“I don’t know where my path is yet. I’m just walking on it” – Olivia Newton-John
Every time I think I have handled a new way to present my project, there is always another way of executing it. That’s what it most frustrating right now, providing a clear, and concise project while also proving the point I am trying to highlight. It feels like there isn’t an end to the road that I am going on. Right now, I’m in the middle of looking at the history of mental disorders and the treatments that were provided into making them more tolerable….This is a very different route I am going after now after trying to prove that diversity is a problem within films that portray mental illness. The problem with the portrayal of mental illness is that it’s very ambiguous that to portray in the movies because if it’s not explicit, then it’s all based on assumption.
Considering that I am dealing with a very general topic with no specific guidelines like the Vito Russo Test, or the Bechdel Test, it can get frustrating trying to create one without having all the necessary credentials first. I plan on overcoming these challenges right now by continuously studying hard and reading as much as I can on the history of the cultural identity attached to mental illness and how films during that time portrayed mental illness. There is no clear concise answer yet, but I feel that isn’t the basis for a good research plan. I’m hoping that the films that I chose from the list of films that have mental illness TREATMENT will have a better correlation of ideas than the previous approach. I will continue to look at films that have treatment in them, including ECT, and antipsychotic medicines integrated into the story of the films and see if these portrayals are tied to the era that they are released in. I’ve gotten specific about the films that I chose. Either the films have to have a character with a diagnosed mental illness, and there have to be signs of psychiatry in practice or mental institutions as being a part of the plot. This way, I am keeping the data set of films specific, but hopefully, they provide some correlation.
I have read about 5 different articles that are probably useless to me now, but there’s still more to read on this topic that I can use to prove my point. Although there are a lot of issues, there seems to be more information that I have not yet read.
The tools that I plan to further my project is Tableau and Atavist. I have chosen these tools because of the interface that both of these will have that further show how the project will be handled. Specifically, I chose Tableau because I am currently working with data sets. The data sets that I will be using are on all of the films that I have viewed and whether they provided information that proves the point of my research question: Does the media portray mental illness correctly? Tableau will help me show the information through pie charts on which films out of all of the ones that I have chosen provides such accurate depictions. Plus, Tableau will make it more convenient for me to add more data set points on the films, if need be and also if I need to add films to the list, there can be some alterations made from that change.
I chose Atavist as my platform for showing my project because Atavist helps me put the ideas in a chronological order of what I want to do. I imagine this to be similar to a research paper with the visuals being some of the biggest differences that an audience member would be able to see. Plus, I’m able to add images and embed with Tableau which makes things more convenient to add a sequential order to the information I’m trying to provide. I want people to be able to scroll down while reading because that keeps the interest.
Media Representation is significant for people’s view of the world and of themselves. Television, movies and social media have become some of the most prevalent ways that people can view events around them. People interact with media daily, but films and television shows seem to be the most viewed platforms. There’s one caveat: most of the content in movies and television are narrative stories. These narrative stories portray different versions of reality or try to emulate actual issues faced in this reality. Some of those issues are extremely serious, like mental illness. Films have a long history of portraying mental illness, but as an artform that can be expressive sometimes the portrayal of illnesses are not completely accurate. In fact, there seems to be a trend “that renditions of mental illness in film represent another type of despair; a malaise, anxiety, post-war trauma sense of difference and otherness” (Packer, Mental Illness in Popular Culture). Many filmmakers use mental illness concepts to have appealing stories, but do these portrayals accurately show and describe the reality of these conditions?
I’m going to challenge that representation of mental illness isn’t always accurately portrayed because of the statistics that surround mental health. There are many portrayals of people that deal with illness and disorders, but most of those portrayals are not accurate, in that they do not agree with the statistics. Mental illness is a diverse concept that can affect people from many different backgrounds, yet most of the portrayals in media “most characters living with it are male, young or middle-aged, Caucasian, and with, at least, a middle-class income” which gives us “fewer opportunities to observe, imagine and question how living in poverty, being a woman, aging, and/or suffering from racial or ethnic prejudice further complicate the already complex universe of mental illness”(Friedrich, The Literary and Linguistic Construction of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: No Ordinary Doubt). I observe films from recent years that have mental illness incorporated into the plot to show that media, specifically films don’t have completely accurate or diverse portrayals of the illness they are trying to simulate.
My project is a very specific project that will handle many topic from Africana Studies, Psychology and Film/Media Studies. For a piece of this project, I was able to conjure up a Project Charter. I believe that there would be no other way of explaining the depth of the project without showing some of the charter itself:
Representation: Film Portrayal of Mental Illness and Race
“My project will explore the portrayal of mental illness on screen, specifically in films. I want to to do research on Hollywood films to see if there are preferences regarding the way mental illness is portrayed; is it usually romanticized or accurately portrayed? These are the types of questions that I plan to answer with viewing the films and seeing how most of the films that are produced portray these illnesses. However, there is another component because I want to see if there is a preference regarding race on how these mental illnesses are shown. Just from first glance, I can tell that some of the films on the list don’t necessarily have many non-white leads that are portrayed with mental illness. As a result, my project will also provide media influence. This will show that the media influences a lot that people view and the mindsets that people have. Specifically, on a sensitive topic like this one. Although mental illness is becoming less stigmatized, that doesn’t apply to everyone and the way portrays patients is an indicator of that. Also, it could the result of any even larger point and that is access to help. These films have majority white cast members, and I want to correlate that with the amount of help that white individuals have received regarding mental illness, than non-white. I want to view all of the films from the list I have conjured up of films within the last 10 years of motion pictures distributed by these major studios. I hope that this project can appeal to people from various different disciplines; Africana Studies, Psychology and Film/Media Studies. I also hope that this project can influence others that may suspect that they have mental illnesses, but may not understand that it’s not their fault and they can seek help.
Currently, I haven’t found any projects that relate to mine because of the intersection between these various components. However, there are papers that touch on these different issues as they relate to each other. For example, I have found papers such as “‘One ﬂew over the psychiatric unit’: mental illness and the media” that focuses on the media’s representation of mental illness that could provide me with some crucial information to enhance my project. Some of the projects that I explored was the Art With Impact project that focuses on tackling the stigmatization of mental health through making films, but not necessarily analyzing them, and even this one doesn’t take race into account when thinking about the stigmatization of mental illness. I believe my project will build upon some of the aspects of other projects by adding that racial component and understanding the sociological approach to race as it relates to mental illness. ”
I am really excited to see where these ideas will go and what discoveries I make within these disciplines!
I became interested in the Digital Scholarship Summer Research Fund because I can explore the humanities through digital platforms. Humanities research have always been recorded mostly through analog and print mediums, so this program juxtaposes that idea that those are the only forms of recording and conducting research. It became an assimilation to digital technology because it still prevails within this modern generation. I also became interested in the idea that there could be an archive of our digital projects; I liked the idea that this can be a way of looking back on previous projects and getting inspiration and permission to improve and change projects from past cohorts. I advocate for constructive criticism and to have comments and feedback on this will only make the project more sufficient.
The project I’m referring to is one I’m doing research on about media representation. Specifically, the research will highlight the rarity of non-white characters that deal with mental illness and how this directly correlates to the amount of assistance that these individuals receive for mental health diagnoses. Something I noticed with films, television and even commercials is that there seems to be a lack of diversity regarding people who suffer from mental illness, but the opposite is true in reality. My goal and my research will center around that idea that there is a lack of diversity, but that’s because there happens to be less attention on the the communities that are predominantly non-white that have mental illnesses. The attention on these communities and the representation they have on film are both minute.
With this, something I’m hoping to gain is more constructive knowledge. Right now, I’m basing my research on personal observation, but also from a small collection journals and articles. I hope to be able to find more sources from books, articles, and journals, and be able to make this topic plausible. I’m hoping to be able to find more about the mental illnesses that I plan to include in the research and also to find more on the correlation between all of these different topics; I’m prepared to take this further if I don’t finish within the 8 weeks that I have. I also want to be able to gain proficiency in some of the tools that we discussed in our groups. I am interested in Tableau because I will need data visualization for the research I’m doing because I will be creating charts and graphs to highlight some data on the forms of media I’m using. I became very interested in Visme, the tool I showed during one of our discussions, because I think it would be cool to have a slideshow that I can add videos and data to.
I became intrigued with the discussions in the group and realized more of how important the study of Digital Humanities can be. I enjoy the print culture and analog mediums and would prefer those forms of technology rather than digital but it’s also nice to see what this discipline can provide. For example, easier accessibility to archival documents, convenience, and portability.