s how they feel about him. And, even though, we got a call from Nathan that showed his real self right before he dies (sounds familiar, am I right?), where he apologized and warned the main character – possibly because developers realized how they fucked up with Nathan being only one character that you can’t support and like in the game – and how it’s, in a certain way, nice that in a new universe Nathan got caught by the police at the very start of the whole messy situation with the manipulative abuser, which means that there will be a trial, where Nathan will definitely be diagnosed as mentally ill, which will lead him to a mental hospital, instead of a prison, where he’ll get the help he needs and will eventually get better, it’s still total bullshit. We can’t sympathize one of the only characters who deserves it. The game just doesn’t let us do anything except hating Nathan. And, honestly like, what the fuck?
All in all, my point is – you’re not helping. Honestly like, if you’re planning to do THAT, don’t do it at all. Because, you’re giving us false representation full of hate and ignorance, which reflects on people very well, especially in games, because they feel like they are in those situations themselves, meaning it feels much more personal to them. Every post about why Nathan ‘is awful, even though it’s cute that you support his mental illness’ is your fault. Theirs as well, but mainly yours. Because, you are affecting their thoughts and judgment a lot. Every time I read a post like that I feel like someone is beating me up, kicking me with every next word I read, because I realize that’s what most of people think about me and people like me. And it’s all thanks to you.