My neighbor and I were chatting recently (ok, it was actually a month or two ago -- it is getting harder and harder for me to get around to blogging about things!) about the tv show American Horror Story and how good Jessica Lange is in it. Have you watched the show? If so, could you BELIEVE last season?!?!?! That show is OUTTA CONTROL, and Jessica Lange is shockingly good in it.
After gushing over Jessica Lange in this tv series, and mentioning how awesome she was in Cape Fear, my neighbor told me I needed to watch the movie Frances, which she stars in. OMFG. Have you seen it? OMFG!!!!!
The basic plot of the movie - which is based on a true story -- is as follows:
Born in Seattle, Washington, Frances Elena Farmer is a rebel from a young age, winning a high school award by writing an essay called "God Dies" in 1931. Later that decade, she becomes controversial again when she wins (and accepts) an all-expenses-paid trip to the USSR in 1935. Determined to become an actress, Frances is equally determined not to play the Hollywood game: she refuses to acquiesce to publicity stunts, and insists upon appearing on screen without makeup. Her defiance attracts the attention of Broadway playwright Clifford Odets, who convinces Frances that her future rests with the Group Theatre.
But once she leaves Hollywood for New York City, Frances learns to her chagrin that the Group Theatre intends to exploit her fame to draw in more customers. Her desperate attempts to restart her film career, combined with her increasing dependence on alcohol and the pressures brought to bear by her mother, result in a complete nervous breakdown. While institutionalized during the 1940s, Frances is abused by the powers-that-be: she is forced to undergo insulin and electroshock, is cruelly beaten, periodically raped by the male orderlies and visiting soldiers and eventually involuntarily lobotomized.
In 1950, Frances is released back in the custody of her mother, who persists in browbeating her until Frances discovers the legal means to break away. The film comes to a climax when Frances is feted by the network program This Is Your Life. When asked about alcoholism and mental illness, Farmer said she had never believed she had any of them. She commented, "if a person is treated like a patient, they are apt to act like one." The film ends with Frances Farmer walking down the street with Harry York. Ending lines state that Frances Farmer spent 1958 to 1964 as host of a local TV program in Indianapolis (Frances Farmer Presents), before dying of esophageal cancer on August 1, 1970 at age 56.
Knowing that much of the movie was probably a fictionalized version of Frances Farmer's life, I ended up reading her autobiography to learn more. Her story is fascinating. And horrifying. And sometimes hard to believe. Truth be told, I did not like her writing (and, honestly, I found her irritating as hell as a person, but whatever), but her story is still a terrifying cautionary tale about fame, alcoholism, parental abuse, mental institutions, authoritarian abuse, etc.
The Frances Farmer story reminds me of Lindsay Lohan, Mariah Carey, Celebrity Rehab, etc. The lethal combo of fame, success, money, pressure, booze, drugs, etc. can have such detrimental results. Humph. I suppose I should be happy that I am not a rousing success in life! lol
While on the topic of mental illness, electroshock therapy, etc., my hairdresser recently told me about her older brother. His wife died last year. And then his dog died. He was terribly depressed after both of these events and just couldn't seem to shake his depression. He checked himself into a mental hospital to get help. He had done this in the past to get help with depression, and figured he had nothing to lose by trying it again.
The doctors tried everything. Different meds, therapy sessions, etc., but the depression just didn't let up. Nothing seemed to help. He was refusing meds and food and water and things looked BLEAK. The doctors were not sure what to do. And that was when the patient REQUESTED electroshock therapy. HE REQUESTED IT, saying it had helped him in the past and he was willing to try it again. So....with his permission, electroshock therapy was administered NINE TIMES. OMFG! Apparently it did the trick, as he is finally feeling better and will be released today.
Thoughts on this?!??!?!? It mortifies me beyond belief, but I guess it shouldn't since the patient is feeling better.
I have always been fascinated by mental illness, and started reading up on it when I was a kid. Books like Sybil, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, When Rabbit Howls, etc. For some crazy (pardon the expression) reason, I have always been drawn to books about mental illness, abuse, personality disorders, mental hospitals and the like. Maybe it is because I feel a bit unhinged sometimes? Maybe because mental illness is something I fear? Maybe because I like reading about people that have bigger issues to contend with than I do? Maybe because I am always drawn to the macabre? Maybe because I worry about how I would be treated if I were ever institutionalized? All of the above? I am not sure.
Back in my college days I thought about majoring in Psychology. When my dad heard of this, he sat me down and told me he didn't think I could handle the pressures of that type of work -- he thought that seeing so many people with such difficult illnesses and so much despair would be too much for me to handle. He mentioned a family friend that became a psychologist and she discouraged others from following the same path. I think he was right -- I get upset when I see ads for missing pets, so I would probably fall apart trying to help those with mental illness. Humph. Regardless, I am glad there are people out there that try to help the mentally ill, and I like to hope that abuse of the mentally ill isn't as rampant as it reportedly was in the past. At least I hope so.