A couple days ago I posted an In Brightest Day about how pop culture likes to present mental hospitals as horrible, abusive institutions. Very rarely do I ever see them represented in a positive light, and I think there’s a reason for that. It’s easy to demonize mental hospitals for the sake of horror, and since mental hospitals have a bad reputation in the public consciousness, that horror can sink deep. After all, what’s scarier than a place that can hurt you under the false pretense of healing? Especially when no one else will believe anything you say because they also think you’re insane?
This idea, presented over and over again, discourages people with actual mental disorders from seeking help, and even more upsetting, many of these narratives are not even about people with mental disabilities. While this isn’t true for all of these stories—the villains in Batman do need help, and Niki from Heroes suffered from dissociative identity disorder—it’s certainly true for enough of them. Refusing to give the titular characters mental disabilities increases the horror aspect of mental hospitals. After all, it’s bad enough these hospitals can hurt you and no one will believe anything you say, but what if you don’t even belong there? What if you’re institutionalized against your will? Or for the wrong reasons? As such, the characters who actually are mentally disabled end up being erased from their own narrative.