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// At Waterville, MA

Boycott 'The Forest': Another Shameful Portrayal Of Mental Illness From Hollywood

Hollywood neglects proper portrayal of mental illness for the big bucks.

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In recent months, many new movies have come out that made 2016 seem like a promising year for films; Spike Lee's Chiraq, George Lucas' Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ride Along 2, and so on. Time has passed since I last decided that it was appropriate to boycott a film. That film was Fifty Shades of Grey, a film that I felt depicted unhealthy relationships and downplayed BDSM relationships by not properly depicting them. By boycotting these sorts of films, people are able to raise awareness on issues on how Hollywood is inaccurately portraying images to the people. The same thing can be said about Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett-Smith boycotting the Oscars. Hollywood is a capitalist system that has become more interested in making the most amount of money possible rather than truly sending a message to their viewers and having accurate depictions of people.

This leads me into the main point: The Forest is a film directed by Jason Zada and was released on January 8th, 2016. The plot of the film revolves around a girl named Jess, who receives a phone call from Japanese police saying that they believe her sister is dead. The film is mostly set in and around the Aokigahara forest in Japan, where police believe that Jess' sister was seen walking into. The Aokigahara forest is notorious for being a place where people in Japan go to commit suicide.The Aokigahara is a real place, not one that was made up for the sake of this movie.

In Japan, suicide and mental illness is a national crisis and has been for some years. It is estimated that around 70 people commit suicide every day in Japan, that is more than 25,000 people a year. Suicide is also the leading cause of death for men ages 20-44 years old, taking up nearly seventy-one percent of suicides occurring in Japan. Depression is triggered in people of Japan due to financial pressures and pressures from the government. With the knowledge that the Aokigahara forest is a real place in a place that has a real suicide problem, we can begin to see why The Forest is a problematic film. This film, by being made into a horror film, romanticizes and trivializes suicide, death, and the Aokigahara forest.

The facts given above are statistics taken in 2014, meaning that depression and suicide are still an epidemic that is plaguing Japan to this day, suicide is truly a national crisis. With such real circumstances, I find it offensive for this film to be using victims of suicide as props for their scare tactics to benefit the desire for entertainment by the viewers of this film. I do not and will not accept this mockery of the negative stigma surrounding mental illness both in Japan and around the world. Given the opportunity to address the incredibly pressing issue at hand, Zada chooses not to do so and thus creates a film that fantasizes the struggles of millions of people. When you have the opportunity to change people's views on certain issues or to raise awareness, the expectation is that you will do so, but Zada does not.

All over the world, suicide is an increasing problem and each day millions of people are struggling with mental illness and it is something that needs to be taken very seriously. The issue is already not fully understood by a lot of people so why make it seem like it's less than it really is by making it into a horror film? Every single day, people, including myself, are affected by depression and other mental illnesses. In 2009, I lost my father to his struggles with depression and to see his struggles and his battles being downplayed in such a fashion is disgusting—absolutely disgusting.

We have a responsibility to not promote the capitalistic structure of Hollywood and to support and advocate for our brothers and sisters around the world who are struggling with mental illness. We have a responsibility to advocate for those who have struggled with mental illness and cannot speak for themselves. We have a responsibility to advocate for those who have become victim to the Aokigahara forest and to tell the truth about Japan and the forest itself. Films like these do not deserve our money. I think that horror movies are great, but I will not stand for something that has affected me and millions of others to be fantasized in such a way that degrades and dehumanizes the struggles of the people who are affected, thus I shall boycott The Forest and other films like it.

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