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Mental illness stories on soaps


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You don't have to go far to find stories in movies, books, plays, TV, which use mental illness as a plot device, a way to get attention, or a way to justify a character doing something stupid. On soaps you could find stories where a man raped his brother's wife but it was eventually written off because he was crazy in the head, where women who blame their husbands for the death of their child gun the husband down, etc.

For that reason, I'm not sure why these latest soap stories which make a big joke of mental illness bother me so much. We have:

- Sharon on Y&R screwing around with three men, unable to even tell some of them apart, and stealing from local stores, all because of a mental illness she's had since she was a teenager, and Brad's death triggered another episode, even though she was fine when Cassie died. Wait, no, never mind, it's because she lost Cassie. Wait, she's fine now because she has Nick and a child to replace Cassie. She won't be able to survive if she loses Nick or her baby. Wait...she's fine, because she has another man to comfort her with his penis.

- Patti on Y&R who, in the space of a few weeks, went from a sophisticated business executive to a raving lunatic eating out of garbage cans. The only attempt at explaining this is "I don't have my pills," yet, after she is institutionalized and begins hiding her pills, she becomes more and more sane and goes from being a gibbering, near-cataonic wreck to a smart and savvy woman who can almost effortlessly impersonate Jack's current love interest.

- Liz on GH who, after years of being basically sane and stable, suddenly begins having sex with a strange, bloated orange man with ugly tattoos who happens to be her sort of brother-in-law. Why is this? It's because, apparently, every man in her life since her rape has been a bad lay, and she has finally found good sex. When Liz's sort of husband learns of her adultery, he basically tells her that the last time their relationship was special was when he found her bleeding in the snow after her rape. Liz is told off by a few people and proceeds to have a complete mental breakdown and is institutionalized.

Am I offended by these stories because they're so insulting, as it somehow goes along with the idea of "it's OK if this woman sleeps around and has no idea of her child's paternity, because she's crazy," or is it just because they suck? I mean all the hype of JJ's return and how we would have Jonathan and Becky together again and the highlight of their story is Helena calling Liz a promiscuous welfare mother.

Do you prefer stories about mental illness to be realistic, or to just be entertaining?

Are there any previous mental illness stories on soaps you would use as the best, or the worst, examples of how to present such a topic?

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Hrmm. I admit there's something the trashy soap fan in me loves about a true nutjob (think Kimberly on Melrose Place). However in a daily soap I do expect some responsibility, somewhere (prob a reason why I wasn't a Passions fan :P ). AMC for the most part has had some balance (IE Janet's wacko, played for laughs and trouble than anything else, but at the end of the day she has characters who care and are saddened by her condition, etc. OK OK I guess nuts like Leslie Coulson don't really fit into this).

Of course when they deal with a more specific mental illness they seem to have more taste--ie Lily and her Autism...

And of course the curable mental illness is a good, easy, cheap plot device. "He committed that crime cuz he was crazy, but he isn't anymore, so all's well. (Until we're bored of him and make him crazy again!)"

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One of my favorite mental illness stories was recently actually, with Annie on AMC. LOVED everything having to do with her mental illness, which triggered when Ryan forgot all about her and started pining for Greenlee and Kendall. Once Pratt started writing for AMC and started plotting out Annie's breakdown, she became even more and more crazy. One of the most bizarre things she did, and I still think about it sometimes and wonder, was when she jumped off of Ryan's balcony and actually landed! Then she totally went off the deep end. My favorite episodes of Pratt EVER were when Annie stabbed Erica, and had her psycho "wedding" with Ryan. Also, a week later when Ryan visited her at Oakhaven and Annie didn't recognize Emma and was calling Ryan her dad! It was so crazy..but I loved it.

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=pzxorh0SB80

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=72qFXrBqFYE

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=7oZPxnpi0-4

I thought MCE should have submitted some of these scenes from these episodes for her Emmy reel last year instead. This storyline did wonders for MCE and the character of Annie, for me. MCE is at her best when she's portraying "Crazy Annie" :D

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So do you think the current stories suck because they're not entertaining?

That and they're beyond stupidly plotted and cliched. While I do enjoy some campiness and trashiness of some of the psycho stories, I always to have them written well. Or believable and understandable explanation for why they aren't balanced like Ashley. Most of the mental illnesses usually revolve around obsession and stalking. Unfortunately when it comes to exploring the roots as to why they always fail, epicly I might add. See: Ben Reade, GL, Eve and Maddie, ATWT etc.

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I thought some of Annie's story was fascinating. I was and am disappointed they turned her into an indecipherable golddigger.

soapfan770, it does feel like a lot of these recent stories are made up as they go along. And boy do I agree about being unable to explore the roots. Ben's story was despicable for many reasons. I guess the last soap story I remember doing that well was Viki's epic DID story in 1995.

Remember Tricia's spiral into madness? You could tell that was a very long term plan.

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One of my favorite mental illness stories was recently actually, with Annie on AMC. LOVED everything having to do with her mental illness, which triggered when Ryan forgot all about her and started pining for Greenlee and Kendall. Once Pratt started writing for AMC and started plotting out Annie's breakdown, she became even more and more crazy. One of the most bizarre things she did, and I still think about it sometimes and wonder, was when she jumped off of Ryan's balcony and actually landed! Then she totally went off the deep end. My favorite episodes of Pratt EVER were when Annie stabbed Erica, and had her psycho "wedding" with Ryan. Also, a week later when Ryan visited her at Oakhaven and Annie didn't recognize Emma and was calling Ryan her dad! It was so crazy..but I loved it.

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=pzxorh0SB80

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=72qFXrBqFYE

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=7oZPxnpi0-4

I thought MCE should have submitted some of these scenes from these episodes for her Emmy reel last year instead. This storyline did wonders for MCE and the character of Annie, for me. MCE is at her best when she's portraying "Crazy Annie" :D

cosign! Annie's descent into madness was one of the best things about AMC. I liked that it happeend gradually over a year. We saw her slowly begin to crack when Ritchie hit the scene and she started to nosedive after Ryan lost his memory and started gravitating towards Greenlee. I completely felt for her and MCE played the role brilliantly. Annie didnt go away for a week and come back better. For the longest time it felt as if she was locked up forever getting psychiatric help.

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Viki's descent into madness in 1995

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LFlifxZ8iM

And one of the first scenes of Niki Smith with Erika playing the role

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I thought a lot of Jessica's mental illness stories were poorly written, they seem to get worse and worse, but I agree that Viki's were great, at least up to 1995.

thats bc hers were lame ripoffs of Viki's and it doesnt help that Bree Williamson doesnt compare as an actress to Erika Slezak. She did the best with what she was given, but again, she's no ES and the fact that her story had so many parallels with Viki's, one couldnt avoid comparing the two

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