A take down of various stereotypes dealing with pop culture’s misgivings about clinical depression, as presented by this Buzzfeed article.
Now, I try not to talk too much about myself, but sometimes my own personal experience and the portrayals of that experience in pop culture and media can be so unduly, undoubtedly different. These are not all the misgivings and stereotypes in Hollywood Depression, but they are ones I can address easily. For example: “First of all, depression always looks beautiful — beautiful characters crying, staring out windows, taking a listless shower, etc. etc. etc., beautifully.”
Now, let’s get one thing straight: not everything is a wonderful plate of listless ennui fashioned for some invisible camera. Sometimes depression is eating too much, or eating too little. Sometimes, it’s the ugly cry. Sometimes it’s being too depressed to even cry. You ever think about that?
“Characters with depression are pretty much always reduced to being ~sad~.”
Have you ever considered that people with depression are not always sad? We are not a single emotion. It’s like a person, on the flip side, with mania. People with mania are not always happy. I often find myself putting out a fake smile, or a genuine smile at times, but I still find myself often angry, often sad, yes, and even often happy. Again, we are not cartoons.
“Most of the time, depression is triggered by Dramatic Plot Elements.”
This was not true with me. Depression, in my case, came upon me slowly, in the night, under cover of darkness. It was slowly and undetected, until it was almost too late. I did not even remember showing signs of depression or major red flags, until my mother came to me after just receiving a call about something I had written. (More about that later.)
And because of that, depression always culminates as a big blowup or breakdown.
No, no huge blowup, no huge breakdown. As a matter of fact, when my depression was discovered, I had barely any feeling left in my body, and although I could not communicate it at the time, I was starting to see things under a cover of hazy gray. No, there was no gigantic yelling and screaming fit.
Or if a character valiantly pretends they’re fine and doesn’t succumb to their depression, the audience is obviously supposed to think they’re strong and brave.
This goes back to the fact that “Strong and Brave” people are uncharacteristically portrayed as not having any feelings. This is a tenet of toxic masculinity, or perhaps of not showing any vulnerability. Perhaps this stereotype is what often leads to suicide
In fact, most of the boring parts of dealing with depression are erased.
Of course, because they’re not either “beautiful” or “dramatic,” but they’re real life. Why don’t you ever show the real side of depression, Hollywood? Try showing not having the energy to lift a hairbrush? Or, just looking in the mirror with barely any energy to open your eyes?
Depression is treated as an alluring or mysterious trait that draws the attention of a love interest.
Oooh, romance! The fix-all for any sadness! That is an insult to anyone and everyone with clinical depression. If romance and/or sex was the cure, the clinics would do that. Besides, this points out an insidious stereotype that depression is rational. Depression is not rational. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain.
AND THEN THAT LOVE INTEREST ALWAYS ~FIXES~ THE PERSON WITH DEPRESSION.
As above, this is not only wrong, it is insulting. Chester Bennington had the great wife, the great kids, and yet he still took his life. Depression is not rational.
If treatment IS explored, it’s always super easy and straightforward.
Well, often treatment is a long, tedious process. It often goes with trying to find the right medicine, the right therapist, the right clinic. Nobody ever tells you that. Again, depression is not rational.
Speaking of therapists, they’re usually portrayed as pretty useless.
What did talking out and working out the issues ever do for anyone, right? Wrong. Working out and talking out the issues has often averted wars. Why does it not work for people willing to talk, listen and be honest?
When treatment is shown in a positive light, it’s always super linear and FAST.
This is wishful thinking. We always want the quick fix, the easy solution, the fast-working drug. If those worked, we would do that. It is also insulting to those who need more research, more diagnosis, more help.
There aren’t many examples of high-functioning people with depression, rather than people whose depression completely derails their life.
Now, I currently have a “high-functioning” form of depression. You know what I feel about the functioning label, but when people are handling their troubles well, apparently they are not worthy of the Hollywood stereotype. Even people who actually are handling their depression must be derailed and sent back to the mental ward to show the seriousness of the problem.
Pretty much every depressed character is also suicidal at some point.
Now, I may have been suicidal at one point, but I am not suicidal anymore. In fact, when I was getting my diagnosis, I was actually beginning to climb out of the pit of suicidal ideation. I was regretting my decision. Then, a diagnosis was given and I received more help.
More often than not, a character with depression fits a specific stereotype.
I know this particular type. You know, the girl who wears black all the time? In my day, we called them goths; you might call them emo. I must tell you the truth: the goths in my particular high school were actually quite happy people. I thought about going goth for a time, because I bought this stereotype, but as I look back, the people in black actually seemed very pleased. Maybe there’s a thing for being yourself?
Also, take a look at me. I am currently wearing a bright pink dress with yellow, orange and purple patterns on it. I have brown hair that was once blonde, green hazel eyes, somewhat tanned skin (for Kentucky, anyway,) and big curves. I own a rainbow of clothes I rotate regularly. I have a Pomeranian dog, who loves me to death, and a mother who encourages a happy home. What is goth about this particular depression sufferer?
And let’s be real, even with positive representations of depression, more often than not, the characters are white.
Even though I am white, this fact is true: people with depression are not. Trouble is, you kind of have to be white to be noticed by Hollywood. Maybe that’s why most persons of color think mental illness is “white people s***.” This stops a huge number of people from getting the help they need, simply because they think it’s a tool of The Man to keep them at the bottom of the heap.
Medication is treated like this evil, personality-zapping stuff you should avoid at all costs.
Again, not true in my case. As a matter of fact, the medicine I take actually helps me function better. Before I took medicine, I liked Pearl Jam, Green Day and rock music in general. After I started taking medicine, I still liked Pearl Jam, Green Day and rock music in general. My personality has not changed.
And depressed characters are always super creative and artistic.
I certainly WISH! If I was super creative, artistic and talented, don’t you think I would be in a different kind of existence? Like, actually making money instead of living off the government?
For some reason, going through depression always ends in some sort of cheesy life lesson.
If there is one thing about depression, it does not really give you some life lesson. If there is any lesson, it is this: sometimes you have to fight for what you want, whether it’s love, money, or even your life.
And finally, most of this is covered in the span of a Very Special Episode — or, if we’re lucky, a small arc — then forgotten about forever.
Don’t even get me started. Depression is not something to be forgotten about. I am reminded every time I eat breakfast. I have been with my diagnosis for twenty-two years! There is no reason for me to stop working on my health.
All in all, I am utterly disgusted that I have to address mental illness stigma and stereotypes seventeen years into the twenty-first century! When are we ever going to learn?