Melissa: I have alternate personalities.
Skittle: It’s really funny!
Melissa: But what if none of this is real?
Unknown: She doesn’t even like me!
Melissa: Where was I when that happened?
Melissa: SNAP back to it, man. Snap back to it.
SpitFire: Can she just get out of my face?!
Skittle: I want to watch a cartoon!
Melissa: What if I’m not real?
End Intro Reel
This is The Bag System podcast on our evolving perspective of living as Headmates in a Dissociative Identity Disorder system. A main goal with this podcast series is to humanize a disorder that is considered with an air of psychopathy, or with tragedy, or fascination. Our hope is to show that we are people, and nothing supernatural, or too out there to conceivably be true.
With this episode, we are reviewing several movies and television shows where the main character has Dissociative Identity Disorder. How was the condition portrayed? Was this how it is to live with DID? Did these media create stigma, or did they improve awareness?
We review ten TV and movie media with everything from United States of Tara, to Fight Club, to the recent Marvel’s Moon Knight.
In listening to this episode, or in reading the transcripts, take note of spoiler alerts.
If you give us a listen and you want to find out more, you can find us over at thebagsystem.com
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In presenting these movies and TV shows, I felt the ideal order could flow from those who went wrong in the most significant ways, to those who had a greater amount of positive highlights.
In Split, a 24th personality is expected to emerge with superhuman abilities and a pull toward intense violence. A few major issues with Split included the stigma towards making those with DID feared to be psychopaths. Another was making the concept of splitting into alters to sound like a super power, or like it is next-level access to extra-human abilities.
Another concept I took issue with was that all the alters in this system of 23 were approving of and working together towards releasing what they called “The Beast.” This doesn’t show the individuality of a system in everyone making their own decisions on what to do, which may be conflicting. It also makes it seem like either an alter is psychotic, or that the others in the system support that form of mentality.
The few details I liked or found plausible in Split was the characters feelings surrounding the disorder or his description of living with it. I felt that this was the more human element in the movie, but they quite efficiently ruined it with the severe misrepresentation.
Me, Myself, and Irene (2000)
We were looking forward to watching this movie, as we grew up as fans of Jim Carrey. The idea of two Headmates competing for the same girl sounded like something that could be a well rounded way to see the alternate identity dynamic, if done right.
While of course, this was meant to be a comedy, I found the humour offensive and uncalled for, which was acts of assault on women by the more militant alter in a way that led to think it was meant to be funny. We simply shook our head and repeated, “That’s not funny.”
Inaccuracies in this film included the origins of the split identity as something of repressed feelings built throughout adult life. While those in supporting roles were encouraging and accepting of what caused it and that there were two distinct identities, the movie failed to portray where DID actually comes from, which could lead someone to think they can develop DID later in life.
Again, of course, it was meant to be humour, though the interactions of the two self states fighting each other were absurd and borderline offensive with one pulling the other’s literal body when there was clearly only one body. I can recognize that there is inner conflict with self states and that they may be violent towards each other, though, this serious condition was made a mockery.
Fight Club (1999)
Two strangers become friends and find a bond in fighting each other for thrills. They build a secret fight club where others seeking the same could also throw punches. The twist in fight club is that these two apparent strangers are actually living in the same body, whereas one is unaware and perceives this friend as someone he sees and hears as outside of himself.
This film also promoted the idea of violence within those with DID, though in a far more human way. Inaccuracies included that considering that those with DID will generally hear the voices inside their head, they wouldn’t plausibly mistake their other self state as someone outside themselves.
One key difference between psychosis and Dissociative Identity Disorder is that with psychosis, they do not recognize the delusion to be false, whereas with DID, the person senses and experiences, but could more-so say, “I know this sounds crazy, but…” in which case they recognize something is off.
Black Swan (2010)
The first time that we watched Black Swan, I was not aware of our DID, and honestly, I didn’t grasp the movie. On watching it again, I have a few comments.
While again, like in “Me, Myself & Irene,” it was made to seem like alters can first develop in adulthood.
An issue I took with this movie was as to how the success in splitting into both the white and black swan was seen by the character as more than an accomplishment, but perfection. In defence of this though, the aim in art is perfection, as is to create the perfect performance. It still hummed eerily like there was something meant to be portrayed as beautiful and poetic about splitting for the perfect performance. I took this as some romanticization of the disorder, which was off-putting.
In highlight, I did enjoy Black Swan, as it left the audience guessing as much as the character, and it led to peer into a semi-normal life that could be related to. There were no big superpowers or major lack of logic. Black Swan was in itself, an appreciated piece of art.
United States of Tara (2009 with 3 seasons)
This was a sitcom style drama/comedy about housewife Tara and her alters that started out as, T, Buck, and Alice. The first season was highly stereotyped in how DID was presented, but that evened out in the second and third season. In the beginning, I was under the impression that they were misrepresenting how DID is formed, though that was worked out later in a more to the DSM manner.
What I took issue with was regarding how Tara was considered the real person and the alters were like invaders. They were not respected as parts of the self, as much as Tara.
What I liked about United States of Tara was how the alters evolved and were taken seriously as individuals separate to Tara. The family support and dynamic was encouraging and an anchor in the show.
In returning to what I didn’t like, it was the feeling the third season gave me about my own DID. This was not a failure of the show, but rather, an incredible testament to the emotion and realism that was included as the show evolved. I felt a hollow despair about my own life and future with DID, which is not likely the impression that I was meant to be left with.
The United States of Tara drags a huge pull to realizing the impact of this reality on both the person with DID, and on their loved ones. It does not bubble wrap anything, though leaves the truth raw, painful, while also bound by a familial love and attachment that cannot be broken by trial.
Waking Madison (2011)
Madison loses time and is in search for answers. I grew very involved in the puzzle of this movie that developed into something more complex than anticipated.
While there were concepts that do not fit the stereotypically known symptoms of DID, there was respect of the journey to answers for Madison.
I found the relationships with the Headmates to be plausible and to be how a DID system often works, with a persecutor, a host, a caretaker… and so on.
Waking Madison succeeded in respecting a real condition while playing out a cinematic world.
Frankie and Alice (2014)
This was among the first movies we watched about Dissociative Identity Disorder after our diagnosis. We were intrigued by the differences between the alters, such as maturity or intelligence levels, which weren’t necessarily hand-in-hand. While a younger headmate may have presented with a smaller age, her intelligence exceeded the grown up in the system.
Frankie and Alice proved that a movie can be created without major bells and whistles and be an un-complex and relatable scenario.
What if it works? (2018)
This movie was a comedy about a woman with DID and a man with OCD… meeting and getting to know each other. Two sides of a friendship where they both have incredible obstacles could look at their relationship growing and ask, “What if it works?”
While comedy was engrained in the genre to this story, it was addressed fairly accurately. The woman with DID experienced both amnesia barriers and co-consciousness. She had a very angry Headmate that I could relate to their behaviour, a sexual alter, a little, and more.
The movie did represent the source of DID as trauma, though where it failed was that only one trauma occurred in order for her mind to fracture, rather than a series of them.
This quirky movie was both unusual and a delight. When two women meet and their stories intertwine, the most compelling truth to develop was how learning of this new friends’ headmates was merely a fact. It was a noticeable truth that was perhaps a surprise, though it was taken in stride, where life went on and they rolled with whichever headmate was present.
Moon Knight (2022 with 1 season)
This 6 part season began its first episode with a captivating scenario. The audience learned as the character did, or were we just as confused about the gaps in events. It felt realistic for Stephen to be weary and to take precautions to keep from experiencing any gaps.
I did take issue in that episode about how Stephen was considered the pest of a presence and was put down as the lesser, but wondered if this mentality might evolve over the series.
After episode one, we had high hopes for what followed. Would it live up to this expectation, or let us down?
The reality of sharing a body with another seemed jarring to Stephen, which was another realism that I appreciated. Mark seemed used to the scenario, and gave the impression that he was tired of this as well. The relationship between headmates evolved and changed from wishing to be rid of each other, to appreciating, or even recognizing a need for each other.
I enjoyed the bond that developed and as to how this pair seemed to sync in functionality by switching and communicating smoothly.
In the end, I was left with a positive impression of Moon Knight and a hope for another season.
Shoutout to sol from the Discord server who is a fantastic presence in our little community; bringing regular and kind conversation.
As an update on the Multiplied By One nonprofit org for trauma and dissociative disorders that we founded, we are setting up some fun fundraisers, such as the ability to win a video chat with Youtuber, Podcaster, and therapist, Kati Morton.
Find the sign up form to the newsletter at multipliedbyone.org to be notified of service releases or ways to participate.