It is amazing how many stories out there, books, movies, plays, whatever, where the protagonist/antagonist has at least one major obstacle to overcome. The vast majority of these obstacles are seen as internal, like a disease, a disability, a character flaw, etc. Oscar winning movies almost always have an internally flawed character overcome an obstacle put up them. It’s pure gold.
Likewise, there are (I’m gonna go out on a limb here) zero movies about kids born into extraordinary wealth who easily sail into Yale and begin a multi-billion dollar company by the time they are 27 and cruise to an easy retirement at age 45. Hell, you could throw in early parent’s death, divorce, and no one will feel compassion for that character. Not unless he comes down with cancer while some crooked uncle steals all his money and he has to make the winning touchdown in the big game.
We live in an odd society where we don’t care about you unless you are flawed. But when you aren’t tragically flawed we tell you to work harder. But when you are impossibly flawed we only want to hear your story if you overcome it or do something miraculous in spite of it.
Just because I heard an add for the movie this morning, let’s look at Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates. Both men are/were incredible visionaries, accumulated massive wealth while changing the way society interacts with technology. And while we respect Gates as the richest man in the world and love his charitable work and yadda yadda yadda, there weren’t two Gates biopics and a biography done within a couple years of each other. People aren’t wearing shirts with Gates’ head on them. He doesn’t have the cache. And I think the reason is simple enough to understand, Jobs’ story is one of ‘the cost of his brilliance’. We hear about his quirky and sometimes terrifying demeanor towards others, etc. And he died at a young age to cancer, right in his peak. Gates seems like a nice guy, who retired, no story there.
But I bet Gates’ story is also very interesting, but it won’t get told, at least not now.
Feeling sorry for yourself is a common condition amongst bipolars. Most people view us as one of the two later groups, either not tragically flawed, or flawed so much we need to overcome it. Neither story is true, of course. We cannot just work through it, get over it, or move on without a great deal of help, but we will never overcome it either. There is no cure, and even if you have been in remission for a long time, an episode could wake you up the next morning.
Our story is starting to be told, mostly by people like me doing this type of writing. There are Hollywood movies with bipolar characters, but they are generally portrayed as either high functioning or completely off the reservation. People claiming this is a step forward for the community is like saying Forrest Gump advanced relations with the mentally challenged. It is token. Even at its most sincere, it doesn’t paint it correctly. Why not? Because bipolars don’t tend to live the types of lives that make for good movies, books, or plays.
And that is because we are mostly just like “normal” people whose lives don’t show up on the silver screen either.