Friday, January 27, 2012

Multiple Personality Disorder In The Movies

*may contain spoilers*

'United States of Tara', 'Fight Club, Me, Myself & Irene', 'Sybil', 'Frankie and Alice*', 'The Ward', 'Primal Fear', 'Psycho' (to a degree**), 'Three Faces of Eve', 'Secret Window', 'Raising Cain, Becker', 'Heros'. All these have something in common. They are films (and some television programs) that portray, or in one episode of more, Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder. There are indeed more to list, ones we have never even heard of let alone watched, but we've chosen some that we've at least heard of to list here.

We get questions from followers on Twitter about some of the films/programs that have characters with DID/MPD, primarily United States of Tara. We know they ask because they want to know what it's like to live with it or what it looks like on the outside, and if the portrayal is accurate. Of the list provided we have only seen five of them (the ones in bold). We didn't hear about 'United States of Tara' until after we had met Marisa (of @IAmTheCrew) on Twitter this past Spring (2011). Given our experiences (complete breakdowns after a couple entries) with reading bits of the couple of blogs of people we believe have the same disorder we have, including Marisa's old one (which she still maintains at:, and watching 'The Ward', we don't think it's a good idea to watch 'United States of Tara'...yet. Marisa would agree; and actually, if you want a perspective on the show from a [mostly] recovered Multiple check out her recent blog entries: [look for her January 24th & 25th entries to start] she has written a couple entries about her opinion on the show.

As far as the films we
have seen?

We've seen '
Fight Club' countless times, though had never put together that he was dealing with multiple personalities. Strange, we know. Once we realized it this last year we felt pretty dumb. We love the movie though, always have. Maybe because of the way it was portrayed, and our own experiences, we didn't really put it together. Or maybe we were protecting ourselves (not uncommon for mental blocks like that). Yes, having out of body experiences is not uncommon for people with DID/MPD, but it's not quite the same as what we saw in the film. Not sure how to put our finger on it really.

Me, Myself and Irene', not one of Jim Carrey's best films, also it wasn't very realistic, obviously, being a comedy and all. It's just a silly movie, not trying to be serious at all. We've only seen it a couple of times, it's not on our list of top films starring Carrey in the very least.

The Ward', we wrote a review on that one the night we watched it, a few months ago. Let's just say the film got us emotionally charged, and while it was a great horror film, well...we had personal issues with it.

Primal Fear' (Warning: this portion contains a spoiler) is a brilliant film starring Edward Norton, who is an amazing actor. Norton's character achieved the best portrayal of the disorder we have ever seen in film (as far as a "switch" can sometimes go), unfortunate since it turned out in the end that his character was faking, but it is stands as a testament to his amazing acting ability.

Psycho**', was a strange one we found in a list, and we didn't really get the DID/MPD link without a prompt from Wikipedia touching on Norman Bates' dissociation and internalization of the character of his mother. A little odd, but not completely out of the ball park - as far as the dissociation goes, not necessarily the violent psychopathic personality of Norman's character. Psychopathy is a separate disorder of it's own.

The thing we liked best about 'The Ward' was that it broke the stereotypical portray of the disorder as two sides of a coin, one good/one evil, or one side prudish/one side whorish, or one shy/one outgoing, the stereotype that DID, for a lack of a better word, is expressed in polar opposites. That's not necessarily how Dissocitive Disorder expresses itself. Each personality is it's own entity, able to express a wide array of emotions, sometimes contradicting, with their own memory and memory patterns.

For instance, with us when it comes to emotional traits (putting aside all the other various traits), Cassandra is more prone to sadness, this does not mean she is always sad, or "down"; Frank is more serious, but that does not mean she is not sometimes light hearted or funny; Catherine is more paranoid than the rest, but that does not mean she is always scared, or distrusts everybody; Each of us are our own person, with fully developed personalities and identities. It is similar with many people who have DID/MPD. The only one of our "others" that is more or less a fragment, not completely developed, is Emmie - mostly because she is never given much chance to fulfill her potential, last time James (The Boyfriend) spent time with her he told her he wanted to get to know her more, and her only response had been "What's to know?" and she shrugged it off, nobody has ever really been interested in her, except for sex; James had started to help her before we left to move in with The Mother the end of last year, but she's disappeared for awhile. We could go on of what we know of the other of our et al, but this blog entry is not the place.  

From the few films we have seen and synopsis of films regarding the portrayal of Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder, they seem to be stuck in the flipping of a coin version, when in reality it's a bag full of coins, all with their own characteristics. What they portray in films seems to be more of a portrayal of most normal people, but an exaggeration, one way or another. |For example, you have your work self, and your home self, and perhaps your social self, all of them are slightly different but at the core you have the same belief system, the same morals, the same level of learning, the same level of knowledge, the same memories - which is not the case with advanced dissociative disorders. Your alter ego may be a slut, but "she" and "you" likely share the same views/memories/feelings, you just hide that small part of you when necessary, and can control it (hopefully).

Our biggest gripe in film, at the end of the day, is that they don't manage to
 portray the mentally ill in a positive light (from all the films we've seen*) - the woman who drowned her children/kills her husband always has manic depression/bipolar disorder ('Shutter Island', for example), the killer who is nice part of the time is always a maniac, with multiple personality disorder/dissociative identity disorders, or some mood disorder that they feel compelled to mention in the film, as if it lends clarity and meaning to the mindless acts...there are countless examples. People don't need to be "mentally ill" to be angry, bad, violent people, though some may argue that in itself qualifies some sort of mental illness, we think it qualifies being human. Everyone is different (that doesn't make hurting others okay though, some of us would argue).

So, DID/MPD in the movies, our view.

We won't get into books, mostly because, to my knowledge, we've never read a single one that dealt with the subject of 
multiple personaluty disorder. James has been reading a couple, but he finds them really hard to get through (emotionally, and also because the writing is sometimes not the best).

~ et al

*it was humorous to us (and pissed at least one of us off) that there was a movie about a woman who had DID and her name was Frankie in it (
Frankie & Alice), and it was. We didn't read the synopsis until today, but the film is apparently based on a true story. We will surely be watching this film in the future. If anyone reading our blog has seen this, or any of the other more serious films/programs, please comment with your opinion in the section below, we would love to hear what people think about the films. Prepare us -please no spoilers.

Notable links on this blog about symptoms of DID/MPD:
'Personality Vs. Dissociative Disorders
'The "D" in Dissociation there is shit tons to read on here...


  1. I watched a wonderful film last night called Peacock and the main character definitely has a divided personality, although I'm not sure exactly what disorder he may have. It is certainly an interesting film, subtle and beautiful to watch, but due to the dark nature of the story I wouldn't say the characters (or the disorder) is cast in a positive light. Cillian Murphy plays the lead, a young man who has obviously been abused and has not come out unscathed. The acting is authentic and moving, and the story is not formulaic or predictable. I would definitely recommend it, I'd love to hear what you think of it!

  2. I heard about Frankie & Alice when HB started filming it then never heard another word. Sadly, it's not available on Netflix. I may not see it otherwise.

    John Cusack did a movie called "Identity" that was a vast departure from most film fare on DID... but like most others, it portrayed the person as, in some way, a criminal killer type. A stereotype that pisses me off to no end. So sick of that version of the story, especially when it is the least true.

    Also, the portrayal of the angel/demon archetypes reinforces the confusion between DID and Schizophrenia, since most people still see the latter as being split personality (since that's the latin base for the damn word).

    Thanks for the shout-out and feel welcome to send any questions you'd rather not answer my way. I need the reason to keep writing. ;-)