Romanticizing Mental Illness: A Review of Perception
- Tuesday, August 07, 2012
Our protagonist sees people who aren't there, except in his dysfunctional brain's imagination. One of Lewicki's jobs is to tell Daniel if he's hallucinating--again. But the phantom caller keeps returning and engaging Pierce in a discussion of the case and we soon realize that his subconscious mind is creating these apparitions as a means of solving the case and which disappear when the mystery is solved.
This would be a neat wrinkle for a new show except that it perpetuates dangerous myths about mental illness. Borrowing from Ron Howard's dramatic device in A Beautiful Mind of having Russell Crowe's character, the real-life Nobel Prize winner John Nash see imaginary people rather than what he actually experienced, hearing voices, it grossly misrepresents the horrible symptoms that plague real life schizophrenics. Five minutes of reading from any number of sites, like this one, demonstrates that most who experience symptoms are more likely to hear voices rather than see people who give them useful information deduced by their subconscious.
Yes, there are also hallucinations, along with delusions, paranoia, and jumbled thoughts, as well as others, making anything like normal functioning nearly impossible for sufferers of this affliction. Pierce's condition of seeing non-existent persons allows the show to dramatically interact with his brilliant mind to figure out the mystery of the week. But real schizophrenia is disabling rather than enabling. Sure, as presented, Pierce is quite sympathetic in his struggles but the show asserts that the cases give his mind a healthy outlet for his inner turmoil. And his friend Natalie? Yes, she's also a figment of his imagination, a neurochemical romance only in his mind.
It seems impossible to see how such a premise can sustain a show without scandalously distorting both the nature of what schizophrenia is and the awful suffering of its victims. All sorts of mental illnesses are already misunderstood by the pubic. This show, out of touch with the reality of real psychosis, will only add to that misperception.
*This Review First Published 8/7/2012
**Watch Perception Mondays on TNT
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