Note: This article’s intent is that of an open letter. In no way is the article meant to belittle any personal viewpoints or ideologies.
- Caden DeLisa
When one thinks of acclaimed movie producer M. Night Shyamalan, the 2002 cult classic Signs often comes to mind. The psychological thriller captured audiences with great acting and cinematography. Shyamalan followed up his success with disappointments, such as The Last Airbender, The Village, and The Happening. Split was aimed to be Shyamalan’s return to success, penning A-list actor James McAvoy as the lead actor and a moderate level of hype surrounding the movie.
Released on Jan. 20, Split received fair success from critics, earning a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 7.5/10 on Metacritic.
However, controversy surrounded the film as the main character, Kevin, portrayed by the aforementioned McAvoy, is played with dissociative identity disorder (DID), meaning that the character has multiple personalities (twenty four to be exact) within the movie.
Alison Miller, author and psychologist, discussed DID. She said, “Punishments include such things as flashbacks, flooding of unbearable emotions, painful body memories, flooding of memories in which the survivor perpetrated against others, self-harm, and suicide attempts.”
Due to one of the personalities that Mcavoy’s character inhibits being female, controversy mars the film. In association with Kevin’s mental disorder, he acts out the personality that he feels, whether that be through tone, vernacular, or through the way he dresses.
The Heatstreet.com staff comments “Cue accusations that M. Night Shyamalan is being ‘transphobic’ and disrespectful to the LGBTQ community.”
The petition headlined, “Boycott Split for it’s backwards representations of gender identity and mental illness!” is written by Sarah Rose, who appears not to have seen the movie and calls its lead actor James McAvoy “Kevin McAvoy.”
She states, “At one point during the trailer for the film, McAvoy’s character is also wearing a dress and heels.”
In its entirety, Split does not portray dissociative identity disorder as a negative symptom. The character Kevin is acted out in the same way that the Joker is labeled as clinically insane, followed by villainous antics involving death and destruction. In the film, Kevin kidnaps three teenage girls, acting out on one of his more childlike personalities, simply “finding friends” in his mind.
Petition founder Sarah Rose comments, “This entire film is problematic in it’s [sic] narrative. At a time when so much attention is being paid to mental illness and gender identity, we’ve reduced both conversations to a horror movie trope.”
As a person that enjoys film, it is simply outlandish to criticize a movie regarding its characters when not necessary. If any signs of transphobia or rudimentary showings of mental illness are depicted, in which they are not in this film, are present, it can become problematic towards not only the director, but the actors as well, and that reputation can stick. This film overshadows true violations that could possibly occur in cinematography, and creates a “soft” viewer base that will have a muddled ideology of offense.
It’s not difficult – simply watch and enjoy the movies that are released.