There are many terrible representations of people with psychiatric diagnoses in pop culture.
However, the new M. Night Shyamalan film is especially damaging.
It is so damaging because the film’s portrayal of people who have been given a diagnosis of ‘Dissociative Identity Disorder’ (DID) or who are multiple (having more than one distinct personality in a single body) suggests that they are violent, dangerous, and prone to sexually assaulting women and children. It also paints clinicians who are understanding of and compassionate toward people who have this experience as foolish.
The potential damage of this film is even greater than average because the experience of being multiple is so poorly understood by most. Many clinicians will even deny that it is real, and diagnose someone with a personality disorder instead while accusing them of faking it.
One step to taking the power away from ‘Split’ is to speak out against it.
You can also join in on various efforts to create media made directly by people who’ve actually lived these experiences, or help circulate the films and writing of others.
Click “Read more” below for more info and action ideas!
Pop culture that takes our experiences and our struggles and turns them into misrepresented entertainment needs to be stopped. It would be one thing if there were also lots of positively represented characters with psychiatric diagnoses, but there are very few. And, there are almost no positive representations of people with psychiatric diagnosis who are choosing a non-medical path for treatment or making sense of the challenges they have faced.
Another way to reduce the power of Split and other films like it is to learn, and help to challenge others who are saying things that are insulting or untrue. Here’s just a little bit of information about multiplicity:
- The experience of being multiple is typically the result of extreme childhood trauma (particularly the type of multiplicity represented in ‘Split’). It is commonly seen as the brain’s way of surviving and protecting the core personality (The ‘Core personality’ is the personality that has been present from birth)
- Although trauma is the most recognized cause, some people experience plurality (another word sometimes used for being multiple) as a positive or cultural element of who they are.
- Being multiple does not have to be viewed as a disease, and the goals of any treatment can vary and may or may not include ‘integrating’ all the personalities into one
- Perhaps most importantly, people who are multiple are not any more dangerous than people from any other group.
There’s so much more to understand.
Here are a few other places to learn more:
Systems Against SPLIT: Videos from people who are multiple speaking about their experiences and speaking out against Split
Spoiling Split: Hollywood’s Latest Run at ‘Alternative Facts’: An article by Sera Davidow (Western Mass RLC) on Mad in America about the film (PLEASE NOTE: This article contains explicit and sometimes disturbing information about the film’s details.)
“I’m Multiple and I Don’t Kill People”: A blog about being multiple by a Sarah Reece
The Labyrinth System: A listing of articles speaking about the experience of being multiple and against the film Split (PLEASE NOTE: These articles do skew heavily toward a medical model perspective)