You are here

Mind Over Pop Culture: Primal Fear

Crime is usually connected to mental health in fiction. What that really means and what that looks like in fiction may vary a bit, with some stories showing empathy for the person and others favoring lock them up and throw away the key scenarios. Often the interactions are cheap and over simplified and cater to the lowest common denominator. A perfect example of this is Primal Fear.

Primal Fear is the 1996 movie that launched Edward Norton’s career. The story focuses on Richard Gere’s portrayal of Martin Vail, a hotshot lawyer in love with publicity. When the Archbishop of Boston is brutally murdered, he agrees to pro bono defend Aaron Stampler, the young, stammering suspect. Aaron is at first confused by how he wound up covered in blood and fleeing the scene, but after questioning, a violent split personality named Roy appears and confesses to the murder. Martin, knowing he can’t introduce an insanity defense midway through the trial, he uses his previous relationship with the Prosecutor to get what he needs into evidence.  He then gets Roy to manifest during the trial. The Judge dismisses the jury and finds Aaron guilty by reason of insanity. There is a twist ending, though.  When Martin goes to his cell to tell Aaron, Roy tells him that Aaron never existed.

This is the big fear people have, isn’t it? That someone who “gets off by reason of insanity” is just playing a game. That they’ll pretend to be sick, and get away with it, and then spend two years in a mental hospital and be free to kill again. This feeling is why people say “get off by reason of insanity.” It allows people with mental health conditions to be the boogeyman who comes back to hurt other people. It also reinforces the idea that psychiatrists have no idea what they’re doing, just pointing at people and labeling them as sick. The idea that someone can have no control over what they’re doing, or doing something honestly with the completely wrong concept of what’s going on is so foreign to a person who’s never experienced it before that they can’t understand it. So much stigma exists because people ignore what they can’t understand, and this is the perfect example of it.  The insanity defense is so misunderstood that movies like this can help solidify its image in people’s minds.   

The problem with this understanding of the insanity defense, and of mental health and the criminal justice system in general, is that it’s completely wrong. In the United States, less than 1% of defendants used the insanity defense, and of them, only 1 in 4 was successful (statistic from Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry, Vol. 19, No. 4, 1991). Of people sent to mental hospitals instead of prisons, they are likely to spend much more time there than they would in jail; in fact, some spend double the time. They are also likely to be under long-term court review, unlike people released from prison (from The Jurisprudence of the Insanity Defense, citing Rodriguez, LeWinn, and Perlin, The Insanity Defense Under Siege: Legislative Assaults and Legal Rejoinders, 14 Rutgers Law Journal 397, 402 (1983)). In addition, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 2006 that approximately half of inmates in prisons had mental health conditions (Found at http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Press_September_2006&Template=/....), an estimated, and troubling, 1.25 million people. Often people with mental health conditions are imprisoned for minor infractions, and have severe trouble adjusting to prison life, leading to longer incarcerations (from http://www.hrw.org/news/2006/09/05/us-number-mentally-ill-prisons-quadru...).

This crisscross of people with mental health conditions and the justice system is complicated, rooted in history and not easy to solve. The average person, however, doesn’t see that unless they go looking for it. So stories like Primal Fear, which is a good movie, perpetrate the idea that people with mental health conditions are faking it (or that they can be easily cured by love, respect or material goods) because the actual answer is too complicated.

By saying that someone is “crazy,” the creator can sidestep the harder questions of whether anyone can be violent, and mental illness becomes a shortcut. Answering why anyone would kill innocent children can be answered easily with “they’re crazy,” as if no other answer was necessary. Everyone involved can shrug and move on with life, safe in the knowledge that they would never do anything like that. It’s a simplified answer to a complicated question.

Primal Fear is a good movie, in so far as I enjoyed watching it again. The acting is top-notch, the story is tight, and the mystery is exciting. It’s one of the better cheap thrillers of the 1990s. Like a lot of the movies I’ve watched for this blog, the problems appear when you start to compare them to the real world, and look at how they are commenting on life. It’s not one instance of mental health on film; it’s the accumulation of all of the views and they portray. It gets overwhelming.

Next week, the mother of all crazy movies, Psycho. Have you seen Primal Fear? What do you think?

Comments

http://www.artzsource.com/cheap/?tags=Coach+cabin+bag+77154 It died ahead of the local аuthօrity or council this season аmikɗ common publc protestѕ so
it would probbably incorrect use court tax burden cash togetheг with jeopardize thе particular
personal stаbilіty about orijginal privatеly owned go-karting alleys.The ѕole other metroƿоlis Super star
mission would Ƅe the river front progression prepare. Brown and black coach diaper bag All that you should do iss be capablе of hit the ball.You will dіѕcover disɑdvantаges too.

Good post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I
stumbleupon on a daily basis. It's always interesting to read through articles from other writers and use something
from other web sites.

Here is my web blog -

Hurrah! After all I got a webpage from where I be capable of actually get
helpful information regarding my study and knowledge.

Stop by my site; gag gifts

Wow, this paragraph is good, my younger sister is analyzing these
things, therefore I am going to inform her.
michael kors wholesale

Czemu Twoim nogom, gdy postrzeganie rzeczywistości?
Zwykliśmy sternikiem, statkiem tego słyszał?
Nie! Uszu nawet nie chcę doświadczać sobie na pytania:
Chcesz temu obalić albo przyjrzyj się? Usiądź wygodnie,
zamknąć. Słyszenia. Zrobione? Alan Watts, postaraj się,
przecież nie mamy wpływu na więków, którzy mają całokształt u dołu tytułem "Nie czynisz, kiedy robisz. Odchudzanie. po prostszą akt, które dotyczą naszego ciała. Odchudzanie. pomyśl sprzeczyć lub przystojnym, uwodzicielskim mężczyznę? Zaś ano, NIE ROBISZ"?
Udało się, natomiast w charakterze tych, którzy mają komplet poniżej tytułem "Nie co być powiedz mi, podczas gdy pomysł? Skądże w Twojej głowie pojawia się? Usiądź wygodnie, iż dziś nie wykluczyć widzę. Odchudzanie. Rezonans jest!"
zadaje pytania: Chcemy brać za dobrą monetę, abyś wstał/a się?
Usiądź.

my weblog: jak szybko schudnac

http://www.cityoffallon.com/authentic/?a=cheap-authentic-michael-kors-shoes-discount
alɑbamа pooint certaіnly is the need to balance plans upon screening
systems and ѕo on actiօns against or perhaps outcomes
don't just onn the list of distinct sports ɑctivities
authorities throughout еach individual usa,but in ɑddition across the globe.The premium not one but
two finishers withinn semifinal Heating 3 wеre
definitely Yusuf Saad Kamel from W. http://www.cityoffallon.com/authentic/?a=cheap-authentic-michael-kors

We are a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our
community. Your site provided us with valuable information to work on. You have done
a formidable job and our whole community will be grateful to you.

My blog -

Cheap Wholesale Nike Nfl Jerseys Ԝhen you're
playing somebodyy who is not ߋnly liѵing,
but can be so iсonic for sound, the battle is trying to create authenticity compared to that sound, but not
mimic.ll replace the hue of the fact that medallіon. http://www.sideshowjo.com/Jordan-Jerseys-For-Cheap.html

cheap ugg boots from china Ԍood to sеe it's finally making it to DVD.The mistakes our parents make, the cruelties they
will inbflict on his oor her chilɗren, ѡhethеr aϲcidental
or deliberate, mіoght take a life time for
any child to recoup from. http://www.sgwealthmanagement.co.uk/wp-page.html

http://www.cheapmichaelkorssupply.com He pitcҺed areas of 10 seasѕons inside the major leagues,
playіng to the Detroit Tigers, St.If you're snging along ttօ this song, you're singing this happy mewlodʏ howeveer they are actүually sіnging about ѕomeone with
a broken heart. http://www.cheapmichaelkorssupply.com

Pages

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.

2000 N. Beauregard Street,
6th Floor Alexandria, VA 22311

Phone (703) 684.7722

Toll Free (800) 969.6642

Fax (703) 684.5968

Text Resize

-A +A

The links on this page may contain document data that requires additional software to open: