We Spoke To An Insomniac About Why TV And Movies Keep Getting Insomnia Wrong

A question that's been keeping everyone awake at night.

Insomnia is a condition that’s been portrayed countless times in movies and TV shows, the most famous case being Christian Bale losing half his body weight to play an insomniac in The Machinist.

But despite the many depictions of insomnia seen on the big and small screen over the years, it’s never quite right. In fact, some portrayals of the condition just look and feel plain wrong.

Since this was keeping me up at night (metaphorically) I decided to chat to my housemate who is an actual insomniac, Will, about the condition, how it comes about, and why films and TV shows keep dropping the ball when it comes to fictional depictions of insomnia or other sleep-related conditions.

Straight away, Will debunks the widely-used visual of someone lying in bed at night with bloodshot eyes and staring at the ceiling. “That’s not entirely accurate, you’re more likely to look like you’re asleep than that,” he says.

As for how insomnia manifests itself, Will describes it as his brain being unable to turn itself off despite being exhausted. “It’s usually as simple as your brain fixated on one random topic, like a joke or picture or whatever, and being unable to stop thinking about it for hours,” says Will, “that’s what keeps you awake. It’s all in your head so I need like a movie or show to help me drift off.”

The widely believed thing about not being unable to sleep for long stretches of time – like The Machinist‘s premise of Christian Bale’s character having not slept for a year – is also not strictly inaccurate either.

“That’s just not how it happens, at least for me,” says Will, “you physically have to sleep, it’s just that rather than sleeping for seven or eight hours at a time, I only get one or two.”

“Sometimes I might not sleep for a day but then I end up sleeping for 10 hours because of exhaustion from the previous couple of nights. But then the thought of ‘okay, I’m going to get good sleeps from now on’ after that great 10 hour night will play on my mind and stop me sleeping again. It’s a pretty vicious cycle.”

Will says he occasionally tries to combat his insomnia with sleeping pills, there are side effects, one of which is outright terrifying. During one instance when our house flooded in the middle of the night, Will was the only one who didn’t leave his room to come help clean up. As it turns out, he knew exactly what was going on, he just physically couldn’t move from his bed let alone help mop up.

“Sleeping pills help but they lose their effectiveness over time,” says Will, “and even when they work, I’m still conscious of what’s happening around me, I just can’t physically move my body.”

“When I wake up, I sometimes wonder whether everything I heard was a dream or whether it all actually happened in real life and that plays with your head, which sort of leads to more nights of not sleeping because you become fixated on that one thing.”

After getting the lowdown on the condition, I asked Will just why films and TV shows keep getting insomnia wrong and his answer was essentially “because it’s just not a very visually interesting condition.”

“If you were to show insomnia accurately, it would just be someone tossing and turning with their eyes closed trying to get to sleep,” laughs Will, “it’s pretty boring so movies and shows need to make it entertaining somehow.”

That’s… fair enough.

When you throw in scientific studies showing that insomnia leads to weight gain rather than the scenes of weight loss we’ve been fed, it means that we’ve been somewhat duped this whole time but it was all in the name of staving off boredom.

If The Machinist had portrayed insomnia realistically, Christian Bale should’ve been rocking his fat Dick Cheney body while trying to get comfortable in bed for eight hours instead of what we ended up seeing.

Towards the end of our chat about insomnia and why The Machinist is bullcrap, Will casually joked that he’s probably not going to sleep that night. When I asked why, he said that just chatting about insomnia to me is enough to get his brain fixated on the topic and thus unable to switch off.

After apologising profusely, he laughed and shrugged it off as something he’s used to the bitter irony of chatting about insomnia only for it to trigger a bout of insomnia.

“The sleepless night will be worth it if you get people reading.”

Today I Learned: Ryan Reynolds Played A White Indian Boy Way Before His Deadpool Fame

Imagine a white teenage Gandhi.

Many Hollywood actors have had to do some pretty dodgy movies or jobs before they “made” it and Ryan Reynolds is no exception. But whereas others did weird ads or dressed in drag, the would-be Deadpool star starred in a 1993 movie where he played a *checks notes* white boy who was raised in India.

Titled Ordinary Magic, the film was based on a novel and is about a young boy who was raised in India by his activist father and is brought up to be an upstanding warrior of social activism.

But when his dad dies, the boy is forced to move in with his aunt in Canada and what ensues is a classic coming-of-age story in which he learns to adjust to his new surroundings and whatnot.

It’s not exactly the easiest film to get a hold of but some generous soul uploaded the entire thing onto YouTube for everyone’s viewing pleasure.

You’d think the filmmakers would’ve cast an experienced film actor for the part but someone in their infinite wisdom thought it was a good idea to cast a 16-year-old newbie named Ryan Reynolds from Canada as a character who is essentially a white teenage Gandhi.

But hey, he must’ve killed his audition because next thing you know we got the future face behind Deadpool making his big film debut as a kid from India.

Now the film isn’t exactly memorable and it barely passes the “watchable” bar but it is fascinating to see a teenage Ryan Reynolds in his first ever film role, mostly because he puts on a horrendously bad Indian accent throughout the whole thing.

There are some interesting elements there you don’t usually see in these kinds of made-for-TV films, such cultural clashes between Ryan’s character and his white classmates and throwing a hunger strike in order to move the plot along, but all in all, Ordinary Magic is just, well, ordinary.

But hey, we all got to start somewhere in our careers and it just so happens that Ryan Reynolds’ journey to being Deadpool involved being a white Indian boy.

The Good Place's Take On Toxic Masculinity And Problematic Men Is Hilariously Spot On

Brent Norwalk is the forking worst.

SPOILERS for The Good Place season 4 so be warned!

The Good Place has tackled a number of tough topics – such as refugees and AI – with its trademark zany philosophical zeal over the course of its run. Now it’s decided to take on a big topic that’s loomed large ever since the MeToo movement started: can problematic men doused in oodles of toxic masculinity become better people?

The basic premise for The Good Place‘s fourth (and final) season revolves around proving that humans can genuinely improve themselves morally via a grand experiment involving four unknowing humans.

One of these test subjects is Brent Norwalk, who is essentially problematic men and toxic masculinity personified. To quote Eleanor, he’s the type of dude who was “born on third base, thinks he invented the game of baseball.”

In a show where there are literal demons, Brent somehow still comes off as the literal worst.

In just two episodes (so far), Brent has shown himself to be an entitled, misogynistic white man who coasted on a wave of nepotism and thinks the sun shines out of his own ash. You know, the sort of dude who would be exposed right away by the MeToo movement.

While there are plenty of laughs to be had at Brent and his toxicity, The Good Place isn’t content and is too good to just poke fun at problematic men. Rather, he is the show’s attempt at answering the difficult question of whether a man who embodies toxic masculinity can redeem himself.

There hasn’t been a clean answer (so far) and The Good Place has used Brent as a moral development test dummy, such as attempting (and failing) to instill self-awareness or shatter his obnoxious self-regard.

But because Brent is a forking ashhole, Eleanor and Michael resorted to direct manipulation in order to get him to perform good deeds, which is nice albeit “saddled with a bad motivation.

This isn’t the end of The Good Place‘s examination into MeToo and problematic men as it’s clear that Brent will play a big part in episodes to come so perhaps there’s an answer coming down the road.

Redemption for problematic men is far more complex in the real world than it is on The Good Place and it’s been a question everyone has been wrestling with when it comes for folks who are trying to mount comebacks after being exposed as scum.

But perhaps when Brent’s journey on The Good Place is over, we’ll have some clearer idea on whether it problematic men can indeed be redeemed and whether this will help us out in the real world. If not, well, at least we had a heap of laughs along the way.

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