Mental Illness in today’s Media; W6

When I heard about the task for Essay 2, I was initially confused at what I should pick for my topic. I went online and thought about interesting topics and ways that I could fit them into the task. Nothing worked for me until I got the idea to use a movie instead of an article. In class, someone had mentioned a movie they were focusing on for their essay and it clicked in my mind: What’s a movie that has a perspective I can criticize? Shutter Island! I had just re-watched the movie a few weeks before and was still amazed by the plot twist at the end. So, I decided to focus on the perspective Martin Scorsese put on Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Edward “Teddy” Daniels (aka Andrew Laeddis), as well as the accuracy of the portrayal of mental illness in this movie. I was intrigued how Scorsese tricked the audiences into believing the main character’s story: U.S. Marshal and former WW2 Vet Teddy Daniels whose wife died in an apartment fire that was set by the maintenance guy, Andrew Laeddis, trying to figure out how to expose the asylum’s torture towards the mentally ill patients. It isn’t until the end of the movie when we figure out that the character we had trusted all along had been wrong.

Martin Scorsese is known for his amazing and riveting films. Shutter Island came out to theaters in 2010 however, the movie takes place in 1954. Teddy Daniels has taken a case about a missing patient in one of the countries most famous insane asylums, Shutter Island. Him and his partner, Chuck, help investigate to search for this missing patient. In the process, they get stuck on the island due to a horrible rain storm and are forced to stay for a few days. Over the progression of these few days, we find ourselves feeling bad for Teddy because it seems that the asylum is trying to make him seem crazy. The supposedly escaped patient, Rachel Solando, was found by Teddy in a cave off a cliff of the island. She told him that the cigarettes and aspirin were making him go crazy and to stop using them. Eventually, at the end of the movie, the main psychologist explains to him that the past few days have just been role play therapy and he was actually a patient at the asylum. He explained that his wife suffered from depression and mental illness herself and she drowned their three children. He then explained that he shot his wife after he found out that she murdered his kids and he essentially went crazy after that.

When I first watched the movie, I was very intrigued, in fact, a little too intrigued. I was amazed at how I hadn’t seen it all along. I wanted to know why Scorsese decided to use that perspective of the character instead of a different one. I also wanted to know how true to the facts the movie was about mental institutions in the 50’s as well as the illnesses it portrayed. One quote from the movie that really stuck with me was the last line in the movie. Teddy has “regressed” back to before he found out about his mental illness. He says to his partner, “Which would be worse- to live as a monster or to die as a good man?” This line explains how even though he seemed to regress, he knew what was going on and he was acting like he was still crazy because he wanted the lobotomy so he would never have to live with what he had done. Another quote that is overlooked is the line by George Noyce, an inmate at the solitary ward, he says to Teddy “This is a game. All of this is for you. You’re not investigating anything. You’re a fucking rat in maze.” In this line, George is telling Teddy that none of this is real, that this whole game was for him which alludes to the fact that the entire movie was role-play therapy in attempt to help him realize who he really was and what really happened. Finally, another quote I want to bring up by the character George Noyce is this: “You wanna uncover the truth? You gotta let her go. You have to let her go! Or you’ll never leave this island.” He was trying to tell Teddy that if he doesn’t let go of his wife and what she did to their children, he will forever be going crazy and will never be able to live a normal life outside the island.

I plan on getting secondary sources about the movie itself and its accuracy with the mental illnesses as well as articles on the portrayal of mental illness in the media today. Mental illness is extremely romanticized in todays society. Mostly, television and movies show a lot of mental illness, for example, American Horror Story: Asylum, One Flew over the Cookoo’s Nest, Rainman, etc. But how much of these stories accurately represent mental illness? That is what I want to figure out. I also want to figure out if the look into the mind of the mentally ill, as portrayed in the film, is actually how they feel in real life. I will look at some psychology reports as well as movie reviews and critiques.