Recently, I was shown an advertisement for a new movie due to come out in 2017 called “Split”. Directed my M. Night Shyamalan, it’s about a man with 23 personalities/identities who captures three teenage girls. Because…he’s supposedly balls-to-the-wall mental due to having D.I.D.
Watch the trailer below:
I am pretty sure that a good chunk of people are going “Hey, this movie looks interesting and not half bad. What’s the problem?” so, luckily (unluckily?) I can break it down for you because I have D.I.D: Dissociative Identity Disorder. Let’s start with the basics so you know what I’m talking about and then about the trailer so you can see what I’m talking about.
What is D.I.D?
Most people don’t know what D.I.D is (doubly so if they work at Johns Hopkins University, (yeah, I’m not letting that discrimination case go)). Here’s the thing: you’ve actually heard of D.I.D, a lot. It’s usually called by it’s old name “Multiple Personalities Disorder”. Here’s another thing: you mainly learned through media so you also most likely know very, very little about what D.I.D actually is.
D.I.D spelled out is “Dissociative Identity Disorder”, that is the new name of “Multiple Personality Disorder”. The name change happened around the mid-1990s and became part of a spectrum which, if leveled, would look like this:
Level 1: Dissociative Disorder (D.D.)
Level 2: Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D)
Level 3: Dissociative Fugue (D.F.)
If you’re between the “levels”, you’re considered [Disorder]-NOS (Example: DD-NOS). “NOS” means “Not Otherwise Specified”. Basically, the doctor thinks you’re somewhere on the spectrum, but not sure where. I was originally pegged as DD-NOS and then it got bumped up to D.I.D, which made me a very not-happy camper. Actually, I eventually was in tears about it. Not in “I finally know what I have so now my life can begin” tears, I was in “Oh sh*t, my credibility is going to be so dogged because everyone thinks people with D.I.D are absolute psychos. It’s almost as bad as being coined ‘schizophrenic’“ tears. It’s not a fun disorder to have and neurotypical folks make sure it’s the worst experience ever. Ask Hopkins. And the Baltimore City Police.
The first case of D.I.D, according to the Wikipedia page of Dissociative Identity Disorder (it’s one of the few sites that I could find that didn’t have overly dense jargon), was apparently in 1646 by Paracelus but the first profound case was Louis Vivet, who was hospitalized in 1885 due to developing a psychosomatic paralysis at the age of 17 after a viper wrapped around his hand when he was working on a farm. Once he regained his ability to walk, didn’t recognize anyone in the hospital and accused them of imprisoning him. Also, it turns out, he was the influencing story of Robert Louis Stevenson Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde. The key word is “influencing” not “direct story”.
Still, the psych community argues whether dissociative disorders, particularly DID, exists or not. Also, water is wet and the Pope is Catholic, ugh.
What makes D.I.D. the disorder that it is (and often stigmatized) is that there is what is known as various “alters”, also called “personalities” and “identity states”. The job of these alters is to pretty much deal with trauma however way they do. Some internalize it. Some believe that it didn’t happen. Some just go well off the wall to deal with the fact trauma happened. Either way, the group of alters (and host/original personality) is called a system. No two people with D.I.D systems are the same but there are striking familiar trends that are the hallmarks of D.I.D., such as dissociative amnesia, starkly different personalities types (one alter can be boisterous, regular visioned and careless, another can be near-sighted, shallow and pedantic) that make them seem like different people, all in one body. A person with D.I.D can feel like their head is going blank and fuzzy and dissociated from their environment or even themselves (which is also called “derealization” and “depersonalization”). There’s a wonderful Tumblr that artistically express what it feels like to have a dissociative disorder called Dissociart.
While we’re on the subject of art and dissociation, please don’t confuse an artistic alter ego (such as Nicki Minaj’s Roman, Beyonce’s Sasha Fierce, etc etc) with D.I.D because one is crafted carefully for artistic reasons, the other is borne from trauma. I have explained about it in the past here. Also, the insanity=creativity idea is a creativity myth. Being creative and having a disorder are not related: you can have a disorder and not be artistically talented and you can be artistically talented without a disorder.
Another way I’ve described D.I.D to others is that it’s like your mind is a very, very small apartment and there are several roommates there. And just like roommates in real life, some get along, some don’t like each other, some rather not be bothered, some act like the whole apartment is theirs and no one else’s. I occasionally joke, “It’s like a Dormtainment skit, sometimes.” Or like having several people in one car for a very lengthy road trip.
What is D.I.D Not?
Schizophrenia. That’s an entirely different disorder. Nor is it Borderline Personality Disorder. That is also entirely a different disorder. Those with BPD have mimicked the “showy” parts of D.I.D (such as pretending to have alters and acting out as such) but usually do not display the internal effects of D.I.D, such as the amnesic confusion or expression of internal chatter between alters. Not to mention, if tested, D.I.D is incredibly hard to fake. Even I fudged my answers a bit when I was tested to downplay my symptoms and experiences and still came out pegged as D.I.D. And I’m pretty well-studied on the subject.
It’s also not a fun, creative experience where you get to “try out” being different people. Haaaaaaaaa, no. It’s confusing, disorienting and you get really good at “I have literally no clue what is going on but I’m just gonna do what everyone else is doing until I figure it out.” If anything, it’s like playing those escape-the-room games on Newgrounds where you have no idea where you are and have to figure out how to get out before something bad happens. And there’s next to no directions.
How Does Someone Get D.I.D.?
It’s all about the trauma. One saying about D.I.D is “Not everyone with PTSD has D.I.D but everyone with D.I.D has PTSD”. This means that dissociative disorders (lowercased in reference to the spectrum, not just the actual disorder itself) stem from trauma. It’s honestly no different than if someone were affected by physical trauma (such as being hit by a car) and now have a physical abnormality (now the affected is in a wheelchair). The hyper-simplified basics is “a person experienced an ongoing series of trauma, developed mental defense mechanisms to help deal with the trauma (they dissociate themselves (believe “this is not happening to me”) from the experience). Now the defense mechanisms are maladaptive.“ PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and C-PTSD (Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) can be a garden bed of disorders, such as disorders on the dissociative spectrum. There’s plenty that can be said here but we’re just focusing on the dissociative spectrum as the scope.
It appears the most common trauma stem is abuse, usually child sexual abuse and, for a time in the 1990s (I have no idea why), claims of Satanic ritual abuse. I don’t have either of those. My trauma basically stems from living in one of the worst neighborhoods Baltimore City had to offer. And how not much as been done, given how that very same neighborhood blew up into riots that took over the city just about a year ago. Of course, other things layer on top of that (Not everyone in Sandtown or Baltimore has D.I.D but 80% does have PTSD. I’ll abstain from my usual snark here) but that’s the groundwork.
In case anyone is concerned, the D.I.D and the fact that I’m Pagan are two separate things because I’m a person. I didn’t become Pagan because I have a mental illness (that’s kinda dumb) and my mental illness does not fuel my beliefs in metaphysics and psionics…because that’s not how D.I.D works. If that were the case, anyone who believes in a deity or higher power would be consider insane, regardless if they’re Christian, Pagan or Buddhist. That and folks who believe D.I.D is the real motivator behind being Pagan: you’re thinking of Schizophrenia, another disorder that’s wildly misunderstood…and is not the underlying basis of why someone has spiritual and/or religious beliefs, either. Oh noes, I’m a complex human being. The horror.
D.I.D starts rooting itself at around 6 to 9 years old but may not really start showing up until around pre-teens or a little later. It isn’t a sign of an over-active imagination of a child, it’s considered a mental defense mechanism on overload when someone is too young to fully understand what’s going on but have to deal with it anyways with very, very little resources and emotional/psychological support.
I could go on forever about what D.I.D is, isn’t, how does someone get it and so on and so forth but I have a trailer to deconstruct so here are the basics: D.I.D is a trauma disorder part of the dissociative spectrum that sets in at around early childhood (but doesn’t show until around pre/teen age), usually caused by on-going trauma, which can be anything, from abuse to long term systemic/institutional neglect/harm. The trauma disorder is a mental defense mechanism that is overloaded due to lack of emotional/psychological support during childhood.
Alright, let’s break down why this trailer foreshadows a crappy movie that is overly tropey. I’ll do time stamps so everyone can follow along my thoughts with the trailer above:
00:25 – These are very polite teens (and of course they’re girls because, hey, “Damsels in Distress” is still a thing). And it makes no sense to as why this random dude is trying to kidnap them. Or how he’s somehow not affected by the mace because that small little dust mask would not stop the effects of mace from getting to his lungs (and eyes! What about his eyes? They’re in a car!). I’ve worked in a weapon shop before, have friends in the police force, friends who have participated in a riot and have my own half-face respirator because I’ve worked with chemicals before. This little dust mask barely thwarts dust. Pepper spray will sail right past that and make all four people have a miserable time. While someone can argue “Some alters can’t feel pain”, pepper spray is designed so that even if you can’t feel pain for whatever reason, your body is still going to be affected.
00:33 – Seriously? An underground secret lair? Complete with beds and decor? There are prisons less decked out than this spot. Also, it’s pretty obvious that the person with the D.I.D is supposed to be the “monster” here. As if police need to watch this and feel validated in their current method of dealing with neurodivergent people of “just add bullets”.
00:45 – I take it the brunette one is supposed to be the “hero” or something? And the blonde one is second in command? And the racially ambiguous one is supposed to be the quiet token?
00:50 – Nice outfit and shoes. Lemme guess: the Beckies discover who they think is someone that can help but instead is another alter?
00:58 – Yeap. People do know that getting dressed takes time and most people with D.I.D don’t have a wardrobe at the ready for their each and every alter, right? Because that’s fact. While that is an amazing shirt and necklace, it’s not really true to how D.I.D people act.
01:04 – This is supposed to be the part where the audience reacts and goes “This dude is bug-f*ck crazy. Man, I’d hate to meet a guy like him. Those girls are in trouble.” This is also the part where I roll my eyes. It’s like the creators of this did a cursory glance over what people with D.I.D are like, watched, perhaps, half an episode of United States of Tara and went “ok, we’re ready.“
01:17 – That was probably the only part of the trailer that I thought was well done in terms of acting. Just three seconds of footage. Also, it’s another “let’s scare the audience and make them think ‘this dude is bug-f*ck crazy, he’s a grown man who thinks he’s also a woman…and a child.‘
01:25 – Ah, here’s the explanation, from a therapist. The “monster” is named Kevin and has 23 alternate personalities. This therapist must be talking to an investigator or something because wow, she’s free-wheeling this information. Even my therapist wouldn’t share that much info with anyone out of concern it would be used against me. Like, I think just the hospital I was at and my lawyer gets a direct stream of info. Everyone else has to sign a ream of papers, get asked a lot of questions, etc. Because D.I.D is heavily stigmatized, as well as mental illness as a whole.
01:28 – Ah, she is freewheeling to Kevin, her client. Maybe an alter is out and she’s telling the details?…in a really awkward way? And saying “Who are you?“ Ugh, sounds like being back in therapy when I first got pegged as D.I.D. It double sucks when you like doing accents to past the time, like me. That’s not D.I.D, I just like amusing myself.
01:30 – The visual expression of, “Kevin is more than one person. And definitely more than you see.“ I would have thought it looked so cool if I wouldn’t be so strongly reminded that people will think of this when I say “I have D.I.D”. Like, for real, people with D.I.D are not this creepy as a default. Most are pretty quiet, keep to themselves because they know something’s not right in their head and pretty much that. This movie makes it seem all people with D.I.D are out to get a bunch of teens for some super nefarious reason.
01:42 – The brunette Becky seems to attempt to be clever. And fails. Oh lolz. Isn’t she a bit manipulative? Also, depending on the D.I.D system, talking to one alter can sometimes be like talking to one roommate in a house with very thin walls, alters are not that stupid. And speaking of alters, how come there’s literally no alter going “Hey, whoa, hey, whoa…I have no idea what’s going on but this seems reaaaaally messed up. You three? Gotta go. I don’t know why you’re in here but this is not an AirBnb, go on and scat“? Or telling the other alters, “Alright, here’s a really strange idea: maybe, just maybe – hear me out, I might be going somewhere with this – that we just kidnapped a bunch of people and totally should let them go because this is pretty illegal and wrong. Wild thought, I know, but just tossing that one out there. Like, we’re gonna be on Court Tv and it won’t be fun.“ It seems like all 23 personalities are on the same page…that’s really odd. If you don’t think so, gather up 23 random people in a room and attempt to simply order a single pizza in two minutes. The more folks/alters there are, the more complex things get, even for the simplest things.
01:43 – The body contorting? Really? Now you’re just painting those with D.I.D as super scary people that can’t control themselves who just wanna kill and torture. I know pleeeeeeeenty of people who are a lot more destructive and vicious and they’re very much sane and lucid and super not-crazy.
01:50 – “The Beast”? Oh, come on, Christian ideology? Are you serious? How laaaaaaaaazy. Why do mentally ill monsters always reference the Bible somehow? Like, holy crap, can anyone think of anything different? If I saw this in theatres, I would have walked out (if I hadn’t already) and just gone across the hall to see Black Panther (if it were out in 2017 and not 2018).
01:57 – Oh, brunette Becky has claws. She can hit a mentally ill person, how lovely. She can somehow make a White feminist’s heart swoon in how she’s saving herself and not letting a man save her. And somehow, this looks like a cross between a Silent Hill game and a regular horror movie
2:11 – “The world will understand now.” I strongly doubt that. Intensely. More like “vastly misunderstand now” since you made people with D.I.D look like automatic Bible-thumping psycho killers with potential mommy issues. Dude, please.
2:25 – That quip…is so plastic. Doesn’t sound like a nine year old. Also, very little research into D.I.D for this movie, indeed.
And that‘s a wrap, folks! You can go see the movie if you want but, remember, this is a pretty awful depiction of D.I.D. It is not an inside look of how D.I.D works. It’s not how the average person with D.I.D acts. It’s pretty crap, all in all. I mean, even the Korean Drama Heal Me Kill Me did a better job and that was partially inaccurate as well.
In addition, it’s movies and shows like this that makes people have unnecessary knee-jerk reactions about those with mental illness and present the mentally ill as inherently dangerous when that’s not always the case. Not once throughout the trailer – and I definitely doubt it will be in the movie – that the “monster” is going to get anything to make the viewer sympathize with him. Most people with D.I.D don’t want to hurt anyone, they just want to be left alone. If someone with D.I.D did go to harm someone, it’s because they were set off, not because they’re inherently evil. And if the idea that a mentally ill person could potentially harm someone in that state because they’re set off, maybe you should vote and campaign for better mental health care in this country. That’s the only way to “thwart” potential acts of violence from a mentally ill person, by having a beneficial system there that can help them. And signing up for Mental Health First Aid.