Is ‘Split’ Stigmatising?


Last night I witnessed M. Night Shyamalan’s newest creation; ‘Split’. I am familiar with his work and understand his fascination with all things creepy. However, nothing and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for the psychological spectacle that is ‘Split’.

For those of you that aren’t aware, the film depicts a middle-aged man named Kevin living with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). In result, his mind houses 23 known personalities. These personalities come to conflict when a few of them decide to kidnap three young woman for a sinister purpose. 

Despite Shyamalan’s masterful use of film techniques and narrative, not everyone is pleased. Here is an appetiser of the current backlash on display; ‘It’s stigmatising’: Doctor slams film ‘Split’ for multiple personality disorder portrayal, How the New M. Night Shyamalan Movie Hurts People With Dissociative Identity Disorder and SANE Australia slams Split movie.

These articles proclaim that ‘Split’ is stigmatising. Australian doctor Cathy Kezelman states that “It stigmatises people with mental health conditions such as this one, as dangerous.” I fully understand this point of view. Mental health is not often portrayed in the box office but when it is, it’s extreme. This film is no exception to that statement. Shyamalan took a complex mental disorder and demonised it. As the story progressed, the man with dissociative identity disorder literally became inhuman. Does this make the generalisation that all people struggling with mental health issues are inhuman?

I don’t think so. What I do think is that our society is now very sensitive and therefore offended by everything. As someone who has dealt with eating disorders and depression, I was not offended by this film… I was riveted.

There was only one woman who believed Kevin’s dissociative identity disorder. She spent all of her time trying to convince the rest of the world but in the end, very few believed her. My question is, how can we as a society help those with mental disorders if the majority of us don’t even believe they are real? That is what this film was trying to teach. Kevin became a monster because the world saw him as a monster and not as a man with a genuine illness.

I therefore take my hat off to M. Night Shyamalan because I can see what he was trying to do. Unfortunately for him, the world is too politically correct nowadays and thus his film will go down in history as a step-back for mental health. It’s a shame though. I truly believe that ‘Split’ is one of the most progressive displays of mental health in mainstream media.

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