Erinna rambles about mental illness/disability and addiction in Elementary!
Yep, its time for another round of Erinna is a verbose motherfucker about Elementary.
The first entry in this theme was my kink post. This post will be spoilery for the pilot.
This is going to feature mental illness/disability and addiction.
Full disclosure: I am a mentally ill, invisible disability having person, I have major depressive disorder, which is co-morbid with PTSD. I have dyspraxia. And I am the child of two drug addicts, one former, one current user. I am the sibling of a current drug user, and my family on both sides has a massive history with both mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction.
Warnings: this post will discuss drug use, mental illness, distress, and abuse by figures of authority, namely psych professionals
This isn’t going to be a massive post, we only have a little canon material to work with right now. But what we have? I am friggin impressed with.
As a mentally ill person, it gets frustrating and occasionally soul destroying to see the mentally ill used in every crime show as villains.
In real life? Statistics show that mentally ill people are 4 times as likely to be the VICTIMS of violent crime then the perpetrators.
So now we come to the treatment of the mentally ill in Elementary.
And we have a man with violent urges desperately trying to stop himself, better himself, learn and grow. And he is despicably, horrendously abused by his caretaker, his doctor, the one person who is supposed to always be on your side.
This is not an uncommon thing to happen in a crime show.
What changed it, what made it different for me, so much so, was that there was a scene devoted to the outrage, to the horror that Sherlock Holmes felt, to see a vulnerable person used as a weapon, used as an instrument of violence by the person who is supposed to be taking care of them.
He goes to the bat for a mentally ill person, a person who had committed a violent crime in the past.
Do you know how rare that is? To ever have a mentally person portrayed as anything other then a violent monster? To have it understood that people can have seriously dangerous compulsions, for themselves or others, and that most mentally ill people try their gosh dang hardest to survive and not hurt anyone?
Seriously, this pilot treated mental illness with more realism and respect then I’ve seen in a tv show for a while.
Now the addiction part.
You can see Holmes the addict, in his face, in his mannerisms. Drug addiction causes behaviour change, emotional change.
We don’t know what drugs Holmes was using in this universe, but in the books it was cocaine. Cocaine is fucking tough to come off.
There’s a lot of misinformation and assumptions about recovering from drug addiction. And there’s this bizarre idea that somehow ‘smart people’ or ‘good people’ don’t get as badly hooked as others. Classism at its finest, really.
That is so fucking far from the truth. I cannot even deal with it.
So I love, I love that Elementary is taking and working with the idea of drug recovery. I love that its showing Holmes as having poor emotional control.
One of the things that happens when you’ve had a substantial drug habit? Emotional changes, emotional fragility. And even though Holmes has been through the painful, physical side of withdrawal off screen, the mental effects of addiction linger.
And you see it in JLM’s portrayl of him. Holmes is twitchy, Holmes is under stress from his own internal stresses and his brain which just wants to solve whichever mystery he is given.
We see him lash out multiple times in the episode when frustrated. He’s lost a coping mechanism, namely drugs, and now he has to relearn how to deal under stress.
Because he’s Sherlock Holmes, the stressors that get to him are not always the same as other people, but he is still like them, still having to cope.
So far, I am very impressed with how they are portraying a recovering addict. There’s been no moralising about drugs, no apologising, but Joan listening to him, Joan not judging him, Joan taking him one step at a time as a human being.
It’s only been the pilot so far, but I am so hopeful. It’s such a fantastic start.
I hope that the show continues to portray and explore the mentally ill and drug users, former and present as human beings first and foremost. That would make it genuinely groundbreaking TV. There are so few shows that even attempt it.
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