We Spoke to a Psychologist About How Hollywood Portrays Mental Illness
Look at any classic horror film—Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, The Shining—and you’re likely to find mental illness. It’s a convenient, if inaccurate, explanation for the maniacal violence that makes up the backbone of these stories. But in most films portraying mental illness, especially violent and bloody horror films, real life pathology is willfully abandoned in favor of melodramatic storytellling. At best, it’s lazy; at worst, it publicly and repeatedly demonizes the people who need the most help. In a recent article I wrote about the mentally ill being killed in disproportionate numbers by police, many people commented along the lines of “Well, of course, they’re much more dangerous,” which anybody working in mental health can tell you is not only untrue, but is the direct result of the media’s focus on a fictitious link between mental illness and violence.
I spoke with Dr. Danny Wedding, a former director of the Missouri Institute of Mental Health and co-author of Movies and Mental Illness: Using Films to Understand Psychopathology, to learn more about some of the more common movie myths.
VICE: How do you think mental illness is generally represented in film?
Dr. Danny Wedding: I mean, slasher films like Friday the 13th, films that portray people with mental illness as homicidal maniacs, those are pretty awful, and there are a lot of myths still being portrayed in films. But at the same time, there are many major films that do a surprisingly good job, and it’s becoming increasingly common for directors and producers to hire psychologists and psychiatrists as consultants.
What about the connection between violence and mental illness?
Yeah, perhaps the most common myth is that people with mental illness are dangerous and violent, and the evidence is very clear that somebody with a disease like schizophrenia is far more likely to be the victim of violence than to be the perpetrator of violence. People with mental illness, homeless people who you see on the street typically, they are victims. They’re robbed, they’re raped, they’re murdered, but they’re not robbers, rapists, and murderers. Usually when violence occurs, it occurs with family members, it doesn’t involve strangers, and usually involves people who are mentally ill and abusing drugs or alcohol.
Do you think that people like yourself—psychologists—are also misrepresented?
Yes, but it’s getting better. There are a number of recurring motifs. Sometimes mental health professionals are presented as being incompetent and buffoons… Did you see the movie What About Bob?
Actually I just watched that recently. With Bill Murray?
Yeah, right. I think it’s a great movie, but Richard Dreyfuss plays a psychologist and he’s kind of bumbling and incompetent, and I think there’s a lot of humor, but often times therapists are portrayed as looking foolish, looking silly, and not having much to offer. Sometimes, in movies like Hitchcock’s Psycho, they are portrayed as omniscient, they can see into the deep, the dark, and dirty. They see things that no one else can see. Sometimes, in movies like Silence of the Lambs, they’re portrayed as murders—Hannibal the Cannibal was a psychiatrist. In a movie like The Prince of Tides, they’re portrayed as unethical. Frequently in films, psychiatrists and psychologists are shown sleeping with their patients, having affairs. There’s a movie called Tin Cup in which a therapist trades psychotherapy for golf lessons and winds up seducing the golf pro. That portray therapists as being unethical or ineffectual or having powers that they really don’t have, like a special ability to see inside somebody’s personality and to make predictions about behavior, and the fact is that psychologists and psychiatrists really aren’t much better than anybody else at predicting future behavior.
Anna Konda Can Crush Your Skull in Between Her Massive Thighs
At Berlin’s Female Fight Club, women put men in their places—squished underneath a naked lady’s assmeat. Club founder Anna Konda is a “natural-born dom” who used to beat up boys in the schoolyard while growing up in former East Germany. Now she can be found sitting on men’s faces and squeezing their heads until they are on the verge of popping between her Amazonian thighs.
She established the club three years ago as an outlet for all women—from Stepford wives to doped-up muscle junkies—to go head-to-head in wrestling matches. Either in the buff or in a dominatrix getup, women can tussle with the stereotype that being strong and dominant isn’t sexy or feminine. And men are more than welcome to jump in the ring too, as long as they’re prepared to obey.
Even though Anna’s known for her incredible strength, she doesn’t consider herself a bodybuilder. Instead, she loves her womanly curves, boobs, and ass, which she has put on display in countless internet videos. Her videos, which have been watched by thousands of people, have made her a cult figure in Berlin. These videos often feature her crushing watermelons or sheep skulls between her thighs, emasculating men, or instructing women on how to dominate. However, Anna’s not without her critics. She’s had social media accounts and videos deleted from Facebook and YouTube for being too “pornographic” even though they featured no nudity—just a powerful woman in control of her own body.
I caught up with Anna to discuss her life as a skull-crushing dom and why she believes women should always be on top.
VICE: When did you realize you were a “natural-born dom”?
Anna Konda: In my marriage. My husband took me to a gym where I trained the same way as him—none of that nonsense “lady training” that some women do. From the beginning, I could lift heavier weights than men. Of course people started saying things to my husband, like, “At home, your wife must wear the pants…” We also began wrestling each other, but I’d always end up on top. So it became less and less fun for him.
You used to beat up boys in school?
I grew up in the former German Democratic Republic where competitive sports were very important. Like many girls, I was a gymnast, which involved weight training at an early age. By 12 or 13, we were so much more muscular than the boys. Naturally, we took advantage of this. Boys who didn’t get out of our way were pressed face down into the sand. I loved tantalizing them by squeezing their heads between my legs against the ground. When I started doing this to men as an adult, I realized that so many men have a fetish for this and I’m giving them exactly what they’ve always wished for, even as little boys.
What’s been your kinkiest request to date?
There are men out there who ask for the “squeeze of death” from me. They offer me large sums of money too, like $10,000 as an advance payment. Naturally, I never accept because I’m not a psychopath and have no desire to sit in the electric chair in the US (“squeeze of death” request come mostly from Americans).
Why Do Some of Us Feel Sad After an Orgasm?
Ever feel inexplicably sad after an orgasm? I don’t mean the abject horror of realizing your roommate has silently walked in and out of your room while you were getting to know yourself—really gunning for it, laptop open, pants off, socks on. That’s called embarrassment, and can subsequently make it very hard to look that person in the eye.
The sensation I’m talking about is subtle. It’s the fleeting despair that occasionally accompanies even the least noteworthy climax. Not everyone experiences it, but if you have you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Called post-coital tristesse (PCT) by people who know about such things, the melancholy one can feel after an orgasm is actually a very well documented phenomenon, with references dating back to the Roman Empire. Sometime around 150 AD, in fact, the prominent Greek physician Galen wrote, “Every animal is sad after coitus except the human female and the rooster.”
Mind you, as prominent as he was, Galen didn’t have it all figured out; both sexes are affected by PCT and the experience can differ radically from person to person. It’s also not to be confused with post-orgasmic illness syndrome (POIS), a rare condition that could be due to anything from a lack of progesterone to a semen allergy. The syndrome can cause sufferers to experience a wide range of symptoms, including apathy, itchy eyes, and weeping, for up to several days after an orgasm.
Every Woman Should Have the Opportunity to Freeze Her Eggs
This week, tech giants Apple and Facebook announced that they’ll now pay for female employees who want to have their eggs frozen. It’s a big move, even for Silicon Valley, where companies already boast such perks as on-site medical care, barber shops and, in Facebook’s case, a dedicated “culinary team.”
The message is: Freeze your eggs, ladies, and don’t worry about working around the clock through your fertile years! It’s a win-win, right? Possibly. But it’s also problematic.
Overlooking the obvious (having babies and good careers should not be mutually exclusive), the move seems to confirm many fears clustered around class difference and fertility—i.e. if you don’t have thousands saved, or don’t work for a giant corporation and yet still want to be ambitious in your field, you might end up childless.
We Asked Doctors How Different Illegal Drugs Affect Your Sperm
Life is full of hard truths. One of the hardest is that you can only party for so long before your body starts asking you nicely to please chill out, or you accumulate so many responsibilities that drinking five beers and popping a molly just isn’t wise anymore. And when you decide you’re ready for the ultimate responsibility, having a kid, you’ll have to hope your genetic material isn’t so damaged from shoving coke mixed with Ajax into random orifices that your offspring have to suffer serious medical problems.
But what if you knew how badly you’re screwing your body up before it’s too late? Not to get all Daren the Lion on you, but I asked two reproductive experts—Dr. Ricardo Yazigi of Shady Grove Fertility Center in Maryland and Dr. David Nudell, a Bay Area-based male reproductive urologist—plus Fernando Caudevilla (also known as Dr. X, the drug whisperer) to explain the way drug use can negatively impact sperm. The general consensus is that the use of just about every illicit drug causes damage to the testicles and prevents the creation of testosterone—the linchpin substance for the entire male reproductive system.
For the purposes of this piece, we leaned heavily on a 2012 study called “The Insults of Illicit Drug Use in Male Fertility” from the American Society of Andrology’s Journal of Andrology, which is available here.
According to the 2009 National Study on Drug Use and Health, marijuana has the highest usage rate of any illicit drug in the United States, which means you probably have all or some of these problems with your sperm.
The cannabinoid compounds in marijuana are actually synthesized by the human body, so our cells have natural receptors for them. If the cannabinoids latch onto cells in the testes or the sperm themselves, some unwanted side effects could occur and ruin your day. According to Dr. Yazigi:
"About 33 percent of chronic users will have low sperm counts. Binding of the active components and metabolites of marijuana to receptors on sperm themselves has also been shown to lead to decreasing motility rates. What is less clear are the effects of more occasional users—no good studies have been done but the prevailing thought is that while these men will have rapid recovery to their sperm function with briefer cessation in use, they should avoid use when trying to get pregnant as well."
Coke is, of course, the legendary “boner killer,” in that it causes vasoconstriction (the narrowing of blood cells), which leads to erectile dysfunction. It’s difficult to pinpoint what else it does, because any studies done on human beings are going to be complicated by the fact that cocaine just makes you want to party more. I asked Dr. Yazigi why we don’t have more information on coke’s effects, and he responded that human tests aren’t pure “because most of the time there’s coexistence of the use of cocaine along with alcohol and cigarettes and other drugs, so the single cocaine users are almost a rarity.” Also, he reminded me that you can’t force a group of people to do cocaine and then reproduce. You know, ethically.
My Dad the Bodybuilder
The Profiles Issue of VICE
included a portfolio of photographs of NYC-based artist Aneta Bartos’ 69-year-old father, titled simply, Dad
. I have been following the development of Aneta’s work since 2012, when I covered a group show she was included in for TIME
blog. We met in person last year, when I wrote about her show Boys
for the Camera Club of New York’s blog. That show, composed of murky Polaroids of boys masturbating, was installed in the rooms of a somewhat seedy Flatiron district hotel, and it made me realize that Aneta was thinking about her work in a much more comprehensive way that simply creating images to be disseminated—she controls their context as carefully as possible, and is an exacting craftsman in terms of color and print quality. She is sensitive to her subjects, and watches prudently over the ways her images of them are presented.
Early this spring, Aneta showed me photographs of her bodybuilder father she had begun making on a trip home to Poland. Using a Kodak Instamatic camera and long-expired film, her father is rendered in his native landscape, a powerful and imposing figure set against pastoral scenes and glowing sunsets. The aesthetic of the resulting images oscillates between family album and soviet propaganda poster, but the quality of the pictures is always dreamy. ”His presence takes me back to my youth, to what felt like an endless stretch of days in a worry-free world anchored by my powerful and loving father,” Aneta told me. “I reflect on how his commitment to education, fitness, organic food, and the simplicity of basic living has kept him so young and full of vitality.” Since we published these pictures, Aneta has returned to Poland and continued to photograph. When I saw the latest pictures, I couldn’t help but think the Dad series might become her best work yet. But I wanted to know more about the relationship between photographer and subject, because it’s not as if she is photographing just any model. It changes the dynamic to photograph someone who is this close to you. I talked to both Aneta and her father Zbigniew to find out more.
VICE: Zbigniew, what is your health regimen like?
Zbigniew Bartos: Before I turned 60, I ate everything, without any special diets or restrictions. During that time most of the food in Poland was natural and healthy, therefore spending a few hours in the gym three times a week seemed like enough to stay healthy and in shape.
After I turned 60 however, I began to pay more attention to nutrition. First of all, I buy all my food directly from farmers whom I already know. I prepare most of my food myself. I also make my own wine and health tinctures.
I eat small amounts a few times a day making sure that the meals contain a good balance of acid and alkaline. I always consume a lot of proteins derived both from meats and vegetables. I eat garlic, onions, tomatoes and radishes daily and my favorite fruit is apples and wild blueberries picked from the forest.
Meet the ‘Testo Junkie’ Who Hacks Her Gender with Testosterone
In 2008, Beatriz Preciado published Testo Junkie, an unclassifiable essay that turned the academic world upside down and placed her as an international reference on what happens when you take testosterone outside a medical protocol or even outside a gender re-assignment protocol. She tests this thesis by using self-managed testosterone intake as a tool of “gender-hacking”—breaking into the gender codes that prescribe our social identities.
Testo Junkie was recently published in the US, which presented me with the perfect excuse to get in touch. Although Beatriz agreed to talk to me about her thesis, she’s not very fond of the press. As we head to a café she tell me that “VICE is the best of the worst.” I call her Beatriz and she corrects me: I should call her Beto. She smells like man and flowers—a gardenia in a suit.
VICE: Hi, Beto, thank you for agreeing to this interview. It’s an honour. Can you talk to me about your idea of using the body as an archive in Testo Junkie?
Beatriz Preciado: Thinking that the body ends where the skin does is ridiculous, and yet that’s how we think. Instead of talking about the “body,” I use the term “body archive.” I see the body as a cultural and political archive, with images, narratives and practices stored in it. Our body is small but the wider somatic apparatus is gigantic.
What happens when testosterone comes into play?
It is about your willingness to make your body a place of commitment. How you are perceived collectively, how you are built collectively—because, even if you independently decide to take testosterone, it’s never a completely individual act. There is a network involved; someone is going to smuggle it and you have to do it knowing that there will be side effects—that is, you will be viewed differently by society.
Obviously, when you take testosterone there are molecular changes taking place in your body, but above all there is a shift in your social position. So testosterone is to do with the management of your own body, but it goes way beyond that.
Weegee’s Pre-Photoshop Darkroom Distortions, from the VICE 2014 Photo Issue
I Used Roach Killer to Cure My Yeast Infection
Editors note: You probably shouldn’t try this at home.
Vulvovaginal candidiasis, commonly known as a “yeast infection,” is experienced by at least 75 percent of women in their adult lives. Most people treat their yeast infections with over-the-counter creams like Vagisil that use an applicator to insert into your vagina overnight. As many women know, this usually leads to the cream leaking out into a massive, irritating mess.
Alternatively, there’s the oral medication Diflucan, which is supposed to cure a yeast infection in 24 hours, but requires a prescription. These treatments are effective for a lot of women. However, none of these medications work for all women, and for a large minority of women, none of them work at all. Women with chronic yeast infections are forced to take the same medications over and over as they continue to suffer from this uncomfortable condition, while most doctors tell them there’s no other choice.
I have had chronic yeast infections since the age of 12, when I spent almost a year feeling too ashamed and scared to even tell my mom. I tried everything. The over-the-counter and prescription medications available would only help temporarily, if at all. I’ve found ways to deal with it over the years, but sometimes a bad one still comes along and I’m flung right back where I started, with no idea how to proceed.
Last year, during a particularly disabling infection, I went to see a new gynocologist, an old Indian woman in the East Village. She had a curt and strange bedside manner and stuck things in me without warning, barely talking to me. Feeling somewhat violated, I left with a few prescriptions, vowing to never go back. Then I went to an alternative pharmacy the next day to pick up the boric acid suppositories she’d prescribed me.
I used them for a few days and WHAM: no more yeast infection. I was floored. Nothing I’d ever used had worked as well as that.