TABOO - TRANSGRESSION - TRANSCENDENCE
in Art & Science
27-29 September 2023, Malta Society of Arts, Valletta
There is no denying that cinema is an incredibly potent medium, capable of reaching a vast and diverse audience and shaping views on a multitude of social issues. As such, it serves as a wellspring of ideas, creativity, and discourse, inspiring discussion and influencing perspectives. However, mainstream cinema has been noted for creating enduring genres and tropes that may fuel harmful representations of mental disorders, perpetuating stigma and tying them with violence and danger, even unintentionally. Despite calls for inclusive cinema from mental health advocates since the 1970s, the representation of mental health disorders, particularly dissociative disorders, has continuously exploited popular stereotypes and assumptions depicted in motion pictures. This naturally perpetuates the stigma. In this paper, we analyse the evolving depictions of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) on mainstream film posters, from their earliest appearances to the present day, with a focus on the period from 1990’s onwards. The rationale for this choice is based on the substantial research conducted in the field of dissociative disorders, as recorded by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV in 1994. We focus on how these representations have changed over time, reflecting shifting cultural attitudes toward mental health and illness. It is true that in the
past decade at least, we have seen evidence of diversification in the portrayals of mental health disorders in the media, as well as a concentrated effort in introducing more positive viewpoints (Sampson, 2020; Trifonova, 2010). Drawing on semiotic analysis (considering both verbal and non-verbal messages) and qualitative comparative analysis, we aim to examine the visual language used in mainstream film posters to represent DID and its associated themes. By examining dissociative disorders through the lens of motion pictures and their posters, we aim to stimulate dialogue for the creation of thought-provoking stories that are not only imaginative and emotionally resonant, but also portray these individuals and the notion of mental health equitably and realistically.
Dr Sonia Andreou is an Adjunct Lecturer at the Department of Multimedia and Graphic Arts, Cyprus University of Technology. In the past she has taught at the University of Central Lancashire and University of Portsmouth. She has delivered modules on advertising and visual communication, graphic design and research methods. She is a graduate of the Cyprus University of Technology in the field of Graphic and Multimedia Arts. She continued her studies at the University of Essex (U.K.), obtaining an M.A. in Art History and Theory in 2013. Sonia gained her PhD in Visual Communication and Semiotics from the Department of Multimedia and Graphic Arts of the Cyprus University of Technology in 2017. She taught modules related to visual communication, creative industries, graphic design and advertising for B.A. and M.A. level, at the University of Portsmouth and Cyprus University of Technology. Her professional activities include the reviewing of papers for scientific journals and the organization of academic conferences. Her research interests include the analysis of advertising, visual communication and popular culture, with the aid of sociological theories, as well as their interpretation through a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods.