The portrayal of mental disorders in Hollywood movies has a considerable negative impact on public understanding, argue Alison Smith and Stephen J Cooper
Our culture is full of fictional portrayals of mental illness, and cinema has become fascinated with one condition in particular. A huge number of Hollywood blockbusters centre around a violent sociopath with a split personality who, in many cases, is labelled schizophrenic. Vague implications of mental illness in characters can be found in some of the most high profile pieces of cinema. In the Star Wars trilogy, Anakin Skywalker undergoes a personality flip to become the evil Darth Vader, as a result of a traumatic event in his life revealed in parts by the series of movies. In The Lord of the Rings, Gollum bickers with his alter ego Sméagol, apparently driven to madness and ugliness by dark forces associated with the ring he calls his “precious.” Beyond the world of fantasy films, however, Hollywood tends to use the schizophrenic tag directly, often in an inaccurate and stigmatising way.