Film Post: Disney’s Frozen

In Disney’s hit movie Frozen, one of the main characters, Elsa, obviously struggles with mental health issues. During her childhood, after Elsa accidentally struck her little sister Anna in the head with her ice powers, her parents decided the best course of action for her was to conceal her powers, and thus her true self. Her parents closed the castle gates and moved Anna to another part of the castle, effectively isolating the young girl. Furthermore, throughout her life Else had been told over and over again by her parents to “conceal it, don’t feel it, don’t let it show.” This was a mantra for the scared young girl who grew up into a paranoid and anxious adult. 

This isolation reminds me of how people during the colonial period, discussed in Grob’s history, were treated. They were put under something similar to house arrest, which is like what Elsa experienced in her adolescent years.

After the untimely demise of her parents, the King and Queen of Arendelle, Elsa is forced to become queen, which causes her to open up the castle gates and welcome guests after a long period of isolation. She can be seen in the song “For the First Time in Forever” as being anxious about being around people for “the first time in forever.” This anxiety is understandable since she was not socialized as a child and was instead told to conceal herself because she was different from everyone else.

Elsa’s powers set her apart from everyone else around her. She was deemed by her parents as outside of the “norm.” In this sense, Elsa’s parents, the king and queen of Arendelle, determined what is and what is not “normal.” This question of what is normal and who determines this norm is one we as class have been grappling with all semester. More often than not those who are deemed to act outside of this norm end up being isolated and ostracized by society. We saw this trend happen with women in asylums, as well as with Black men during the Civil Rights era. Elsa herself was ostracized by Arendelle after it was revealed at her coronation that she had ice powers. This caused Elsa to run up to the top of the mountain and sing her infamous song “Let It Go,” effectively putting herself back into the isolation her parents put her into when she was a child.

In a sense, Elsa retreated back to the same “treatment” method that she grew up with because she did not know any other way to deal with her powers. Similar to how many people throughout history, and even today, struggle with knowing and understanding how to deal with their own mental illnesses. Many people only learn how to deal with their illness after seeking the help of psychiatrists, or in the past many people turned to drugs. For Elsa, she learned that the answer to her problems was “love.”

Movie Review: A Beautiful Mind

I chose A Beautiful Mind for the movie review, I picked it because I had been told years ago that I should watch it and it was definitely a good choice. The film is about Mr. Nash who is diagnosed with Schizophrenia part-way through the film. It begins in 1947 when Mr. Nash is in school at Princeton University, his struggles with social skills are apparent but besides this the film does not clue you in on which people are part of his delusions until later. This way it is possible to understand better how he is experiencing Schizophrenia and how attached he is to his delusions. When Mr. Nash is taken to a Psychiatric hospital by Dr. Rosan, it is apparent how few treatment options there are and how injurious they can be to the patient. The doctor has a difficult task of trying to get his patient to understand what is real and what is not and during this process Mr. Nash has a number of episodes where he becomes very upset. Eventually he is able to come to and understanding about his diagnosis and he is sent home with medication. As is typical, the medication interferes so much with his life that he chooses to stop taking it and ends up relapsing. Once he discovers his delusions again with the help of his wife and the doctor, he becomes determined to find another way to live without the hospital and without medication. He is able to become aware of how to tell reality and delusions apart and he goes back to Princeton as a Professor and ultimately he wins the Nobel Prize. 

There is a lot about this film that coincides with what we have been studying in class. There is a stigma and shame around mental health at different points in the film as well as the use of words like “mental illness” and “crazy”. It is also shown just how difficult his mental breakdown was on his family as well as being dangerous to his wife and his small child. The use of insulin in his treatment is something that we have read about quite a bit as well and how injurious this treatment could be. I found it interesting how the wife was present in the Psychiatric hospital and how the doctor thought she could actually help her husband where as in many readings we have seen that the doctors preferred patients to be more isolated from the families. The way the Psychiatrist attempted to get him to go to the hospital with him was interesting as well as I recall in some of our readings they would try to tell the patient they were going somewhere else or not lead on that they were going to the hospital in order to get the patient to go peacefully. Lastly, the way he is so dedicated to his work and applies himself so strongly there and not to much else is something that we have discussed that doctors would consider during treatment and they may try to balance out his activities. This film portrayed a number of different things that we have discussed in class and seen in the readings, these being some of the most obvious.

“A Beautiful Mind (2001) Theatrical Trailer.” YouTube, November 12, 2018. 

  1. “A Beautiful Mind (Film) .” Wikipedia, November 7, 2023.  ↩

Film Post: Psycho

For my movie/show post, I decided to pick Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Psycho. This film as always been one of my favorites, since I was a kid when my parents first introduced me to it.

The movie takes place following a woman by the name of Marion Crane who is supposed to be putting a sum of around $40,000 dollars away for her job at the local bank. Instead, Marion takes the money and leaves town without telling anyone of her whereabouts. She after a ways into her trip, she decides to stop at a Motel on a now bypassed road. Once there Marion is greeted by a young man by the name of Norman Bates who runs the motel and lives in the old spooky looking house on the hill behind the motel.

Norman starts small talk with Marion where we learn that Norman is trapped taking care of his mother, who we get the impression that she is not physically well and Marion suggests that his mother should seek help. Norman did not like this idea and got very upset. Following this Marion decides to call it a night and she thinks about returning the cash that she stole as well as replacing the money that she used up.

Before heading to bed Marion takes a shower where all of a sudden an older women comes in and murders her. The mysterious woman rushes out and Norman screams. It was his mother who murdered Marion and so he quickly covers up his mother’s wicked deed and puts Marion’s body into the swamp behind the motel. We then jump to Marion’s sister and boyfriend trying to find her with the help of an investigator. The investigator while at the Bates Motel is murdered by Normans mother. Marion’s sister and boyfriend decided to get in contact with the local sheriff who they discussed the fact about Norman’s mother. The sheriff informs them that it would be impossible because Normans Mother has been dead and buried for 10 years.

This frankly shocks them and they decide to go and investigate themselves. While Norman is distracted by the boyfriend, Marion’s sister runs to the house. Norman finds out and knocks the boyfriend unconscious and runs after her. She sees him coming and decides to hide in the basement where she finds Mrs. Bates sitting in a corner. As she gets closer the chair swivels that Mrs. Bates is in and we get to see that she is a mummified corpse, at this point Norman rushes in dressed like his mother and mimics her voice. The Boyfriend is able to make it in time to hold Norman back. The scene cuts to the police department where they discuss the state of Norman’s mental health. While in a holding cell Norman continues to talk in his mother’s voice.

We can get a sense of how someone who was mistreated by their parents can develop a mental illness. Norman seemed to be suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder which this movie seems to have an interesting take on that I believe we can use as a way to see how film depicted mental health 63 years ago.

Mental Health Related Show Review: House, MD season 6 premier

Season six of House, MD began with two episodes recounting House’s stay at the Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital after his addiction to Vicodin worsened and he began hallucinating and acting increasingly erratic. They began with House being held in a small hospital room as he went through withdrawals; this included him being restrained, showing that despite non-restraint being a goal for much of the history of mental health in America, it still remains an expected part of care today.

House was restrained to his bed while he quit taking Vicodin. This room was much smaller and emptier than the one he would be in once he moved to the permanent ward.

After this he was ready to be released; however, despite him having voluntarily committed himself, his doctor – Dr. Nolan – was able to prevent him from leaving by refusing to write a letter allowing him to reinstate his medical license. House compared this to slavery which, while an intentionally inflammatory remark, reminded me immediately of the accounts of people who were involuntarily committed that compared that to slavery. While not exactly the same, it was similar and House found the same language to describe it.

House wants to leave Mayfield, but Nolan feels that his issue goes beyond simply quitting taking Vicodin and finds a way to keep him there, despite House comparing it to slavery and clearly being unhappy with the idea.

After he begrudgingly agreed to stay, House was transferred to be with other long term patients, where he decided to be disruptive until Nolan was forced to let him go. A theme throughout both the episodes is the constant conflict between House and the doctors. Echoing the longstanding significance of the doctor-patient relationship, Nolan and the other doctors repeatedly expressed that House could not truly improve until he accepted that he needed treatment and cooperated with them.

Another concept brought up repeatedly was the question of who got to decide what was normal. This was centered around a patient, Steven, who believed he was a superhero; that belief was shot down by another doctor who antagonized Steven, trying to prove to him that he was wrong, which led to Steven becoming extremely depressed. This angered House, who confronted the doctor about harassing people for simply being “a little different.” The doctor countered this by saying  Steven wasn’t different, but delusional. House later brought Steven to a fair where he could “fly” in order to cheer him up, which worked, but resulted in Steven being injured when he tried to “fly” again. House touched somewhat on the issue of social control in the way he reacted to how Steven was treated, arguing that he did not have any real issues before he was put on medication and forced to change how he thought about himself. For House, at least initially, he believed that it was better for Steven to be delusional but happy than depressed and the doctors were more so with making him “normal” than improving Steven’s life. He changed this belief after Steven was injured.

3:22-4:17 House disagrees with a doctor about another patient’s treatment, feeling that more harm is being done by trying to make the patient “normal.”

It stood out to me was that Mayfield was established in 1876 and throughout the episodes I was unable to determine if it was in its original location. The hospital appeared older and had many ornate details that I don’t associate with more modern hospitals, but none of the structural issues that would be expected from an older building were touched upon.

The exterior of the hospital
Shows the interior of the hospital and some of the ornate detailing that stood out to me

Film Post: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

For this project, I chose the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, which coincidentally is one of my favorite films as well (it’s available for free on the Internet Archive).

McMurphy is portrayed as a charismatic criminal who faked insanity to avoid prison. McMurphy seems to think that the institution is a free ride where he won’t be subjected to what he was trying to escape from prison, labor. He quickly begins to intermingle with the other patients, who all have different reasons for being there. Some other patients brought themselves to the institution, some may have been committed, or in the case of McMurphy, they were transferred from the prison system. Most of them don’t actually seem mentally ill. What do we consider “insane?” One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest makes us question the criteria involved. 

The institution itself seems alright. The orderlies seem fairly kind to the patients, but it doesn’t seem like specialized care for each character is really a thing. They are all medicated, with unknown pills. ” “It’s just medicine, it’s good for you.”

The patients seem fairly free within the institution and spend a lot of their time at their own devices. However, Nurse Ratched disrupts the flow quite frequently. She is cruel and restrictive to her patients and strays away from any intensive treatment beyond medication, and humiliation. Her goal is control, not treatment. This is demonstrated throughout, especially since her patients that are shown don’t seem that “insane.”

One example is Chief Bromden, who the staff think is “deaf and dumb.” McMurphy was able to get through to him and speak to him. If a career criminal can do this, but not “trained” psychiatric staff, there’s a bit of a problem. 

This film exposed the conditions of mental institutions in a way that appealed to the common person. Not everybody wants to research institutions, especially before the age of the internet. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest demonstrated how inadequate institutions were, especially at the hands of untrained and repressive staff who care little for the human aspects of mental healthcare. Nurse Ratched is symbolic of mental healthcare as a whole at the time, insisting on medication and dominating patients rather than treating them.

Of Mice and Men Digitally Enhanced Essay

As a quick point of reference, Of Mice and Men was one of my favorite books as a high schooler. It was the first high school-assigned book I can distinctly remember having a lasting impact on me. I believe we read it in my 9th-grade Honors English class. I can still remember the Socratic seminars about it and where I sat in the room, little details that I have forgotten for almost every other class. George and Lennie’s story of friendship and loyalty deeply resonated with me at a time in my life when I was trying to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be. Friendship is essential but far less so if not surrounded by the right kind of people. This is why, to this day, I prefer to have a small circle of friends with whom I know would do anything for me as I would for them. In my eyes, Real friendships are supposed to be an extension of one’s family.

Of Mice and Men is about George Milton and Lennie Small, two struggling ranch workers who migrate together throughout California (during the Great Depression era), looking out for work and for each other. From the onset, it becomes evident that Lennie has some kind of intellectual disability and that he is highly devoted and dependent on George. George seems to be frustrated at times by this guardianship kind of role he has with Lennie, but it is also apparent that George cares a great deal about Lennie. George and Lennie are hired to work at the ranch and meet two men, Candy, who is an older soft-spoken ranch hand, and Curley, who is the son of the ranch owner and extremely possessive over his wife. The two then meet a man named Slim, who has much influence on the ranch as a skilled mule driver. One day, Candy overhears George and Lennie’s plan to have their own ranch and live on their own terms. He is intrigued, and the three men decide to keep it a secret between them.

Lennie has always been fond of soft things and is given a puppy from Slim (whose dog just had puppies). This makes Lennie incredibly happy, but it is short-lived. A few days later, Lennie accidentally kills his dog and is inconsolable; overhearing Lennie’s cries, Curley’s wife tries to console Lennie. He tells her how he’s always liked soft things, to which she lets him feel her hair. Lennie grabs too tightly, and Curley’s wife screams out; in an effort to quiet her, Lennie accidentally breaks her neck, killing her. Realizing what he’s done, Lennie returns to the river pool, where he and George spent their first night before traveling to the ranch. The other ranchers find Curley’s wife’s body and assemble a lynch mob. George finds Lennie at the river. He isn’t angry with him but disturbed by what he feels he has to do. George begins to tell Lennie the story of the ranch they’d hoped to share; as the mob approaches and George tells Lennie about the rabbits he has always wanted, George shoots Lennie in the back of the head in an act of mercy.

Of Mice and Men provides a harrowing story of how mental illness was still very much taboo at the time that the story is set. (1920’s) It allows readers/viewers to see the way people with mental illnesses were marginalized and by most of general society, seen as burdens. George’s care of Lennie is by no means representative of how most people from that time would have handled someone with Lennie’s condition. George’s killing of Lennie serves as a final act of love for a friend that it seems only he ever really understood. He killed his friend because he knew that was going to be his fate one way or another, and he didn’t want Lennie’s last memories to be filled with agony, pain, and fear.

Of Mice and Men provides a compelling retrospective lens pointed toward the way/manners in which society treated people with mental illness. I hope readers/viewers today are as moved by Lennie and George’s story as I was/am as a 15-year-old and now at 22. I feel like, as a society, we need to emphasize stories like this to help keep us from reverting to such ill-considerate methods of care for those with mental illnesses.

Blog Post 11/9

This poster describes Thorazine also known as Chlorpromazine. This drug was created in 1955 and was the first antipsychotic. This week in class we discussed the 1950s and the focus on drugs to help the mentally ill.

Digitally Enhanced Essay Project

I chose to do my digitally enhanced essay covering women’s exposure to tranquilizer drugs in the 1950s-1970. Although both men and women took tranquilizers, I chose to focus only on women as the reasons for men and women taking them appeared to be quite different. Looking at the different ways women were exposed to the idea of taking tranquilizers gives insight into problems women were facing in this period.

Project 11/9

During the twentieth century America had been overcome by the fight for civil rights. After many years of fighting, the 19th amendment was passed in 1920 giving women the right to vote. This was shortly followed by the passing of the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924. After that was the civil rights movement of the 1950s-1960s. Amongst all the fighting for civil liberties there was another group of individuals who fought for their rights and won. That being the patients in mental asylums. In some cases, patients had been placed in these asylums for little or no reason at all forcing them to take an involuntary “life sentence” at one of these asylums. During the second half of the twentieth century life for the “mentally ill” changed throughout America. After gaining their freedom they were thrown into a world that had all but forgotten about them. This paper will argue that while the second half of the twentieth century was “revolutionary” for Americans dealing with mental disabilities, these changes would only work to further ostracize those individuals from the rest of society.

In 1950 there were over 500,000 patients in insane asylums across the United States. The extremely high number of patients in asylums was something that the joint commission had aimed to change, in the “Action for mental health: Final report of the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health” it is noted as saying “The objective of Modern treatment of persons with major mental illness is to enable the patient to maintain himself in the community in a normal manner.” (Action for Mental Health).” This was published in 1961 and would spark the “revolution” that took place. The idea of these patients getting back into the community was executed in a top-down manner. The first step federally was the Community Mental Health Act signed in 1963.

(John F Kennedy Signing CMH, 1963)

This act shifted federal funding from hospitals to community mental health programs and centers. The signing of this act meant that responsibility for the mentally ill was slowly being pushed back upon society. This was in stark contrast to the idea of care taking that had been developed amongst American mental asylums. While the 1963 act and others during the 1960s-1970s were seen as wins for civil rights, these individuals were put into an unforgiving society. Now one of the major issues facing society was the number of individuals that were released in such a short time span.  In “‘Community Care’: Historical Perspective on Deinstitutionalization” author Andrew Scull states that “the dramatic decrease took place between 1965 and 1980, when numbers fell from 475,202 to 132,164.” (71, Community care).

(Americans in mental asylums, figure 1)

On the surface it appears as though treatment had taken a substantial leap. However, that was not the case rather individuals were being thrown out of asylums and into the community. When these former patients were reintroduced, they were met with a society that treated them as outcasts and figuratively continued the mistreatment that they had faced in the asylums. With over 300,000 of the “mentally ill” being released into society it appeared to overwhelm America. During the time it is noted that “Their plight triggered popular fears of dangerous “maniacs” running the streets and invading neighborhoods” (folklore).  This clearly shows that these individuals would not be immediately “adapted” into society the way that they were intended to. As a result of this many former patients found themselves with no one to turn to in a society which was content ignoring them. Leaving them to seek shelter in welfare hotels, halfway houses, and homeless shelters. For these patients they went from a place of stability, directly to the “lowest rank” of American society.

(Definition + Examples of Norms)

Another thing that fueled negative feelings towards former patients’ is that their actions “went against societal norms.”  While there is a discussion to be had about what norms are, who sets them, and how one should conduct themselves to fit these norms. We should turn the focus on how going against these norms impacted societies view of the mentally ill. Similar, to the days before asylums community care took over as the chief way to care for those with mental disabilities. During the twentieth century America had become a progressive nation so, it was reasonable to believe that these individuals could seamlessly integrate into society. The major issue was that society had retained the same negative stigmas about mental illness that led to the overcrowding and hiding away of these individuals. These beliefs are perfectly exemplified in the “Action for Mental Health Report” written by the Joint commission in 1961. It states that “They do not feel as sorry as they do relief to have out of the way persons whose behavior disturbs or offends” (Action for mental Health, 58). The significance of this quote is that it shows the overall lack of empathy towards mentally ill Americans during this time. It speaks to the fact that most Americans would rather these individuals be locked away than “deal with” their behaviors. For many these asylums had become places to “drop off’ unwanted or troublesome individuals. In a turn of events the states were the ones dumping off patients. America answered with a lack of empathy for these individuals, which is a problem considering that is a major part of community care.

Aside from convenience there was another driving factor in the ostracization of the mentally ill in America. Since they had been “hidden away” for so long, many Americans didn’t know what to make of these “newly” added individuals. So, from societies perspective the “strangeness” of their actions helped to further solidify their ideas of the mentally ill.  Along with strange behaviors there was a general lack of understanding of what mental illness is especially in the broad society’s knowledge. With a lack of empathy, a more damaging societal view emerged. It is noted that “It has been observed countless times that sight or thought of major mental illness, as our culture has come to understand it, stimulates fear” (Action for mental Health Report, 59). This sort of fear of the unknown that Americans had developed created a new set of problems more significant than “fitting in” to society. Not only did patients have to face the transition into society they had to do it in a world that actively feared them for factors that were out of their control. It is important to note that this quote is from 1961 but this sentiment carried throughout the rest of the century.

(Trailer for One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest)

More concrete proof of Americans fear of the mentally ill can be seen in the way that popular media took off with its portrayal of mental illness and mental health facilities. The most prevalent of which can be seen in popular American movies during the back half of the twentieth century. In “The Folklore of Deinstitutionalization: Popular Film and the Death of the Asylum, 1973–1979” author Troy Rondinone discusses the connection between horror movies produced during this time and “fears” Americans had. Rondinone specifically mentioned “The Exorcist”, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest”, and “Halloween.” These films were met with immense popularity and are still considered classics to this day. However, Rondinone notes that “The movies folklorically confirmed popular horrors of mental hospitals, and the people trapped inside them.” (folklore). The negative portrayal of mental health and mental institutions in these movies further differentiated the former patients from the rest of society.

The ostracizing of former patients is not only seen in popular media, but it can also be seen in the “transferring” of these patients. After these individuals had gained their freedom, they were essentially just sent off to other institutions. In the 1960s and into the early 1970s most of the patients being moved out of asylums were individuals over the age of 65. Many Americans saw these individuals as burdens and lacked either the means or want to care for them. This can be seen when Andrew Scull states that “Between 1963 and 1969 alone, the numbers of elderly patients with mental disorders living in nursing homes increased by nearly 200,000, from 187,675 to 367,586. By 1972, … the mentally disturbed population housed in nursing and board and care homes had risen to 640,000.” (75, community care). With the run of the American asylum ending families looked for a new place to “dump off” these unwanted individuals. Reinforcing the the idea of hiding away these individuals had persisted through societal changes.

(Hospital vs Prison Population)

For younger patients they were not lucky enough to be put back into “care” facilities. Previously, “odd” behaviors got people sent to an asylum now they were sent to jail instead. The Book “From Asylum to Prison: Deinstitutionalization and the Rise of Mass Incarceration after 1945” looks at Philadelphia and the polices reaction to the recently released patients. The book notes that Philadelphia police commissioner “published a directive that encouraged police to take people exhibiting antisocial behavior to jail, since they could no longer take them to hospitals involuntarily.” (Community Care, 98). This was seemingly a quick fix to the problem of unwanted people. It is important to note that this attempt to hide away these members of society was not exclusively a Philadelphia thing. It is also noted that “the number of people diagnosed with mental illnesses entering the prison system sharply increased, a trend that occurred in countless cities across the United States” (Community Care, 98-100). This sort of “institutional transfer” that occurred showed how American society had wished to rid themselves of these individuals as soon as they got their rights. Americans’ willingness to hide these individuals speaks the truth that many of the former patients never had a real chance of making it in American society.

While the twentieth century was one where many people gained their rights that does not mean that all citizens were in favor of it these changes. In the case of the mentally ill deinstitutionalization was met with negativity from the majority of American citizens. As far as public perception many Americans feared these individuals. This fear would be further exemplified by movies that painted mental illness as scary, increasing the spread of this fear. As a result of this fear Americans worked to “re-institutionalize” former patients. Whether that be dropping a grandparent off at a nursing home or sending individuals to jail instead of asylums, America worked to hide away these people. Overall, the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill was met by an America that wanted to push them out of society.


Parsons, Anne E. From Asylum to Prison: Deinstitutionalization and the Rise of Mass Incarceration after 1945. The University of North Carolina Press, 2018.

RONDINONE, TROY. “The Folklore of Deinstitutionalization: Popular Film and the Death of the Asylum, 1973–1979.” Journal of American Studies 54, no. 5 (2020): 900–925.

Scull, Andrew. “‘Community Care’: Historical Perspective on Deinstitutionalization.” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 64, no. 1 (2021): 70–81.

Bennett, Douglas. “Deinstitutionalization in Two Cultures.” The Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly. Health and Society 57, no. 4 (1979): 516–32.

Action for mental health: Final report of the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and health, 1961. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1961.


“Kennedy’s Vision for Mental Health Never Realized.” USA Today, October 20, 2013.

Raphael, Steven, and Michael A. Stoll. “Assessing the Contribution of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill to Growth in the U.S. Incarceration Rate.” The Journal of Legal Studies 42, no. 1 (2013): 187–222.

“Social Norm Examples.” YourDictionary. Accessed November 9, 2023.

“Deinstitutionalization – Special Reports | The New Asylums | Frontline.” PBS. Accessed November 9, 2023.


YouTube. YouTube, 2008.

Digitally Enhanced Research Essay

I wrote a digitally enhanced essay about three different institutions for my Digital Project. The three institutions are Central State Hospital, Crownsville State Hospital, and Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. This essay aimed to take on more of a comparative-styled approach. I hope you enjoy the read, and I apologize for the long-winded tangents you may find scattered throughout.

With that being said here’s the link to my essay:

Please let me know if you have any issue accessing the essay through the link. (I also made sure to send it directly to your email.)