Anne Hathaway’s Heartfelt Plea For More Love Stories That Tackle Mental Health Issues
Mental health, television and cinema have a complicated relationship. Often reduced to the tropes of violent men and hysterical women, representation has historically been pretty quite problematic.
This is changing, however, and Amazon’s new series Modern Love is receiving praise for doing its part in portraying authentic stories of people living with mental health conditions.
In the third episode of the series, we see Anne Hathaway portray a bipolar woman and the complexities of that. Her character, Lexi, is a New York attorney whose diagnosis impacts her dating life.
Speaking with Glamour magazine, Anne Hathaway shared that she hopes audiences can connect with her character’s story because it’s not an uncommon one:
“I have people in my life who I love so deeply who have received various mental health diagnoses, and that’s not the whole story of who they are,” she told the mag.
“But in many cases, because of an intolerant society, that’s the space of fear they’re kept in.
“It’s my hope that people watch that scene and realize we all feel that way at times.
“We all walk around sometimes feeling like we have an elephant on our chest, but we’re not alone. And we’re not less than because of that. We’re not unlovable because of that.”
The Oscar-winning actress has taken the opportunity many times while promoting the series to speak openly about the importance of honestly representing mental illness. In an interview with Variety, she said:
“We’re all becoming more sensitive, wiser and more cognizant of gentility, and especially emotional gentility. I think those conversations are starting to happen. And I think the desire is there, which is a huge part.
“We’re not talking about it, not because of a place of shame, but because we don’t know how to start.”
Anne Hathaway continued:
“Every single person I’ve talked to has said that they know someone with bipolar disorder. And this episode is going to mean so much because it offers some form of representation.”
Jameela Jamil Bravely Shares Story Of Her Attempted Suicide For World Mental Health Day
“Things can turn around. I promise.”
Mental health is never an easy topic to broach. It affects all of us in one way or another. It’s scary. It’s difficult. And it still carries an ugly stigma that should be long gone.
But talk about it is exactly what we should be doing. And
days like World Mental Health Day (October 10th) are an incredible way
to encourage positive discussions that can truly change lives.
With that said, however, it can still be terrifying to open up about mental illness. This is why it makes such a difference when public figures step forward and share brave stories with their audiences. Seeing healthy representations of mental health management can make a world of difference to someone who’s struggling.
Actor and activist Jameela Jamil knows this. And, being the
admirable woman she is, Jamil chose to share an incredibly intimate story in
the name of mental health today.
The Good Place star, who also runs a body-positive Instagram account @iweigh, took to social media to share the story of her own suicide attempt and in the process, highlighted the incredible power of treatment.
“Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay,” she wrote.
“This month, 6 years ago, I tried to take my own life. I’m so lucky that I survived, and went on to use EMDR to treat my severe PTSD. I urge you to hang on just a bit longer and ask for help if you need it. Because things can turn around. I promise.”
In her Instagram post, she went on to share useful resources
and examples of positive accounts that people living with mental illness can
refer to for guidance.
“Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to access affordable therapy. But if you can’t, in the mean time, there are helplines ( @crisistextline@giveusashoutinsta ) and community groups online around the world and friends and family who might surprise you as to how supportive they can be,” she wrote.
“It’s not something you have to tolerate on your own. You have nothing to hide or be ashamed of. I feel you. I’ve been there. And it’s a process of radical self forgiveness, patience and care that will help you out. It feels like the pain, nightmares and exhaustion will never end sometimes, but they can. And they will.”
It’s incredibly moving to see Jamil share her journey in the name of other people’s health, and unsurprisingly, the post was met with a wave of gratitude and support. Here’s hoping we can all take a lesson from her bravery and become a little more open about the need to talk about mental health.
There’s A Problem With The Way Films Depict Mental Illness In Women
Let's talk about the difference between Harley Quinn and the Joker, shall we?
When you think about Comic-Con, images of superheroes, fantasy film series and video games tend to come to mind. And while that is certainly what sits at the heart of the event, there’s actually a lot more depth to it than you might assume.
New York’s 2019 Comic-Con has held a number of panels discussing
social issues and how the industry treats them within popular productions. One
such topic is mental health and the manner in which it’s depicted within the
world of sci-fi and fantasy (SFF).
For the panel ‘Putting It All Out There: SFF and Mental Health’, writers Shaun Hamill, Lauren Shippen and Stephen Graham Jones spoke with Assistant Editor of The Mary Sue, Princess Weekes, about the treatment of mental health within the genre. In the process, they highlighted an important point.
“The depictions of women with mental illness to me is always interesting because there’s this element of hyper-sexualisation with it,” Weekes started.
“…thinking of like, Basic Instinct, and thinking of even the idea that you have to ‘save a woman by killing her’ – rest in peace Daenerys Targaryen…
“how to you think that, or what would you think that gender plays into depictions of mental illness?”
The panel went on to discuss the all too common conflation of beauty or sex with mental illness for female characters, and the (fairly obvious) problems with that as a trend. If you look at examples like the Bunny Boiler, Harley Quinn (holding out for Birds of Prey) and Nina of Black Swan, they’re each connected with a prominent sexual theme. And the story doesn’t end too well for many of them…
Cases like Daenerys Targaryen and Dr Jean Grey (X-Men The Last Stand) differ slightly, but they remain beautiful women whose mental health stories are linked to their romantic interests. Both of these characters lose control, forcing the men they love to ‘save’ them from themselves.
Comparatively, men are more likely to be shown to be dark, tormented souls like, say, the Joker. He is not an alluring puzzle to be figured out… just a violent monster. Depictions of mental illness being synonymous with violence have traditionally been another problematic reoccurrence in the SFF world, I should point out. But that’s another discussion.
While this isn’t every film, and there are exceptions in Hollywood’s illustration of mental illness, it is clear that historically, certain tropes regularly pop up.
Responding to Weekes’ comments at Comic-Con, Hamill added:
“I have seen the irresponsible depiction, Harley Quinn of course being the most iconic one for most of us in this room, probably. And you still see it – the Manic Pixie Dream Girl; I feel like that trope is tied up in there, as well.”
“…I don’t know if anybody remembers the TV show Six Feet Under, where there’s the brother and sister. …They’re both mentally ill but Brenda is this incredible sex pot and Billy is allowed to be this play for laughs… or joke, walking around the house in this Christmas sweater crying. Really ugly crying. And she doesn’t really get to do that. When she starts to break it’s sexy; she starts giving hand jobs to clients, or whatever… hopefully we’re moving away from that.”
He pointed out that truthful writing is the best way forward from here:
“Let it be ugly, let it be drab. Let it really feel like what it feels like. Let it weigh.”
Graham Jones added that he’d “be interested in a statistical analysis of whether men or women writers do this more often of rendering women with mental health issues…”.
“If it is more men, which I suspect is the case… then I guess it’s one of two things,” he continued.
“…the Pygmalion thing where, ‘this woman is clay, I can mould her into something useful.’ Or how do I make this woman interesting? They know that they shouldn’t have her raped, which is like, the go-to thing in fiction. And so, they give her a mental health issue. ”
In any case, while Hollywood’s relationship with mental health is far from perfect, it is improving. And discussions like this one at Comic-Con’s mental health panel are a great way to push forward.
If you are experiencing depression or anxiety, it’s always a good time to seek some support. beyondblue can offer you personalised support.