In yesterday’s post (“Madness in Media”), I listed some books, movies, paintings, and songs, that had shaped my understanding and impacted my experience of Bipolar disorder. One of the movies I listed was “The Dream Team”. My brother-in-law owns a copy of this film on VHS, so last night after dinner we sat around with buttered popcorn and soda and settled into an evening of fun and laughter.
Or so I thought.
You see, I remember when I first saw “The Dream Team” (likely around 1990 – before my diagnosis), I laughed hysterically (hysterical being the operative word). I’m not sure what drugs I was on then (probably none), but I could’ve used more. Watching it now, with 5 hospitalizations under my belt, a steady regiment of psycho-tropics in my blood stream, and the stigma of a Bipolar on my back, well… it leads me to conclude that the movie must have been written by someone woefully unfamiliar with mental illness who has the sense of humor of a very silly 7-year old.
I have 3 major problems with the film.
1) The underlying message (if you want to call it that) is that if people with psychosis just stop taking their medication and face extremely stressful (Outward Bound-style) challenges, they come to their senses and are healed. I realize in 1989, there were still a lot of psychiatric patients overprescribed massive amounts of Thorazine, but a new generation of psycho-tropics were emerging and, in many states, long-term institutional care was no longer an option. The film takes place outside New York City and I’m pretty sure New York was either closing or had closed its state psychiatric hospitals by then. The movie tries to be “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and fails miserably.
2) The movie laughs at (rather than with) psychosis. The characters are very one-dimensional and, apart from one family scene (with Christopher Lloyd’s character and his daughter) that is supposed to be touching (I couldn’t care less by then), it simply mocks characteristics of typical psychotics rather than reveals humorous foibles they find in life.
3) It’s just not that funny. The funny bits could easily fit in a trailer. In fact, I can only remember one – when Peter Boyle’s character (who thinks he’s Jesus Christ) tells a man on a stretcher to “Rise and walk.” The man tries, and falls. Okay, now that I think of it, that isn’t even funny.
So, if you have a mental illness (or even if you don’t) and you are looking for a prescription for some laughs, do yourself a favor and don’t watch “The Dream Team”.
Thanks to all who sent in recommendations of books, paintings, music, and movies depicting mental illness. I’m expanding the project and will be collecting suggestions through May 31, so if you think of more, let me know…