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Henry.Weissmann    ORIGINAL GONGSTER

How Someone With Split-personalities Views Movies Like SPLIT

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SPLIT is M. Night Shyamalan's new horror movie about a man with split personalities who is a serial kidnapper. The movie has been receiving rave reviews, and is a return to form for the once disgraced director.

However, the movie isn’t without controversy. The main villain in this movie, like in so many other movies, has a mental illness, and some are saying that it is inappropriate for Hollywood to represent mentally ill people as villains, especially the often leaned on split-personality.

I do not have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), more commonly known as split-personalities, but I do have a friend, Samantha Ranker, who does. So I decided to ask her how she feels about her illness and how Hollywood represents it. I asked her to describe to me how she interacts with her “alters” (the separate personalities), and I was surprised by how different it was, than what is presented to us.

Imagine an orchestra playing Beethoven: There’s the violinist, the trumpets and the flutes. Each play an active role in the music. Up front, the conductor tells each one what to do, and the music plays flawlessly. The listener doesn’t view the performance as multiple instruments, but as one symphony.

Samantha is that conductor. She keeps her alters in balance, using each of them to run her day to day life.

As she described it she has five alters.

“In my system there is: Alice ([i call her] my little, whose nickname is Baby Bat), Danni (my male, big brother type), Danielle (the femme fatale), Olivia (my anxious, mother type), and Primal (a more animalistic primal who doesn't know language).”Samantha directs each of these alters to take control depending on the situation. Alice is the one who likes to come out the most; especially around my husband. Olivia comes out to tend to the household work; Danni comes out when something bothers him; Danielle is held on a tight leash; and Primal only comes out when Alice is extremely frightened (very much a fight-or-flight type response)”

Like a conductor in a symphony, she will use the alters like musical instruments to assist her in the situation.

This does not mean she is always in control.

“I have lost control before, and what happens entirely depends on what that alter is seeking to do. Sometimes it can be benign, others time it can be really not so good -- Danielle is specifically kept on a tight leash because she has zero patience for what she considers stupid and will emotionally manipulate people.”

This is where the movie and TV industry get things wrong. For a large majority of the time, Samantha will have her alters under control. Even when she does lose control, most of the alters are harmless, and in Samantha’s case, the worst thing that happens is emotional manipulation. For those who do have dangerous alters, they are still far more likely to hurt themselves than others.

So what does Samantha think of movies and TV shows that misrepresent DID?

“I haven't seen the movie Split, is it out already? However, I have had a lot of people message me saying 'Hey! Did you know there's a movie coming out about DID?!', and I did watch a trailer. The trailer gave me mixed feelings: on the one hand, I had the cringe-feeling of 'I reallllly hope people remember this is a FICTIONAL movie'; and on the other, there was a 'Oh, hey! DID!!' feeling. It was a weird catch-22 of being happy to see a main character with DID, but at the same time worry that it could do more harm than good.”

Samantha continued, “In general, I get excited whenever I see DID mentioned in a show; it's sorta like a 'Hey! That person has what I have too!!' Even if they end up being the bad guy, there's a moment where I'm happy just to hear my disorder mentioned.” 

And her next response helped me understand why.

“…which is why I try to look at it like how I look at '50 Shades of Gray'. The books and movie(s) are not good representations of risqué, safe, and healthy intimate relationships; however, they created such a hype, that the series took a once misunderstood underground culture, and turned it into a pop-culture, mainstream phenomena. People started wanting to learn more about the subject, and the sex education industry was quick to jump on that momentum and start opening up public conversations to help spread awareness, and sexual health and safety information out there. Maybe it's idealistic of me, but I think instead of fighting and protesting against a fictional movie with a fictional character who has fictional DID, it would be much easier if we took the hype of Split and used it to better educate the public and even the medical field on DID.”

I’ll admit when I first saw the trailer for the movie, I was angry on Samantha’s behalf. “Hollywood just gets mental illness so wrong” I thought.

But Samantha is right. Protesting a fictional character never does any good. This movie looks like it will be popular, so I hope instead of writing article after article about how it’s morally right or wrong, the mental health world, and people in general, will take this opportunity to better educate others and themselves on mental illness.

This is not a review of the movie. But I hear it’s good. Go and enjoy, but maybe after the movie, take some time to understand truth from fiction.

People with DID are more likely to hurt themselves than others. 

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Henry.Weissmann
His name's technically Chanoch, but goes by Henry because it's pronounceable. He has an indescribable love for Star Wars, and is finally getting around to playing Undertale. He currently attends the University of Baltimore, working towards his English degree.
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© GONG, Inc. All rights reserved