There are a lot of movies I don’t like.
But it is a rare thing when a movie actually makes me angry.
Last night I watched Prozac Nation, got pissed, and, after drinking half a bottle of wine, smoking a pack of Camel Straights and huffing some glue to calm myself down, I came upstairs and hurled the DVD across the room.
Say what you want about the book – that it’s self-indulgent, that Elizabeth Wurtzel is a selfish bitch, that it capitalizes on misery, but the book is real, and the book tells it like it is. The movie, however, represents a gross oversimplification of the process of madness and medication. I could rant for hours about how the film seemed to suggest that a single pill of ecstacy will make a borderline person spin off into crippling depression, how “depression” was defined as a series of “accidental blowjobs” mixed with a healthy dose of rude behavior, and don’t even get me started on the flaws in set design and continuity, but what really angered me was the portrayal of clinical depression and the relative necessity of medication.
The portrayal of “depression” that made it through the camera lens didn’t even scrape the surface. Christina Ricci’s “breakdown” is comparable by scale to a papercut – slight delusions of grandeur, the seduction of a razor blade’s caress on skin, an obsessive trip to Texas – who HASN’T made an obsessive trip to Texas, I ask you? And when she IS finally prescribed Prozac, despite a scene (runtime two minutes) where she debates the complex issues of living inside a chemically altered personality, she seems to absorb her fears without question. The adaptation took a book that included a complex internal discussion about medication and relief and turned it into some kind of bizarre ad for Pfizer and Eli Lily.
I couldn’t help but wonder how a book that deeply resonated with so many depressed women could have become such a lax film.
Then I watched the special feature (singular – it was the “Making of a Scene” show from the Sundance Channel) and discovered that the movie was made entirely BY. MEN. I am not usually one of those” girl power” type chicks, but I mean COME ON. A man can no more make an honest film about a young woman’s depression than I could write a detailed essay the sensation of ejaculation. As Erik Skjoldbjærg, the director, prattled on about “getting inside the emotions of Christina Ricci” and the editor, James Lyons, waxed poetic about shot juxtaposition, I got angrier and angrier, to the point where I grabbed a marker and started taking notes. My notes look something like this:
AD FOR MEDS=PROZAC
SHE –> THE OTHER
CONTRIVED & SHITTY – MISOGYNISTIC.
A few years ago, I read the original book, which, although largely trashed as self-indulgent crap, somehow struck a chord. I have suffered from depression off and on for the last twelve years, I’ve been in and out of therapy four times, I’ve been offered meds (prozac) on more than one occasion, and when I read “Prozac Nation” (the book) I saw myself – selfish, self-loathing, abhorrent – reflected back at me. I can’t say whether it helped or hurt me to read through, but it was TRUE and it was HONEST and it was REAL. It dealt with the issues of self medication vs. prescribed medication; the questions that arise when you confront the possibility of taking mood-altering drugs for the forseeable future, perhaps the rest of your life.
There are no easy answers to these questions. While I myself have thus far refused the offers of prescribed chemical assistance, many of those that i know and love have been on psychiatric medication at one time or another. And I think it’s really important for a lot of people to have that help. But this film was irresponsible and uninformed, especially in a climate where pills are pushed like candy to children and adults alike.
And it got me good and pissed.