We all realize that movies are fiction, but that doesn’t mean that we should take nothing seriously. When a movie makes a portrayal of an individual, for example, that’s full of racial stereotypes, we’re justified in saying that it isn’t okay.
It’s no different for portrayals of mental illness. In this episode, Gabe and Michelle discuss just such a portrayal in a movie that Michelle found highly offensive. Listen to see if you agree.
“This is just another way to dismiss our feelings.”
– Gabe Howard
Highlights From ‘Schizophrenia in the Movies’ Episode
[1:00] Michelle has been triggered by an 8-year-old movie called “The Roommate.”
[5:00] Discussing why this movie makes no sense.
[6:30] How Gabe and Michelle handle talking about medications.
[10:00] Why did this movie make Michelle feel so offended?
[12:00] Why this movie is bad for the mental health system.
[16:30] Movies that show mental illness in a good way.
[19:00] How people interpret movies with mentally ill characters.
Transcript From ‘Schizophrenia in the Movies’ Episode
Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Narrator: [00:00:09] For reasons that utterly escape everyone involved, you’re listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Here your hosts Gabe Howard and Michelle Hammer
Gabe: [00:00:18] Hello everybody and welcome to a bipolar a schizophrenic and a podcast. My name is Gabe and I’m the bipolar one.
Michelle: [00:00:24] Hi Michelle I’m the schizophrenic one and the better one.
Gabe: [00:00:27] The better one really.
Michelle: [00:00:29] The better one.
Gabe: [00:00:29] Right before we started recording. You told me that you were the hot one because I was a…
Michelle: [00:00:34] Not hot one.
Gabe: [00:00:35] No you called me a fat ass.
Michelle: [00:00:36] No I didn’t. Why are you going to say that? I never called you a fat ass.
Gabe: [00:00:39] Your exact words were, You were a fat ass that needs to go to the gym.
Michelle: [00:00:42] No.
Gabe: [00:00:43] That’s hurtful.
Michelle: [00:00:44] That’s so mean. I would never say that.
Gabe: [00:00:46] Speaking of mean things that people would never say that often get said, Michelle you were triggered by an 8-year-old movie.
Michelle: [00:00:53] Oh my God. I can’t believe but that was some segue Gabe. I really like hated that.
Gabe: [00:00:57] I mean it’s our way.
Michelle: [00:00:58] It’s really. That was smooth. That was real slick. Well okay, my friend. Okay. I’m watching a movie. My friends says “Oh we gotta watch this movie, The Roommate. The Roommate is such a good movie. It’s like kind of freaky it’s kind of weird. We should so watch the movie The Roommate.” So I’m gonna watch the movie The Roommate. Okay.
Gabe: [00:01:19] How many times you gonna say roommate.
Michelle: [00:01:21] I’m just gonna the roommate not through the roommate.
Gabe: [00:01:24] You know, listen, the audience understands that you watched a movie and it was called The Roommate. You can carry on okay.
Michelle: [00:01:31] Here is here’s the little a trailer description – when college freshman Sarah arrives on campus for the first time, she befriends her roommate Rebecca, unaware that the girl is becoming dangerously obsessed with her. So Rebecca seems to have some issues. She’s becoming very obsessed with her roommate Sarah. She’s scaring away Sarah’s friends that are getting in between their relationship. She even goes as far to killing her ex-boyfriend. And at one point you’d meet her parents and then you hear her mother or father one of them says Rebecca. You been taking your medicine? And then all of a sudden I was like, interesting. What is this movie really about? So then the roommate Sarah who is being stalked, they go through her drawers and they find a bottle of pills. No, I didn’t see what it said on the pill box, but then they go to the computer. And you know how in movies they usually make up different pills names like we do for the show? But they didn’t it in this movie. They go into like Google search or whatever and search for a pill name. And guess what it was? Something that I take.
Gabe: [00:02:46] Oh my God. So wait are you Rebecca?
Michelle: [00:02:50] No but I’ve never been more offended because they used the antipsychotic that I take. They look it up and they go Oh my God it says this pill’s used for the treatment of bipolar or schizophrenia. Oh no. And all the sudden I was like, oh my goodness. This has got to be one of the most offensive things I’ve ever watched.
Gabe: [00:03:12] Wait wait wait hang on. It was for the treatment of bipolar and schizophrenia that they’re now I’m a offended.
Michelle: [00:03:17] Now you’re a offended.
Gabe: [00:03:18] Yeah. What it was just about you I was like oh you’re overreacting. But since they actually said bipolar and this is this is this will not stand this. This is bullshit.
Michelle: [00:03:27] I know and it had Leighton Meester in it also and I liked her.
Gabe: [00:03:31] I can’t believe that this movie has existed for eight years without our rage.
Michelle: [00:03:34] I don’t want to watch a movie made eight years ago about a girl with bipolar or schizophrenia that isn’t taking her antipsychotic because maybe we can make roommate the roommate too. I’ll stop taking my antipsychotic and then people can look in the drawer and find that pill and see that I’ve not been taking it and Google it.
Gabe: [00:03:57] And just like that and just life comes to a head. Let’s do explore this for a moment. I mean just in case the podcast doesn’t work out because I suspect that you would be the killer and that I would be the victim but it wouldn’t have anything to do with your schizophrenia. It would more have to do with us being locked in a room for hours on end with recording equipment and at what can be called the podcast.
Michelle: [00:04:24] The podcast.
Gabe: [00:04:25] Right. Yeah but you’ve got to say it like in that voice that you use to describe the roommate.
Michelle: [00:04:28] The podcast. Oh I have to add I was watching this movie at night so after before I went to bed I made sure to take that pill. So I did not kill my roommate that night.
Michelle: [00:04:40] First let’s address a couple of things right out of the bat. Obviously you have not been on this particular medication for your entire life.
Michelle: [00:04:47] No.
Gabe: [00:04:48] So before you took that pill did you want to murder anybody.
Michelle: [00:04:52] No.
Gabe: [00:04:53] Okay. And do you honestly believe that if you stopped taking that pill tomorrow you would start killing people.
Michelle: [00:04:59] Absolutely not.
Gabe: [00:05:00] And to further drive this point into the ground. There are plenty of people that become obsessed with their friends roommates spouses boyfriends girlfriends that have no mental illness or schizophrenia. They just cray.
Michelle: [00:05:18] Yes.
Gabe: [00:05:19] Yeah. I mean listen I do in fact have bipolar disorder but you know I was a teenager once and I know it’s hard to separate out you know bipolar Gabe from actual Gabe but I do believe that you know the reason that I spent my prom night crying is because that lady dumped me and I was sad and I hated her new jock boyfriend and probably not because I was bipolar. I think this is just like a standard thing that happens to.
Michelle: [00:05:44] Understandable.
Michelle: [00:05:44] I would say that’s understandable. I get it. Yeah. Yeah.
Gabe: [00:05:48] So but the fact that I had bipolar disorder and wasn’t yet medicated didn’t make me kill anybody. I mean just. Right. And I’ve never been violent and I’ve never had the urge to kill people even though I to take a psychiatric medication. And this of course offends us because now people are looking at us like uh oh if Gabe and Michelle stopped taking their meds we’re going to be.
Michelle: [00:06:10] Killers.
Gabe: [00:06:12] Yes.
Gabe: [00:06:15] Michelle I am so sorry that you had to watch Netflix at home while not working. I mean I’m so sorry you had to go through this experience with this movie but doesn’t it suck. I mean it doesn’t media.
Michelle: [00:06:25] I just couldn’t believe. They used our real medication name right.
Gabe: [00:06:30] Do you remember the episode where we talked about side effects of medication.
Michelle: [00:06:34] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:06:34] And what did I name the medication that that helped fix.
Michelle: [00:06:39] Dicks-A-Poppin.
Gabe: [00:06:40] Right. We had Dicks-A-Poppin in which was the I guess you know E.D. medicine because it cured the medical diagnosis of.
Michelle: [00:06:48] Dicks-A-Floppin.
Gabe: [00:06:49] Yeah. We got nothing right on that. Doesn’t it bother you though. Look we all know it bothers us. We don’t need to be coy but we try to be responsible with this show. We’re not Hollywood as much as we have tried to delude ourselves into saying that we have millions upon millions of fans. We don’t.
Michelle: [00:07:07] I’ve never deluded myself to that. Maybe that’s just you.
Gabe: [00:07:11] Listen I believe that there are millions of people we just can’t track them because one person downloads it and then plays it in front of a live auditorium stealing our thunder. I know this happens.
Michelle: [00:07:21] Obviously you’re off the meds.
Michelle: [00:07:24] You’re on the meds and you’re in a stalk somebody and you’re going to be obsessed to them and you’re going to you’re going to kill their ex-boyfriend.
Gabe: [00:07:32] This is not the only movie that you have ever seen in your life that has to do with.
Michelle: [00:07:39] I’ve seen many a movie in many a Disney movie in my life.
Gabe: [00:07:43] Oh well Disney movies I’m fairly certain are all about mental illness.
Michelle: [00:07:48] Well I mean I was flying a magic carpet.
Gabe: [00:07:50] Magic carpet ride.
Gabe: [00:07:53] Michelle this is not the first pop culture portrayal of mental illness that we’ve ever seen. It sounds like this one bothered you so much because it hits so close to home. You are a woman you have a roommate and you’re on this exact same medication. So if you start acting in a way that people don’t like they can easily say Oh it’s because of the medication rather than address with you whatever this is just another way to dismiss our feelings that that’s kind of how I see it.
Michelle: [00:08:27] I completely agree with you because they were just saying Oh she’s off her meds. That’s why she’s crazy. Like why isn’t she seeing a therapist?
Gabe: [00:08:36] Well why are you asking me for it and write the damn thing.
Michelle: [00:08:38] I don’t know who wrote this movie? I’m going to look it up. I’m sending them an email.
Gabe: [00:08:44] Really.
Michelle: [00:08:45] Whoever wrote this movie.
Michelle: [00:08:46] This writer Sunny Molly I’m writing you an e-mail Sunny Molly.
Gabe: [00:08:53] You should probably learn to pronounce his name.
Michelle: [00:08:55] Whatever your name is. Sunny Molly. Well I never heard of you in anything else but you might have done other stuff. You wrote a very insulting movie.
Gabe: [00:09:06] Now is it insulting or is it insensitive.
Michelle: [00:09:11] No it is insulting. I was just so insulted.
Michelle: [00:09:15] I was really really insulted because I’m watching the movie with somebody I see that I go Oh that’s my medicine. Oh now the person that I am with is thinking oh is that going to happen to you if you stop taking your medicine. I was seriously asked that in that moment.
Gabe: [00:09:32] Were you offended that the killer was a woman.
Michelle: [00:09:37] No.
Gabe: [00:09:37] But you’re also a woman.
Michelle: [00:09:38] Why would I care.
Michelle: [00:09:39] There’s many women in the world. There’s not as many people who take that medication. And I felt singled out.
Gabe: [00:09:48] It’s not that the killer was a female or a young female or even a young white female. It’s that she was a schizophrenic. Taking a medicine that you take an antipsychotic medication and then it pulled in the trope of if you don’t take your medicine you will become violent.
Michelle: [00:10:04] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:10:04] And all of that connected for people because of their own biases misunderstanding and ignorance. To then look over at you and try to draw a parallel where before you watch the movie that didn’t exist. Right. Like in your friend group because you watched a movie you were now looked down upon.
Michelle: [00:10:23] Yeah well I was asked oh if you don’t take that well things like that happen.
Gabe: [00:10:28] We’ll be right back after we hear from our sponsor.
Narrator: [00:10:31] This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counseling. Our counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist, whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face-to-face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counseling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral.
Michelle: [00:11:02] Hey everyone, we wanted to tell you about Emergency Dentists USA — they love the show and wanted us to give them a shout out. Emergency Dentists USA is a 24-hour dental referral service that specializes in finding emergency dentists who accept patients with no insurance and offer low-interest payment plans. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even on holidays. Our staff is knowledgeable and friendly and can find local, emergency dentists in your area, for any dental emergency you may face. Visit them online and now back to the show.
Gabe: [00:11:44] I think that there’s another side that we need to talk about as well which is let’s say that you are a young woman with schizophrenia and you see this movie and then a doctor tries to prescribe you that medication.
Michelle: [00:11:53] Good point.
Gabe: [00:11:54] You’re going to say look I don’t want that. I’m not violent. That movie stops killers. I’m not a killer so I need a different medication. And now you’re going to resist to the treatment all because you don’t want to be lumped in with a fictional movie. Let me back up for a second. I just have to say this. I want to say this to the whole world. You can you can clip this out of the podcast and play it for everybody.
Gabe: [00:12:14] Listen animals don’t talk. People can’t fly. There’s no such thing as superheroes. We all understand how fiction works in movies for almost every other thing but for whatever reason whenever there’s any mentally ill character we suddenly think that Hollywood is producing a documentary about our lives and saying this is what mentally ill people act like. Really.
Michelle: [00:12:38] Did I ever tell you the time there was like somebody was writing a film in L.A. that film on schizophrenia and they wanted me to like talk to the lead actress and they wanted me to read the scripts and everything. The lead actress like I spoke to her she calls me and all she’s saying is that like oh tell me your story. And I was like Well do you do you know anything like you know about schizophrenia how to act like it. She’s like Oh well I’m like a really good actress. And I’m like Well do you know any mannerisms of people with schizophrenia. You know how they act. And she just was like blew the whole thing off like oh she goes that I was like you know a lot of people with schizophrenia don’t really usually let people in the eye that often just Oh no really. But we’re on Face Time you’re looking at me in the eye and I’m like well we’re on the phone right now. And she just wasn’t even understanding what she would have to be playing if she was playing a schizophrenic person. She just wanted to hear my story and not learn anything from me. And then when the person who had set us up to talk when she e-mailed me can you read our script and tell us how it sounds. I said I don’t want to read your script for free. I work as a mental health advocate and my time is money as well. If you would like me to read your script and you’re trying to support people with mental health issues it would be really nice if you could compensate me and the woman said I completely understand. I’ll talk to the director. The email ceased. Never again. End of it never. Never heard it from them again.
Gabe: [00:14:00] This is a real problem in our circles where people don’t want to gain the right information and if they even make a cursory attempt they want to get it for free. And listen you get what you pay for. And I have no idea if this particular movie “The roommate” hired anybody to talk about mental health mental illness you know chances are look it’s a horror movie that it sounds like it wasn’t very popular because I never even heard of it. So the good news is it didn’t do that much damage because only like 11 people saw this but I get it. Nobody seems to want to understand what it’s like to live with mental illness and portray it in any manner that is even remotely realistic in popular culture and what’s even worse is that the people watching it for whatever reason have decided that it contains factual information. It’s just a story you know and it’s not good or bad or otherwise it’s just fiction. And I wish that people could understand that it’s fiction. We we must make so much progress that people would be like look that’s a fictional portrayal of somebody with schizophrenia.
Michelle: [00:15:10] It’s almost as though people like to make those fictional things up because they want to make sure that they aren’t like that.
Gabe: [00:15:17] Oh sure.
Michelle: [00:15:18] I’m not crazy. They’re crazy. See what crazy looks like. That’s a crazy it looks like and that’s not me.
Gabe: [00:15:23] There you go. Oh and see that’s even scary as well because again back to the point that I made earlier. Let’s say that you’re watching this movie and you’re watching this woman with schizophrenia kill people become obsessed be you know just just weird the way her family is acting around her of course she murders somebody that’s a whole thing.
Michelle: [00:15:40] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:15:40] And then somebody diagnoses you as schizophrenic. You’re like huh no no I’ve never been obsessed. I’m not like you just on and on and on you’re like Let’s listen. I’ve seen what schizophrenia looks like again in a fictional portrayal. And I’ve decided to get some sort of factual basis out of this. And you know this is how we end up with you know politicians that don’t understand facts because they watch some movie about the army and they think they’re generals so it’s not just mental illness.
Gabe: [00:16:10] It just our podcast just happens to be about mental illness. If we switch over to the political spectrum boy do we have some movies that piss us off.
Michelle: [00:16:18] Let’s not even go there.
Gabe: [00:16:22] What are we going to do.
Michelle: [00:16:23] We have nothing to do.
Gabe: [00:16:24] We got nothing to do.
Gabe: [00:16:26] What are some movies that portray somebody with schizophrenia correctly. Do you even know of any.
Michelle: [00:16:32] No.
Gabe: [00:16:34] In the bipolar space.
Gabe: [00:16:35] There are a couple of movies that get close and the most popular one in the most recent one is “Silver Linings Playbook” and I just bring this up to show that Hollywood I think is learning. They are. They are trying you know a horror movie. They sensationalize everything. So you know in fairness and I’m not trying to insult your friends that the fact that they even watched this movie and looked at you that’s kind of insulting. Looks at it. It’s one you know it’s a movie, two you know movies or fiction and three really really?
Michelle: [00:17:04] Yeah.
Gabe: [00:17:04] Like what’s your question again dumbass ass so I get it I get it but I do think that Hollywood is trying. I mean I know that the group didn’t want to pay you but at least they made a cursory attempt that that was that was more than nothing. And to go back to Silver Linings Playbook it wasn’t a bad portrayal. It’s still a fictional movie and I want I want to let people know that if they run out and watch the movie I don’t want them to say hey a man that lives with bipolar disorder said that that was spot on. It wasn’t spot on but it was it was really close and frankly it was it was close enough that for a fictional representation it really didn’t offend me that that really could be somebody’s life with bipolar.
Michelle: [00:17:55] Do you go jogging with a with a trash bag around you.
Gabe: [00:17:58] Listen I don’t. But it’s not the trash bag part.
Michelle: [00:18:01] It’s the jogging.
Gabe: [00:18:07] That I just I just end right there.
Gabe: [00:18:09] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Not everybody with bipolar disorder wears a trash bag or jogs. Yeah. Yeah. I’m not saying that I’ve never woke up with a trash bag around my neck.
Michelle: [00:18:24] That’s †he next shirt you should sell Trash Bag Chic trash bag.
Michelle: [00:18:28] Yeah I think it’ll look good.
Gabe: [00:18:30] But there were parts of it that really did speak to me the confusion the manic energy him waking up his family in the middle of the night because he got excited about something the desperation to repeat things the way his family had to make apologies for him because he woke up the neighborhood the way he couldn’t let things go.
Gabe: [00:18:48] These were things that that are very stereotypical of somebody who lives with untreated bipolar disorder and they kind of covered that decently saying that he wasn’t necessarily under a lot of control. He didn’t necessarily have the best treatment but ultimately and this is something that I want everybody to know even if that was a documentary even if that was complete fact even if every single thing that happened in Silver Linings Playbook was true and happened exactly like that. That doesn’t mean that that’s how everyone with bipolar disorder behaves.
Michelle: [00:19:23] True.
Gabe: [00:19:23] That means that’s how that dude behaves. So I think we need to get over that as well. It really bothers me that people were like Hey I saw a woman in a movie and now I know how women act or I saw an African-American male in a movie. So that’s how all African-Americans act or you know just on and on and on. But we think this is a society so on the plus side.
Michelle: [00:19:46] It’s just stereotypes.
Michelle: [00:19:47] Yes it’s everyone just making a stereotype.
Gabe: [00:19:49] Stereotypes are the shorthand of the lazy. I don’t want to take the time to get to know you. So I will just figure out whatever stereotype I can and declare my knowledge of you complete and that’s just.
Michelle: [00:20:02] That’s just ignorance.
Gabe: [00:20:03] It’s straight up ignorant and it’s lazy and it’s bullshit and it robs you of getting to know real people.
Michelle: [00:20:10] Some people aren’t worth getting to know.
Gabe: [00:20:12] Well but you won’t know that until you get to know them. Listen when I first met you, you yelled cock ring at the top of your lungs. All right. If I would have been like all right we’ve got a tiny little schizophrenic yelling cock ring I don’t want to be friends with her anymore.
Gabe: [00:20:25] This whole podcast.
Gabe: [00:20:26] I was not yelling cock ring at the top of my lungs. You say that all the time you always bring that up is yelling cock ring. I had a ring I had a ring and what was actually a ring it was a ring that my friend who is a sculpture artist sculpted out of wire a penis on a ring.
Michelle: [00:20:48] So I was calling it a cock ring.
Gabe: [00:20:50] Loudly.
Michelle: [00:20:52] Everyone was asking me about it.
Gabe: [00:20:54] You are a dick on your finger
Michelle: [00:20:57] Whatever it was my ring.
Gabe: [00:20:59] You Know.
Michelle: [00:20:59] I got a lot of comments on that ring.
Gabe: [00:21:01] Yeah no shit. Most people do not wear genitalia on their finger when they meet business people for the first time.
Michelle: [00:21:09] I stopped wearing it after a week because I was getting too many looks OK but if you weren’t that ring hit me up I’ll get one made for you. I think our final thoughts for today is if you’re going to make a movie about a girl with a mental illness don’t pick an actual medication’s name make up a name use that and if you’re going to watch a movie with some friends and before you ask your friend or really dumb question just just just think twice.
Gabe: [00:21:43] Just think twice maybe just think it all like I don’t know I don’t think there was a first thought.
Michelle: [00:21:46] I mean if you’ve known your friend for like over a year Don’t ask a question based on a movie you just saw that came out in 2011.
Gabe: [00:21:55] You know it’s gonna be awesome if you and your friend are not friends after this podcast. It means your friend was good enough to listen to the show that you’re hosting. So that’s just going to be a real travesty. Thank you everybody for tuning into this week’s episode of a bipolar a schizophrenic and a podcast. Please head over to store.PsychCentral.com by our Define Normal shirt. We are almost out of them and once they are gone they are probably gone forever.
Gabe: [00:22:21] Also radios everywhere share tell your friends. Michelle and I are on a course with destiny and your
Michelle: [00:22:28] Roommates.
Narrator: [00:22:30] You’ve been listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. If you love this episode, don’t keep it to yourself. Head on over to iTunes or your preferred podcast app. Subscribe, rate, and review. To work with Gabe go to GabeHoward.com. To work with Michelle, go to Schizophrenic.NYC. For free mental health resources and online support groups, head over to PsychCentral.com. The show’s official Web site is PsychCentral.com/BSP. You can e-mail us at [email protected]. Thank you for listening, and share widely.
Meet Your Bipolar and Schizophrenic Hosts
GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe, visit gabehoward.com.
MICHELLE HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle, visit Schizophrenic.NYC.