Murder and Mayhem
Even more common and more pernicious than any of the media images of mental illness discussed so far is the depiction of people with mental illnesses as violent and criminal. The "mad murderer" is as persistent, pervasive, and powerful a media stereotype as one can find anywhere. It occurs repeatedly within our most popular media and consistently across virtually all forms of mass media.
Mad killers and menacing mad doctors, for example, were prominent even in early film fare. One of the very earliest films, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari ( 1919-20), introduced the mad and evil doctor who uses his special knowledge toward nefarious ends. Later Dr. Mabuse, in Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler ( 1922), was shown attempting to use hypnosis to establish a criminal empire and ending up confined as a raving madman. Still other early mad doctors include Charles Laughton, who tries to turn animals into men in The Island of Dr. Moreau ( 1932); Boris Karloff, who, as Hjalmar Poelzig, attempts human sacrifice as part of his devil worship in The Black Cat ( 1935); and Peter Lorre, as Dr. Gogol, who grafts the hands of a murderer onto a concert pianist in Mad Love ( 1935). Vincent Price carries on the mad doctor tradition in such films as The Abominable Dr. Phibes ( 1971) and Dr. Phibes Rises Again ( 1972).
With Alfred Hitchcock's classic suspense tale Psycho ( 1960), however, the floodgates opened for the portrayal of psychotic killers who are not merely scientists gone mad, who kill repeatedly, and whose murders are accounted for almost solely by their insanity. Hitchcock's
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Publication information: Book title: Media Madness:Public Images of Mental Illness. Contributors: Otto F. Wahl - Author. Publisher: Rutgers University Press. Place of publication: New Brunswick, NJ. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 56.
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