Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Psychiatrist and the Screenplay

For the Writers Guild of America West, Denis Faye talks to Dr. Glen Gabbard, author of Psychology Of The Sopranos and Psychiatry And The Cinema.
What’s the biggest mistake screenwriters make when representing psychiatric disorders?

I’m hesitant to call it a mistake because they have a different set of values than I do as a psychiatrist, but I think it’s to sensationalize the disorder in such a way that showbiz counts more than accuracy. Now, I can empathize with their point of view. I’ve had many conversations with screenwriters and directors about this. They’re trying to entertain people, and they have no obligation to portray any profession or any disorder accurately. That’s the comeback that I’ve heard, but my retort would be that the stigma of mental illness is only exacerbated by media portrayals that associate mental illness with being a “homicidal maniacs” or a “psychotic killer.”

Similarly, the psychiatrist is often portrayed as a buffoon or an evil cannibal, like Hannibal Lecter. So it’s not just the disorders that are mis-portrayed, but also the treaters of those disorders.

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