To be honest, I think pop culture thinks their audience is dumb. They continue to create content about mental health. Then, they release it without a second thought; without actually doing research on it. They make depression look so beautiful and romantic. Like, what the fuck? Depression shouldn’t be glamorized and romanticized.
Here are many things that pop culture get so wrong about Depression:
When you’re diagnosed with Depression, you only feel sadness.
Where’s the anger? The numbness? The actual physical pain? What about the loss of interest in things you love, the inability to cooperate, changes in sleep patterns, and any other actual symptoms associated with depression in real life? Are they not cinematic enough for fictional characters to portray?
When you’re diagnosed with Depression and pretend you’re fine, you’re “strong” and “brave.”
A fictional character often pretends they’re fine and doesn’t succumb to their depression. That usually happens in real life so, I’ll give pop culture that. However, the question still stands: why do they make it look like the audience is supposed to think that they’re “strong” and “brave?” Shouldering depression on your own is not an admirable thing. It just means that they don’t have the means to actually express what they truly think and feel.
Dramatic plot elements trigger Depression and always results in a big breakdown.
No, it’s not triggered with a dramatic fight with a love interest or a change of scenery. Sometimes, you wake up and it just punches you out of nowhere. Sometimes, you’re actually enjoying something and then, it hits you when you least expect it. However, it won’t result in a big blowup or something like that. Sometimes, you’ll just boringly stare into space and feel nothing at all.
Some boring realities of depression are completely erased out of pop culture. Where’s the part where the fictional character remains in bed? Because he or she literally cannot muster the energy to get up, brush their hair, and trudge through their life feeling nothing at all? Shouldn’t that feel realistic and super-compelling? There must be some way to show the boring parts, as boring as it may be. It’s still part of depression.
Depression is an alluring and mysterious trait that draws the attention of a potential love interest.
Ugh. It’s not alluring in any way shape or form. Pop culture always shows that the love interest suddenly “fixes” the person with depression. Pop culture literally said, “Screw therapy and medication. All you need is love to pull you out of that funk.” Like, what the actual fuck? No. They don’t need you to be the hero, they don’t need you to save them. Just because they fell in love, they will automatically feel better.
Treatment is easy, straightforward, and affordable.
When that fictional character explores treatment, it looks easy, straightforward, and affordable. When will pop culture show a character grappling how they’re going to afford therapy? Or actually scheduling therapy in their busy day-to-day lives? Finding a therapist is already a struggle. Then, pop culture shows a therapist being unprofessional and incompetent.
Every person with Depression is suicidal.
Not every depressed person is suicidal. Pop culture just adds it in for dramatic effect and risk factors. The first season of 13 Reasons Why is garbage and glamorized Hannah Baker’s suicide. It’s not romantic and it’s not glamorous. It’s dangerous.
Then, for some reason, going through depression always ends in some sort of cheesy life lesson. Then, depression is forgotten forever.
Angela Grace P. Baltan is a Communication graduate from Colegio de San Juan de Letran. She doesn’t hesitate to be opinionated in analyzing movies and television series. As a writer, she uses her articles to advocate for feminism, gender equality, and mental health among others.