Why mental health visibility in movies only goes so far – The Hollywood Reporter

Disability is usually the last identity category most people think of when we collectively talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion in institutions – yet people with disabilities comprise one of the most diverse minority populations in the world. After all, anyone can become disabled at any time. Disability is also often invisible: think how many people you know who live with a chronic illness, chronic pain, or learning and cognitive conditions. However, even more invisible within the disabled population are those who experience mental health difficulties. Despite the fact that one in five adults in America experiences mental illness, it remains a silent and stigmatized topic.

last year when codaAs discussion of the Oscars grew, many commentators reflected on the relative paucity of films that accurately portray disabilities, the fact that a small number of those films are actually considered for the awards, and the perennial question, Really, who tells such stories. Many of the films in Race for 2023 feature main characters with disabling health conditions – most of them some form of mental illness. but besides the fabelmans, which doesn’t diagnose Mitzi Fableman (Michelle Williams) with a disorder, but instead gives a hint, none of these movies are best picture contenders. In fact, relatively few Oscar-nominated films over the past 50 years have put mental health at the forefront of their stories.

Oscar voters clearly love a good, harrowing performance that runs the gamut between histrionic and catatonic but find movies about mental health issues, well, depressing. Going back to 1973, only 20 to 25 of the approximately 300 Best Picture nominees explicitly addressed or satirized the mental health crisis and caregiving. Additionally, a significant number of these films display rare or highly psychotic behavior, such as taxi driver, the deer Hunter And fatal Attraction, Among the small number of nominees, only three have actually won the top prize: 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nestabout a group of patients living in a mental health facility; 1980s ordinary people, about a depressed young man facing his trauma in therapy; and 2001 a beautiful MindAbout a schizophrenic mathematician.

This is compared to the extraordinary number of acting Oscars throughout history, which have been awarded to performers emphasizing a stereotypical “descent into madness”. nominees like jenna rowlands a woman under the influenceJessica Lange Inn Francis and Angelina Jolie in girl Interrupted Thoughts come (Neither of these films received a Best Picture nomination.) It isn’t necessarily easy for an actor to embody the complexities of mental illness, but voters have found these performances to be intense, labor-intensive, and emotionally compelling. May be easier to understand. In other words, prime for a little gold trophy.

But what kind of overarching story or whole viewing experience is meaningful to an Oscar voter? Based on statistical averages, Academy members view films about men as more “Best Picture worthy” than films about women. Perhaps our society’s continuing tendency to associate women with (unwanted) hysterical behavior may be part of the reason why films about male vulnerability are seen as more realistically “relatable” and are thus considered the most popular. Good picture is rated. In addition to the three mental health-focused Best Picture winners mentioned earlier, films about psychologically wounded men such as good will Hunting, as good as it gets, silver linings Playbook, Manchester by the Sea, a star is born And Joker, just to name a few, all netting Best Picture nominations. In the same period, only one female-centric film about mental degeneration – black Swan – Received a Best Picture nomination.

This year’s Oscar nominations may, in fact, play along historical lines, with mental health struggles defining acting categories, but no other major ones. whale, about a depressed and agoraphobic man battling obesity, is a tour de force for Brendan Fraser but is otherwise divisive among audiences. Same goes for Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe. White, Other depression-themed movies like kingdom of light, Son And Paved road Completely missing from the forerunners, despite overwhelming performances by the likes of Olivia Colman, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry.

Critical acclaim for perhaps indie darling after noon What will entice voters to watch the movie is more than enough for Paul Mescal’s masterful performance as a depressed single father trying his best to hide his inner state during the holidays. And maybe if you look hard enough, you can spot some loose mental health topics Banshee of Inishrin, but given industry support for blockbusters like Avatar: The Way of Water, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, everything together everywhere And Top Gun: MaverickOscar voters may overlook horrific tales for more uplifting fare.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Please click here to subscribe,

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