I’ve been thinking about this post for a while. There is a show on FX called Legion. The main character, David, is diagnosed with schizophrenia and lives in a mental hospital and has unusual delusions and paranoia (normal symptoms of schizophrenia). Except maybe that’s a dream and he has special powers that haven’t been harnessed. He even visits the astral plane of existence. But then we return in the next episode to discover that all of those people who talked of his special abilities are also hospital patients.
So is he schizophrenic, or does he have special powers, and the hospital is a dream or projection? That seems to be the central question of the series.
My question is about the portrayal of mental illness and mental hospitals in this series. Is it sympathetic, and does it help people understand illness and hospital life better? Or does it drop to society’s most basic fears of mental illness and being “locked up in the looney bin”?
The show hasn’t answered its own question yet about whether David is schizophrenic. But if he is, he is having the grandiose delusions and paranoia typical of schizophrenia. And the hospital is the right place to keep him safe from living out his delusions in a way that could hurt himself or others. And the show is honoring the role of hospitals and the reality of living with mental illness.
If, however, he has special powers, perhaps his mind is retreating into mental illness and a mental hospital to keep himself safe from his powers. Does that mean the series is portraying mental illness and mental hospitals as a place for weakness and hiding from reality?
That is my fear, as a mental illness/health advocate.