This paper is all about exploring and correcting misperceptions of psychopathology out there in the world, usually perpetuated by popular culture and the media. The general purpose of this paper is to critique an inappropriate, irresponsible or insufficient public message about psychology or mental health. But I want you to get creative. If you feel fired up about something you’ve seen, or have learned something in this class that gives you a new perspective on a commonly held belief that you used to think was simple but now realize is much more complicated, this is your chance to write about it!You may choose to write about a news article (or transcript from a television or radio broadcast, or information from a web page) from the mainstream media that exhibits misleading, oversimplified, or biased information about psychopathology. It is also acceptable to choose to critique a message that perpetuates negative stereotypes about mental illness. Please utilize the bulk of your paper to elaborate on the weaknesses and errors of the given information, talk about the damage it could do, and speak about ways to fight it or correct it.You may also choose a fictional character from a novel, television series, or movie– or even a certain phrase or word that is misunderstood or misused in our lexicon. As long as what you’re choosing is a faulty message about psychology out there in the media or in popular culture, it is game. But please note: there are several topics I have read papers about over and over again, and it would be harder for you to have a particularly original paper by talking about them. They are: Monk; Homeland; Me, Myself and Irene; Fight Club; binge/purging on Gossip Girl, and Identity. I’d highly advise you not to choose one of these!You should spend a page or less explaining and describing the coverage— if it is a news article or transcript, please attach it to your paper as an appendix. If you are writing about a character in a television show or movie, please make sure to explain the character enough at the outset so that if we haven’t seen it, we’ll still understand your paper!
Ideas for source material (these are just ideas. You do not HAVE to choose from this list):
• an article explaining study findings that insinuates that correlation equals causation
• irresponsible labeling with pathological terms (e.g. “anorexic,” “psychotic”)
• inappropriate, erroneous or callous representations of people suffering from mental illness in a television show or movie
• the perpetuation of negative stereotypes about mental illness
• an article that oversimplifies certain disorders or mental health findings to “dumb them down,” in essence losing any scientific value
• “scare tactic” news coverage that is alarmist and unnecessarily causes anxiety about mental health issues
• celebrities speaking out beyond their levels of expertise about mental health issues (though Jenny McCarthy is probably too obvious!)
• inaccurate portrayals of the symptoms or treatment of certain disorders
• representations of therapy that are irresponsible, inaccurate or oversimplified
• messages about unproven treatments or “cures” that provide false information
Ideas to think about as you write (You need not answer all of these; these are just ideas to help you brainstorm):
• What is the harm in this representation?
• How would the message have been better expressed?
• How did this misperception/misrepresentation come about? Why is it being broadcast—what purpose does it serve?
• Why is the character represented this way? Does it serve a narrative purpose? In what way might the story still be told without using the negative stereotypes?
• Is this a common misperception? Have you been exposed to others who believe this?
• Is this part of a larger issue of lack of awareness about mental health or psychopathology? How might the public be better educated about these matters?
• What effect does this representation have on the individual receiving it, on an emotional level?