Academic department under which the project should be listed

RCHSS - English

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Faculty Sponsor Name

Anna Weinstein

Abstract (300 words maximum)

This study will examine the ways in which mental conditions are portrayed in screenplays. Specifically, I will focus on Primal Fear (1996), Psycho (1960), and Fatal Attraction (1987). With each of these films, mental illness is portrayed incorrectly and dangerously. In Psycho, Norman Bates is seen as having dissociative identity disorder and violently murders Marian, however, people that have dissociative identity disorder don’t have a persona that becomes “aware” of the other personality, and they are not characterized by extreme violent rages. Fatal Attraction shows audiences that people with bipolar disorder are violently unstable. Primal Fear perpetuates the concept that anyone with a mental illness is a monster, that they have control over their symptoms, and can turn them on and off to manipulate everyone around them. Watching these movies can give audiences the wrong impressions about mental conditions and make people believe that anyone with one is violent and incredibly unstable. The screenwriters clearly want to use mental conditions as a way to create drama and thus end up sensationalizing mental illnesses making it more difficult for those with mental illnesses to not be labeled ‘crazy.’

Disciplines

Screenwriting

Project Type

Oral Presentation (15-min time slots)

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An Analysis of Portrayals of Mental Conditions in Screenplays

This study will examine the ways in which mental conditions are portrayed in screenplays. Specifically, I will focus on Primal Fear (1996), Psycho (1960), and Fatal Attraction (1987). With each of these films, mental illness is portrayed incorrectly and dangerously. In Psycho, Norman Bates is seen as having dissociative identity disorder and violently murders Marian, however, people that have dissociative identity disorder don’t have a persona that becomes “aware” of the other personality, and they are not characterized by extreme violent rages. Fatal Attraction shows audiences that people with bipolar disorder are violently unstable. Primal Fear perpetuates the concept that anyone with a mental illness is a monster, that they have control over their symptoms, and can turn them on and off to manipulate everyone around them. Watching these movies can give audiences the wrong impressions about mental conditions and make people believe that anyone with one is violent and incredibly unstable. The screenwriters clearly want to use mental conditions as a way to create drama and thus end up sensationalizing mental illnesses making it more difficult for those with mental illnesses to not be labeled ‘crazy.’

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