Why am I writing this when the film released a whole month ago in USA? Well a friend of mine was asking for someone to see it with and it reminded me of this exert I had written as a blog topic when I first heard about the movie’s release at the beginning of the year. So even though some – if not most of you – have probably seen it, I’m going to write this. Why? Because it’s important and people need to know.
From the Split movie trailer we see the main character – a man – depicted as a villain, a bad guy. We are already plastered with the image of a violent person. A criminal. The main character is said to suffer with multiple personality disorder, having 23 personalities (or alter’s).
Multiple personality disorder – now diagnosed as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – is a mental illness that affects both men and women. It is classically diagnosed when the patient is presenting with multiple personalities (alters) that will vary in age, race, and religion, and are different to the patients. Typically, but not always, DID is caused by childhood trauma. Child abuse (neglect, physical, emotional, or sexual) abuse can be too severe for the patients mind that the body creates alternate personalities to deal with the abuse. The alters are essentially protecting the patient from pain and allowing them to evade the trauma as the alternate personality is present.
So what does this all have to do with the film? The film is contributing to the stigmatism we see facing mental illnesses. We have come leaps and bounds on how we treat those diagnosed with depression and anxiety (still with a long road ahead), but we seem to have left other mental illnesses at the way side due to them being “too much” and not as “pretty” as depression and anxiety. We seem to have forgotten that there are more than two existing mental illnesses – a conversation for another day. DID is a very real, and very serious condition. It is not a plot line to a feature film and it is not a punch line for that conversation with your friends.
There is so much the public, and even the mental health community, do not know about living with DID. I am in that boat. I know next to nothing about living with DID and I’ve watched documentaries and followed people’s own personal journey’s. So if I’ve gone out of my way to learn about DID and still know barely anything, I can’t imagine the amount of nothing your average person knows. Can they know negative nothing?
Watching a film that adds to the stigma of DID being a violent and horrifying illness is teaching yourself the wrong idea of DID. I won’t lie, it can be messy, it can be scary. But that doesn’t mean you should actively make films teaching people to be afraid. It’s not about the person diagnosed being scary, but the person approaching them being aware. Work with them, not against them to figure out how to be together.
This film is a horrible idea and it didn’t have to be made like this. It could have been a whole family of people as the “identities”. It would remain the same. But now we have people believing that, because DID has been portrayed as a violent and scary disorder (and not for the first time in cinema), it is something to fear and avoid. People we should run from. Should they make a film on DID? A feature film documentary yes. Give society the truth, not a butchered version of what it’s like. We have had enough of your #alternativenews
Realistically, I can’t make you stay home instead of going out. But there are plenty of other films that have been released – I hear 13th (2016) is a good film. If you have already seen it and now wish you hadn’t, don’t worry. There’s nothing you can do about that now. But what you can do is not buy the DVD, let others who are thinking of watching it know. Make sure that we are helping our brothers and sisters in the mental health community and not hurting them. We already think you had us, don’t prove us right.
OTHER ARTICLES ABOUT SPLIT FILM:
Image: Lior Shkedi