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Schizophrenia in "A Beautiful Mind"
Transcript of Schizophrenia in "A Beautiful Mind"
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia in "A Beautiful Mind"
Schizophrenia as Commonly
Portrayed in the Media
The term "schizophrenia" was coined by Eugen Bleuler in 1911, based on Greek roots that literally mean "the splitting of the mind." (Brenner
Characteristic symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, fictitious outside influences, disturbances in attention, and the flow of thought.
Most importantly, there is a preference of fantasy over reality.
Anatomy of the Disease
On average, studies show that schizophrenic patients may have both a larger ventricular volume and reduced brain mass when directly compared with normal control populations
Schizophrenia and Violence
The Suicidal Schizophrenic
Suicide commonly given as the only answer to escape Schizophrenia.
"One fourth" of characters with schizophrenia commit suicide (Owen, 657).
Typical or Atypical
Genius Through Madness
One of the aspects of schizophrenia that
A Beautiful Mind
as a good thing is the ability to find greatness by persevering through the hardship of the illness. Much like many of the actual great minds in history, John Nash's strokes of brilliance did not come about without intense mental and psychological deliberation. As Ming-Chung Lee writes in his essay
"Movies and Mental Illness 3: Using Films to Understand Psychology," he poses the question, "Is there any relationship between John Nash’s mathematical genius and the course of his illness?" (Lee 38). Throughout the course of the film, it is implied that Nash is able to do the great things he does by embracing the many illusions and quirks of schizophrenia, and use them to his advantage. Just as one would assume by watching the film, Lee eventually answers his own question by claiming how although it is a minor theme seen in other films about schizophrenia, discovering greatness through the illness is a common trait for many schizophrenics, and John Nash himself.
"A Beautiful Mind" Synopsis
A Beautiful Mind
(2001) is an Oscar-winning film based on the real-life events of well-renowned mathematician and Nobel Laureate John Nash. Starring Russell Crowe in the lead role, the film's course follows Nash's life and his development of the mental illness known as schizophrenia. Throughout the story, his delusional episodes, strained relationships, and dedication to his work are tested as he attempts to find greatness and purpose despite his illness.
The powerful medium of film has added stigma to "an already misunderstood disease" by its use of false depictions (Kindo, 250).
For average people, the only exposure they may have to Schizophrenia is in cinema (Kindo, 250).
Linking schizophrenia with violence is a common trope within a handful of suspenseful films (Kondo, 251).
Villain is the mentally unstable Norman Bates
Sees and holds conversations with his deceased mother
Becomes his mother and commits murder
Psychiatrist at the end of film assesses Bates' mental state.
His dialogue in the movie stated that Bates was "dangerously disturbed" and that "he began to think and speak for [his mother], give her half his time... At times he could be both personalities, carry on conversations."
Revolution #9 (2001)
As a film based off of the life of an actual schizophrenic person, Ron Howard's depiction of John Nash in
A Beautiful Mind
is both an authentic and typical portrayal of schizophrenics in real life. Contrary to the media's common representations of schizophrenics as people who are violent, insane, or suicidal, the film provides an atypical portrayal of schizophrenics, as seen in the media's perspective. By showing a realistic portrayal of the delusions, hallucinations, and the reaction John Nash has to his schizophrenia,
A Beautiful Mind
exemplifies a true success story of overcoming a terrible illness to do something great. Although many people's interpretation of schizophrenics is jaded by the limited characteristics that the media provides them with, Ron Howard is able to provide a different perspective on schizophrenia and expose the often unseen positive attributes of real schizophrenics.
Black Swan (2010)
Supporting the Mentally Ill
Protagonist suffers from auditory and visual hallucinations
Attempts to kill her rival
Discovers rival is a separate embodiment of herself
Results in stabbing herself with glass shard
Implied death at end of film
Throughout the course of the film, one of the most prominent
themes is that of portraying schizophrenia as an illness to be embraced rather than hidden away. For main character John Nash, his abilities to develop the Game Theory, crack codes, and maintain a stable lifestyle are only possible through the support of his wife, friends, and colleagues. On top of this, the lack of lengthy institutionalization seen in the film allows for Nash to develop his ideas freely and without scrutiny. Historically, the social environment of schizophrenics plays a crucial role in determining their overall health and state of mind (Wing
1970). Because of this, the supportive and helpful relationships John Nash surrounds himself with provide him with that necessary social environment, which would ultimately lead Nash to receiving the Nobel Prize.
"The extreme stress and chaotic lifestyle that families of a schizophrenic individual experience because of the patient's often irrational and bizarre behavior is not accurately perceived by many people, including mental health professionals (Goldstein, 1986)."
Protagonist James Jackson has a normal life until he develops Schizophrenia
Believes there are those whom wish to kill him
Schizophrenia continues to escalate until he stands at the edge of a rooftop, and teenagers below cheer at him as he jumps.
The Atypical Aspect
While drugs are also shown as helping Nash fight his hallucinations, it is the support of Alicia, his wife, that causes Nash to come to terms and stand against his Schizophrenia.
This portrayal of Nash's cure can be described as a "false method of recovery," as it is commonly medication, not family love, that can calm Schizophrenic episodes (Kondo, 251).
Splitting of the Brain?
However, schizophrenia is not split personality.
Schizo, meaning "split," is meant to "[describe] the rupture in the person's thinking process and emotional response" (Nasrallah).
The Split Personality
Schizophrenics are incorrectly portrayed as having multiple personalities.
These personalities cause them to harm themselves and others.
Brenner, Hans D., Wolfgang Böker, and Ruth Genner. The Treatment of Schizophrenia: Status and Emerging
Trends. Seattle, WA: Hogrefe & Huber, 2001. Print.
Charles, Marilyn. "A Beautiful Mind." The American Journal of Psycoanalysis 63.1 (2003): 21-37. ProQuest.
Web. 3 Nov. 2014.
Goldstein, Marion Zucker. Family Involvement in the Treatment of Schizophrenia. Washington, D.C.:
American Psychiatric, 1986. Print.
Greve, Jane, and Louise Herrup Nielsen. "Useful Beautiful Minds—An Analysis of the Relationship Between
Schizophrenia and Employment." Journal of Health Economics 32.6 (2013): 1066-076. Web.
Halloween. Dir. John Carpenter. Warner Bros., 1978. DVD.
"How Realistic Is 'A Beautiful Mind'?" ABC News. ABC News Network, 17 Jan. 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
Kondo, Naomi. "Mental Illness In Film." Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 31.3 (2008): 250-52. Web.
2 Nov. 2014.
Maj, Mario, and Norman Sartorius. Schizophrenia. 2nd ed. Chichester: Wiley, 2002. Print.
Nasrallah, Henry. "Does Schizophrenia Mean Split Personality?" EverydayHealth.com. N.p., 16 July 2007.
Web. 11 Nov. 2014.
Owen, Patricia R. "Portrayals of Schizophrenia by Entertainment Media: A Content Analysis of Contemporary
Movies." Psychiatric Services 63.7 (2012): 655-59. Psychiatry Online. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.
Preda, Adrian, M.D. "Patients' Perspectives on Schizophrenia: A Beautiful Mind, the Movie." Mind the Brain.
PLOS Blogs, 31 May 2014. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.
Rosenstock, Jason, M.D. "Beyond A Beautiful Mind: Film Choices for Teaching Schizophrenia." Academic
Psychiatry 27.2 (2003): 117-22. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
Wedding, Danny, Mary A. Boyd, and Ryan M. Niemiec. Movies and Mental Illness 3: Using Films to
Understand Psychopathology. 3rd ed. Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe, 2010. Print.
Wing, J. K., and G. W. Brown. Institutionalism and Schizophrenia. Cambridge: U, 1970. Print.
Features female killer who
Has manic episodes of auditory and visual hallucinations
Kills with a razor during her manic episode
Introduction to Schizophrenia in Media
Villain (Michael Myers) is an escaped mental patient
Murders his sister
Stalks and murders throughout the film
Acts as the "boogeyman"
Inspiration for character came from real, Schizophrenic mental patients
Director John Carpenter noticed a "schizophrenic stare," and further called it "a real evil stare" (Carpenter, 2003).
Details of Schizophrenic Episodes
In the film "A Beautiful Mind," John Nash experiences both auditory and visual hallucinations. True to the real aspect of Schizophrenia, these episodes create a "fantasy" world which results in intense paranoia and strange behavior.
In his depiction of Schizophrenia, he is able to see and carry conversations with his hallucinations, as well as believe and respond to his delusions. These hallucinations and his delusions never push Nash to murder or commit suicide.
Notably, Nash is never depicted as having a split personality. Although he may subject himself to a grandiose illusion of needing to save the world and his family, he never loses his sense of self -- he is, and remains, John Nash.
Upon even a closer look, any viewer would be rational to assume that this widely-acclaimed movie accurately tells the story of someone afflicted with a mental illness such as schizophrenia. This movie clearly illustrates an example of the typical case that a schizophrenic can indeed have a normal life, given that the person has enough family support and medication.