Archive for June, 2022

Who’s Really Wrong Here?

June 14, 2022

Have you ever noticed something that is objectively incorrect, and it really irritates you, and yet the wrong thing is in a package that is either a) not interested in being correct and/or b) is kind of ridiculous and inconsequential? And yet still, the urge to correct this wrong thing feels really strong? I’ll give you two examples from my own life, not because I am going to use this phenomenon as a jumping off point to discuss something actually important, but because I just really want to point out how wrong these dumb things are in the public sphere. The itch is too strong not to scratch!

First, a long while ago, I watched a movie on Netflix Called Private Life, about a couple struggling to conceive a baby who hire one of their nieces (?) as a surrogate. It was… fine. Anyway, in an early scene, the couple, played by Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giametti, are in a fertility clinic waiting room filled with characters who are supposed to represent, I don’t know, some panoply of New York City life. A Haredi couple nearby, and the wife is affectionately rubbing her husband’s arm. And of course, I was like, um, no way! A Haredi couple would NEVER touch one another in public! Where was their Haredi advisor, ahem?!

I was reminded of this particular kind of irritation when I recently watched––wait for it––the M. Night Shyamalan movie Old. My understanding from the little I read of the reception was that it was a silly, very Shyamalan-y movie. That wouldn’t be enough to put me off, because I can occasionally get into the silly, especially if it’s horror-related, but a friend of mine whose taste I really respect told me she thought it was actually Good. So I decided to watch it as I was doing household chores.

It was, again, fine. Sort of what you would expect from a Shyamalan flick. The ending was wildly dumb. In case you aren’t familiar with the premise, it goes something like this: a group of seemingly random people staying at a tropical resort are taken by a tour guide to a beach, where they begin to age rapidly. They quickly figure out that on this beach, time moves at some exponentially faster rate than it does elsewhere. Insanity and decay ensue.

A view through a ribcage

One of the people on this beach is a rather tense-seeming British cardiologist (or maybe cardiothoracic surgeon, which I’m sure is different in some way that it is above my pay grade to describe). There are references made throughout the early parts of the film to his being “stressed” and to dealing with tension at work, which manifests in erratic behavior: he slashes another beachgoer with a knife, he loses his concentration in the middle of a tense moment and starts babbling about film. So my first thought is, obviously, some kind of dementia, that his family (also on the beach) was in denial about. But then at the end of the movie, another character reveals that the doctor actually had paranoid schizophrenia.

I GUESS you could make this work, but it’s just way less sensible than having him having some kind of dementia, which would also potentially cause erratic behavior. First, the guy is in at least his late forties, and schizophrenia, in a majority of cases, develops in late adolescence or early adulthood, around 16-20. So this means this guy’s backstory is that he either developed schizophrenia in middle age––again, unlikely––or that he developed it in the typical range, but then made it through university, medical school, and potentially more than a decade of work in a high-stakes field only to then develop schizophrenia? Meh! Also, the way his familiars on the beach are talking about the “pressure” sort of implies that his schizophrenic break came about as a result of his job stress. I would never deny the impact of external circumstances on mental health, but that’s not really how schizophrenia works.

But so here’s the thing though: this is a cheesy body-horror flick from M. Night Shyamalan, the guy who brought you “I see dead people” and Mel Gibson running through cornfields looking for aliens or Jesus or whatever. It’s probably more dumb of me to expect medical textbook-level rigor from him than it is for him to choose the less-logical malady for one of his characters to suffer from. (Also, the movie is based on a graphic novel, so perhaps the original character had schizophrenia and Shyamalan felt locked into that.) I can see how a certain type of person might feel the need to go on a crusade about this, but personally I just feel like the odds that this misstep has any real consequences in life are so, so slim. And yet still, the urge to correct prevails, because here I am, ranting about it on the Internet.