Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Shocking

frances farmer


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.












19 comments:

Trissta {Living on the Chic} said...

WTF. That's messed up! I have a friend that's a clinical psychotherapist and she has almost had to section out her life into work and home, because she found that all the stress from her clients could really become overwhelming. She's gotten really good at closing people out when they stress her out too much. I can understand it, but then I wonder when I'm stressing her out and when she's just really busy. IDK I think that mental health should definitely be more of an issue than it is... because it's just crazies running crazies anymore.

Much Love,
Trissta

Felicia said...

I also love AHS as well as Jessica Lange. She is from MN and for a LONG time she lived here in the 90's. She is known as being ultra reclusive but I worked at The Gap in a mall near her old home in MN and she came in one day with her daughter. I was starstruck and knowing she was private, I didn't say anything to her. Speaking on AHS, I was totally turned off by the introduction of aliens this past season!! I was like WTF??

On the topic of mental illness, my dad is bipolar and has also had electroshock therapy. He rec'd it when I was very young (late 80's maybe?) and we don't talk about it at all now but I remember feeling very sick to my stomach knowing he had that treatment. I think if I learned more about it in his particular case I might feel better about it though. I also wanted to be a psychiatrist but I didn't have the math/science skills to finish the classes. I should give you a book list of all the books I've read about mental disorders. I have a ton!

Deidre said...

i don't watch American Horror Story - I can't really handle that kind of horror-ness. Sad but true.

Ashton (King) Wright said...

American Horror Story is one of my favorite shows on t.v. right now. (However, I was a little disappointed with the alien theme in this past season. Definitely weird and not really necessary in my opinion.) Jessica Lange is amazing.

Mental illnesses are both fascinating and scary. I can only take so much of it.

Dancing Branflake said...

I feel ya. I was obsessed with the movie Girl, Interrupted. Have you seen Losing Isaiah? It's my favorite Jessica Lange film.

WendyB said...

Frances Farmer's story is something I was obsessed with for a long time! ... and now I've got "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle" stuck in my head.

Tom Tuttle from Tacoma said...

horrific indeed. nice to read about your thoughts.

i'm quite curious about mental illness too. maybe because one time in my life i was feeling down and i contemplated seeing a shrink (but involuntary mental illness must be another thing altogether). i didn't go beyond seeing the specialist after fixing the appointment. i attended a gathering of people who're guided by some life coach..i still don't know what's the real description of such events. it's not anything new, it's like those self-help groups, if i can compare it to something quite close. i know they're being helpful and some lessons would indeed help people help themselves but tbh it didn't really work for me. i somehow ended up in the house of a pastor's wife. i asked about whether taking medication would help, you know, all that stuff. she told me she'd only help with the help of God's word. i was still unmoved then (was a backslided christian). iirc, she quoted Ps 37:4. you can imagine how that'd go down on rebellious kids and non-believers. anyway, in the end, that's how i ended up acknowledging the heavenly father. i went to fortune tellers and everyone else except him. and he's the one who eventually rescued me from myself. so this is my story. i thought i was sick and would've gone for the needles and shock therapy if only to rid myself of the pain in the heart.

you know, i'm currently doing some psychology modules but they're about numbers and analysis. having the toughest time ever this time of getting back to school. i can't imagine how hard the rest of the field will be.

Caroline said...

I remember watching Sybil as a little girl. OMG...the movie still haunts me to this day. And if I ever see a green kitchen, I just get freaked out! Mental Illness is frightening. I had a friend that was severely bi-polar. We just thought she was "odd" growing up, but in her 20's she went off the deep end. No one knows where she is...sad really. Anyway...great post!!!

itsCatherine said...

its bizarre but i have the same bizzare fascination... http://www.ted.com/talks/sherwin_nuland_on_electroshock_therapy.html

The Savage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Savage said...

Thank goodness I live in farm country. If I ever get depressed I can always lean up against an electric fence. Yay!

Kristine said...

I saw Frances way back when and I was so disturbed. Jessica Lange was amazing in it, I should revisit it. I thought about becoming a psychotherapist as well and took a few courses in university but was worried I'd get too involved and depressed by my clients. ( so I decided to become a massage therapist so that I can get physically drained as well as emotionally drained, dumb!)The brain is so fascinating and scary.

E said...

I really enjoyed this season, but I still think the first was the best. I heard tell the third one's going to be based in Salem during the witch trials and Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates are going to be frenemies (OMFG AMAZING!!)!

I've never heard of this movie, but it totally sounds like something I would be into. Fascinating and terrifying at the same time.

nicole said...

i'd like to read that autobiography now, and see the film...

Anne said...

We all grew up thinking electroshock therapy was of the horror story material until I saw a show on TV (48hr or Nightline type) that featured a teenaged girl who was severely depressed and nothing had worked for her. It finally came to the last resort of shock therapy and it worked. The brightness and hope of her heavy depression finally lifting was incredible for her and her supportive family.

I guess we had only ever known of shock therapy through horror films and books but it's a life change/ life giving treatment.

Chic 'n Cheap Living said...

How intriguing and utterly sad. The fact remains that we still know so little about the mind and can hope to ease symptoms. The lack of clarity is definitely one of the scariest things!

xoxo,
Chic 'n Cheap Living

Stoic Tia said...

Jessica Lange is perfect casting in American Horror Story. NO ONE else could play that role like her!
Side note, my mom is a psychologist, and I hated it growing up. She was always assessing things. And then when we were little my older brother was in a children's mental institution for awhile. And I always wondered if he was really crazy, or my mom was just over analyzing everything he did. Turns out he is totally bat shit crazy. But I think that profession makes people jaded, and a little crazy themselves!

Elle Sees said...

there are about 18394 things i want to comment on, but speaking of shock-therapy, nothing bothers me more than hearing this is done to gays to "make" them straight. i know someone this happened to, and just thinking of his story brings me to tears. for the record, it didn't work!

Kitty Stampede said...

OOoooo....I want to watch this. I wonder if it's on netflix? Gonna check, if not will have to download.

I am fascinated by stories such as this. Reminds me a bit of the story of Candy Jones.

And yes, as we speak Beiber is headed down the path of being too famous and shit starts to go down...seems it happens to a lot or maybe even most of them. Most are too young to handle fame and they are just not mature enough or mentally stable to handle the pressure.