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Legion, an FX TV series following Charles Xavier’s son, dropped two teaser trailers this past weekend. Both trailers clock in at under 20 seconds, and both attempt to add some lightheartedness to the hype for the series.
Unfortunately, that humor comes at the cost of the dignity of mentally ill people. The first trailer, below, titled ‘WTF,’ shows a catatonic man drooling. David Haller and another character stare at the character in apparent disbelief. Considering that the show takes place in an inpatient psychiatric hospital, and centers around a man whose superpowers are inextricably linked to his mental illness, that seems, well, outright offensive.
The second trailer, titled ‘Switch,’ details a conversation between David and what seems to be his therapist. David talks about switching bodies with a girl by kissing her. The dubious look on the therapist’s face looks like the punchline. However, therapists and other medical practitioners disregarding the experience and descriptions of real life mentally ill people in real life causes a lot of harm to real life mentally ill people.
Abuse in psychiatric care runs rampant, even now. Of course, I shouldn’t have to detail the dark and twisted history of mental health ‘care.’ There are plenty of horror stories (and horror movies) focused on that. But people don’t often realize that abuse persists in mental health care even now. In 2009, even the Department of Justice released a 58-page report on conditions in a Brooklyn psychiatric facility where a patient died because she was ignored as she lay on the floor of the facility’s ’emergency’ room.
This abuse persists because our society does not treat mentally ill people as fully people. We never have. Abuse is simply the most extreme form of this disregard.
Jokes at the expense of the mentally ill, treating us as something to gawk at and denying our experiences wholesale, reinforce that disregard. Those jokes tell people that it’s okay to treat ‘crazy’ people as less than human.
This bodes ill for Legion. David Haller, the protagonist, has Dissociative Identity Disorder as a result of his mutation. This show has an opportunity to focus on the humanity of such a character.
Instead, it chooses to promote itself with tired and frankly disgusting ableism.
I’ll tune in when the show comes out in 2017, but my expectations are very, very low.