Mental Illness: Underrepresentation Of Women

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Television has a significant impact on people’s perspectives on mental illness, and gender identification and roles, and how they apply to us (Holtzman & Sharpe, 2014).
There is an underrepresentation of women living with mental illness on television, and an underrepresentation of women on television generally (Signorielli, 2009), Alluding to the aforementioned Cody quote, female roles in prime-time television are often reserved for secondary roles of ‘girlfriend’, ‘wife’ and ‘mother’ – they are not supposed to be characters. This point is echoed in a study by Holbert, Shah & Kwak (2003), which states:
Numerous content analyses attending to depictions of women on television provide strong support for the basic claims that women are often treated
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Owen (2014) examined English-language films with at least one main character with schizophrenia, released between 1990 and 2010; 42 characters from 41 films were identified, the majority of whom were male and Caucasian (Owen, 2014). Likewise, Goodwin’s 2014 study of contemporary horror films suggests the vast majority of mentally ill characters depicted were men (Goodwin, 2014). This can be due to the fact that traits such as violence are traditionally attributed to men, rather than to women (Holtzman & Sharpe, 2014; Glascock, 2001). Another factor is that men with mental illnesses often externalise their feelings, through their behaviour for example, while women with mental illnesses are more likely to internalise their feelings (Wilhelm, 2014; Dingfelder, 2011; Rowan,…show more content…
The portrayal of mentally ill characters in television often overstates negative attributes of their conditions (Kimmerle & Cress, 2013; Anderson, 2003). Television programmes use mental illness as a means of depicting horrific crimes (a theme popular in crime dramas) (Anderson, 2003; Cutcliffe & Hannigan, 2001; Owen, 2014) including programmes like Criminal Minds (2005 - ) (as seen in episodes including ‘The Night Watch’, ‘The Big Game’, ‘The Inspiration’, ‘Conflicted’, ‘The Lesson’, ‘True Night’, ‘If the Shoe Fits’, ‘The Fisher King Part 1 & 2’, ‘Heathridge Manor’, ‘Lucky’, ‘In The Blood’, ‘Normal’, ‘Haunted’, ‘Dorado Falls’, ‘The Good Earth’, ‘With Friends Like These…’, ‘The Performer’, ‘The Uncanny Valley’, ‘There’s No Place Like Home’, ‘Gatekeeper’, ‘Somebody’s Watching’, ‘Outfoxed’, ‘Magnum Opus’, ‘House on Fire’, ‘A Real Rain’, ‘Damaged’, ‘In Heat’, ‘Blood Hungry’, ‘Derailed’, and ‘Distress’, American Horror Story (2011 - ) (portrayed by the character Tate, a rapist and murderer) and The Walking Dead (2010 - ) (as seen in Lizzie, whose trauma led her to murder her sister). The misinterpretation of these illnesses tend to focus on violent behaviour (Kimmerle & Cress, 2013; Cutcliffe & Hannigan, 2001; Diefenbach & West, 2007; Diefenbach, 1997; Goodwin, 2014; Oostdyk, 2005; Nairn & Coverdale, 2011). An Australian content analysis, which analysed 14
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