How Animation Is Starting A New Conversation On Mental Illness

How Animation Is Starting A New Conversation On Mental Illness

565
views

Depression. Despite being a ubiquitously glib term used for "sad people" all around the world, few have a firm idea of what it truly means to be depressed. In order to clarify an often misunderstood condition, creative innovators have turned to animation to show the true reality of living with depression.

When it comes to portraying depression, getting it right can be difficult. After all, "sadness" and "depression" are often treated as synonymous terms. Typically, when depression is shown in television, and film, it is treated as brief sadness, an extension of a catalytic moment in a character's life, which is then "fixed" at some point. Think the Grinch after his heart grew three sizes; or the depressed are shown as eternally dour individual like Eeyore. These two common portrayals of depression fail to take into account the true breadth of the condition, that without proper treatment is difficult to live with and recover from, and create a mentality amongst people that view such glib portrayals of depression that the condition is a "mental state" rather than an illness. Fortunately, there are writers -- like Dan Harmon, Justin Roiland, and Raphael Bob-Waksberg -- who have been able to recently portray and demonstrate grounded, realistic, takes on depression, albeit in surrealistic animated television.

The premise of Raphael Bob-Waksberg's Netflix series, BoJack Horseman, is ridiculous in nature. The series follows an anthropomorphic horse, BoJack Horseman, who happens to suffer from depression. The world that BoJack inhabits is equally implausible, populated by humans and humanized animals. At a cursory level, it seems unlikely that a show that features a talking dog named Mr. Peanutbutter, a fictionalized Los Angeles where the 'D' from the Hollywood sign has been stolen (resulting in everyone referring to the town as "Hollywoo") and a still-living J.D. Salinger creating a Hollywood game show entitled Hollywoo Stars: What Do They Know?: Do They Know Things?: Let’s Find Out! would provide an appropriate outlet for discussing the nuances of the nature of depression. However, it is revealed through the absurdity of the setting of BoJack Horseman, the relatability and humanity of the titular character.

Much like a phoenix who rises from the ashes, throughout the two seasons of the show, BoJack Horseman (voiced by Will Arnett), a drunken misanthropic former sitcom star, puts his life back together. By the second season of the show, BoJack has everything that he has ever wanted, a girlfriend, respect, and a starring role in his dream movie, and yet still is not happy -- as evidenced in this exchange between Mr. Peanutbutter and BoJack Horseman:

As Bob-Waksberg is showing, BoJack is incapable of magically feeling cured of depression, he is stuck in a cycle of misery that no amount of success will spontaneously whisk away. The only constant in the life of BoJack Horseman is depression, and without the necessary treatment, BoJack, regardless of success, failure, triumph, or misery, will remain in a state of depression.

In a very similar vein to BoJack Horseman is the eponymous character in Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland's Rick and Morty. Rick Sanchez is a brilliant super-scientist capable of accomplishing his every goal and desire. With little apparent effort, Rick can construct devices that allow him to transcend time and space, shift dimensions, and travel throughout the universe. However, the problem is that Rick has no real desire, other than drinking to try and avoid his demons. Rick is a textbook alcoholic, and clearly suffers from depression (in fact, Rick's signature whimsical catchphrase is literally a thinly veiled cry for help).

In the most recent episode of Rick and Morty (*Spoilers*), "Autoerotic Assimilation," Rick reunites with his former girlfriend, Unity - a sentient HIVE-mind capable of enslaving entire worlds. At first the idea of being able to re-engage with a former fling gives Rick hope, but as the episode progresses, it becomes clear that Rick's self-destructive tendencies will drive Unity away. After she ultimately leaves Rick, it becomes apparent to Rick that there is no "one thing" that will ever give him the happiness that he craves. Despite the fact that Rick posses the ability to flee into a different dimension, if he wanted to escape the consequences of his mistakes, he in unable to for the sole reason that the Universe may change, but Rick Sanchez will remain the same destructive, depressed individual. With the God-like ability to shift the world around him, Rick cannot make himself happy.


Both of these surreal comedies are perfect allegories for what it is like for the average person living with depression. Depressed people cannot will themselves out of depression, it is a demon that continually tears into their mind as they live each and every day. Depression cannot be cured through success, or love, or some intangible idea. The cure for depression is treatment, because depression is not a state of mind, it is an illness. It is thanks to the writers on these major television shows, that the viewing public may gain a different perspective of what it means to be depressed.

Cover Image Credit: The Independent

Popular Right Now

To the guy that shot my brother...

7147
views

To the guy that shot my brother,

On January 9, 2019 my families entire life changed with one phone call. The phone call that my little brother had been shot in the face, no other details. We didn't need any other details. The woman on the phone who called us in full panic told us where he was so we went, as soon as possible. I don't think it helped that not even 10 min prior I talked to Zach on the phone.. kind of irritated with him, and the ONE TIME I didn't say 'I love you' as we hung up. Could've been the last time we ever spoke.. I remember pulling up to the hospital thinking 'this can't be real' 'it's not our Zach' 'this is just a dream Sarah, WAKE UP' I'd close my eyes really tight just to open them, I was still in the hospital emergency parking lot. I could still hear the ambulance sirens coming. It was all real.

The day our life's changed was definitely a test of faith. A test of how strong we were, as a family. I sat in that waiting room ready to see the damage that has been done to my sweet baby brother. Because at that point we had no idea how lucky he got. That glimpse of seeing Zach will haunt me forever. How helpless I felt in that exact moment frequently wakes me up from these horrific dreams I've been having ever since that day. That is a moment burned into my me and families brain forever.

You always hear about these things in the movies or on the news, a house being shot up, someone shooting another innocent person, not to care if they died on your watch. But we found ourselves on the news.. We have been confined to the hospital since that day. Running on barely any sleep, taking shifts of sleep so we don't make ourselves sick taking care of Zach. Watching him suffer. Undergoing surgeries, to repair the damage you did.

Before I proceed let me tell you a little something about the man you shot.

Zachary Keith Wright. A blonde hair blue eyed boy. Who could potentially be the most annoying human on the planet (possibly coming from his sister). A man who loves his God first, loves his family second. Perfect by no means, but almost perfect to me. A 19 year old who was to graduate high school this month. After graduation he was prepping to leave for Marine boot camp in the summer.. being in the military has been Zach's dream since he could talk. Literally. Running around, playing war with underwear on our heads, and finger guns. Some would say we looked like natural born assassins.. growing up he has been a country boy. Let me tell ya country to the core. He loves this country like he loves his family. He believes in helping people, taking charge in what's right, and never leaving a brother behind. He's lived by that his whole life. Until now....

The day you shot him. The day not only did you change my brothers life, you changed his families life too. The day you almost ripped my brother out of this world... for what? A misunderstanding? Because you've let something take ahold of your life that you can't let go you're willing to kill someone innocent over? Luckily for him, his guardian angels were protecting him in your time of cowardice. There were 3 times that day he should've died, the time you shot him, the time you tried to shoot him again as he stared you directly in the face, (even tho he couldn't talk I know you could read his eyes, and he still intimidated you. That's why you tried to pull the trigger again) and the time he was running out of the house. But he lived. A man who was shot in the face, didn't lay there helpless, didn't scream in agony. That MAN walked to the neighbors to get help. Why? Because he's a MAN, and because he's on this earth for a reason.

It's gonna sound a little strange not only to you, but the audience who is reading this. I must say thank you. Even in this situation, this was the best outcome we could get. He gets to live. He will make a full recovery. He will graduate. And he will go off into the Marines. You united my family together. Closer than ever. Thank you. You tested our faith and brought us closer to our God. Thank you. Because of your moment of weakness, you showed us what prayer could do. Heal anything. Thank you. This was a bump in the road, and a helluva way to kick off our year of 2019. But here we are.. all laying in the hospital. I'm looking around as mom is sleeping in her recliner chair exhasted but still here, Zach his awake playing his xbox all hooked up to machines, fighting to heal and get better. And of course I'm writing this letter to you.

See you in trial,

From the girl whose brother you shot.

'Fight the good fight' - 1 Tim 6:12 🤟🏼💙

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating
Facebook Comments