Mental disorder in the contemporary American biopic: representation and national identity

Selway, Matthew (2016) Mental disorder in the contemporary American biopic: representation and national identity. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis considers the representation of mental disorder in the contemporary
American biopic from 1999 onwards, focussing upon how such representations
of the biographical subject’s experience of mental illness can be
read as interrogating many of the central features and ideologies of American
national identity. Though long overlooked in academia, a recent surge
in scholarly attention has repositioned and illuminated the biographical film
(biopic) as a dynamic genre that warrants greater appreciation and investigation.
This thesis contributes to current debates and understandings of the
genre by critically interrogating the representational strategies and tropes
present in depictions of mental disorder in the genre and contextualising
these aspects in regards to wider cultural issues.
Much like many critiques of the biopic genre, the portrayal of mental disorder
in film and media has often been criticised for lacking authenticity or
accuracy. Where critics and filmgoers bemoan the biopic’s over-celebratory
nature and malleable relationship with history, so too psychiatric professionals
and members of the public lament derogatory stereotypes and images
of mental disorder that contribute to the perpetuation of stigma. However,
this project realises a conscious move away from subjective debates concerning
accuracy whilst still engaging with psychiatric research as a means
of demonstrating the valuable interdisciplinary overlaps between psychiatry
and film studies. Where critical considerations of mental illness representation
largely focus upon the impact of film and media on cultural attitudes,
the analyses in this thesis instead consider the influence of American culture
on film representation. Whilst engaging with key ideas associated with the
construction of national identity (primarily gender, race and class) this thesis
also includes critical considerations of the portrayal of mental disorder
and its intersections with many other socio-culturally significant aspects of
American character and identity, including capitalism, sexuality, celebrity,
religion and regionality.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Jackie Webb
Date Deposited: 22 Dec 2016 11:17
Last Modified: 31 Dec 2019 01:38


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