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Kershner 1 Isaac Kershner Film and Culture Professor Jensen 1st of May 2014 Mental Disabilities and Silver

Linings Playbook For centuries before the creation of cinema, people with congenital impairments and/or other physical or mental abnormalities were sometimes exhibited as curiosities in a traveling circus side shows or freak shows where normal people were invited to laugh, jeer, pity, or otherwise be entertained (Benshoff & Griffin 363). Thankfully society has come a long way from gaining entertainment from others disabilities. With the aid of science and medicine, society is beginning to understand physical and mental illnesses as well as knowing how to help those who are disabled feel accepted and needed in society. Although society for the most part no longer seeks entertainment from viewing freak shows there is still a large amount of curiosity and desire to know about and understand the many different disabilities that humanity faces. There is a yearning in society to know how to show sympathy, understanding and compassion to those who struggle with mental and physical disabilities. Also many people who have disabilities themselves, or know someone close to them who have disabilities, find comfort in knowing that there are others in society that can relate to their situation. Comfort is found in knowing that you are not alone and learning that others have been able to overcome similar obstacles in their own lives. Through film all of these things can be accomplished. In the film, Silver Linings Playbook, there are three main characters who struggle with different forms of mental illness. Firstly is Pat Jr., the main character played by Bradley

Kershner 2 Cooper. Pat Jr. suffers from bipolar disorder, which can cause unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the inability to carry out some day-to-day tasks (Bipolar). Secondly is Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence. Tiffany suffers from chronic depression exacerbated by the death of her husband. Symptoms of severe depression interfere with the ability to work, sleep, study, eat, have normal relations with others, and enjoy life (Depression). Last is Pat Sr. played by Robert De Niro, he suffers with acute obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) including strong superstitions and pathological gambling. Those who have OCD have certain thoughts, routines, and rituals that they must complete again and again. These thoughts and rituals associated with OCD cause distress and get in the way of daily life (Obsessive). In the beginning of the film all three characters, Pat Sr., Pat Jr., and Tiffany, strongly show symptoms of their disorders. They all are very aware of them and are trying to change and overcome them, especially Pat Jr. and Tiffany. In the first scene, where Pat Jr. and Tiffany meet, they begin talking to each other about their experiences with their many different medications and the consequential side effects. They both had similar side effects with their medications. During this scene the audience gains a grasp of how socially awkward the characters are. At the same time both characters begin to realize the comfort that comes in finding someone who can relate to their own situation. As the film progresses the audience begins to gain sympathy for the characters dealing with these forms of mental illness, especially for Pat Jr. and Tiffany. In film terminology, these characters could be referred to as, Sweet Innocents. These are characters constructed as undeserving of such hardships, inviting the audience to feel pity for their plight, and to hope for a cure to their conditions (Benshoff & Griffin 368). Pat Jr. and Tiffanys illnesses are of no fault of their own. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older, about one in four adults,

Kershner 3 suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year (Numbers). Many people would consider Pat Jr.s assault on the man his wife was having an affair with to be justified and the punishment of being sentenced to a mental health hospital for eight months to be rather extreme. Nevertheless, through their trials Pat Jr. and Tiffany found a friendship with each other due to them both feeling like an outcast in society. They can both relate to one another and understand each others circumstances. Although there is a great feeling of hope for them as they become friends, there are also feelings that they may be too socially awkward together to be able to fit into society. Pat Jr. and Tiffany make a deal to help each other obtain the things they each want. Pat Jr. up to this point in the film has been trying to get a letter to his wife but due to the restraining order she has against him, he has been unsuccessful in doing so. Tiffany is willing to break the law and give Pat Jr.s letter to his wife under one condition, if he joins Tiffany as her partner in a local couples dance competition. Pat Jr. is very hesitant but his desperateness to get a letter to his wife prevails. Over the following months they spend almost everyday together practicing for the competition. As this continues, it appears as though the symptoms of their mental illnesses begin to subside. At the end of the film, right after they performed in the dance competition, they both realize they had fallen in love with each other. The whole audience feels joy seeing these two characters in love and through finding this love in their lives it appears as though they have over come their mental disabilities. Could this be possible? Can people over come mental illnesses by being in love? Dr. Steven Schlozman, MD, from the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School states, "Falling in love is an absolutely awesome, wonderful thing, but it's not going to cure bipolar disorder any more than it's going to cure diabetes. The flip side of that is ...

Kershner 4 that people with psychiatric illnesses, horrible depression, bipolar disorder, even schizophrenia, they do better when they are in love" (Silver Linings). Dr. Schlozmans statement implies that Pat Jr. and Tiffanys love story could have actually reduced the symptoms of their mental illnesses. Not everyone with mental illness has the luxury or opportunity to fall in love. This however does not mean that they are out of the reach of the healing powers of love. There is nothing that can compare to the feeling of being loved by those around us. Those who suffer with mental illness may unintentionally distance themselves from others, or like Pat Jr. and Tiffany, simply struggle with knowing what socially appropriate behavior is. Being cut out of society can be very damaging and discouraging; it can become a downward spiral. The further away from society they become, the more socially awkward they can be and in return, the more socially awkward they are, the further from society they are pushed. The further from society they become, the harder it is for them to feel the love of others and also have a feeling of acceptance and of being needed in the community. Their situation can be compared to many elderly people in communities today. Many elderly people struggle with feeling that they cant contribute to society anymore. They may feel like a burden on society and lose meaning in their lives. Those with mental illness feel the same way. They want to feel love and acceptance, be able to contribute to society, and not be a burden on others. With the help of science and medicine, we are able to better understand mental illness. Through film we are able to gain sympathy and compassion for those that have it and with love we are able to help them heal and overcome their illnesses.

Kershner 5 Works Cited Benshoff, Harry M., and Sean Griffin. America on film: representing race, class, gender, and sexuality at the movies. 2nd ed. Malden, MA, USA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Print. "Bipolar Disorder." NIMH RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2014. <>. "Depression." NIMH RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2014. < orgutm_medium=Twitter>. "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD." NIMH RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2014. <>. "'Silver Linings Playbook' OK on Mental Illness?" WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2014. <>. "The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America." NIMH RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2014. <>.