Don't Let Bullies Ruin Your Life 3 - The Hollywood Edition

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The episode of Two and Half Man that aired on November 14, 2011, centered on a major character’s struggle with a depressive disorder. Two and Half Men is a raucous sitcom, so bawdy one-liners and over the top situations are to be expected. The jokes in this episode, however, bordered on bad taste - even for this infamous show.

In an earlier episode, the character Alan Harper assumes his dead brother Charlie’s identity as part of his mourning process. He is then admitted into a hospital for help with dealing with his loss. In this episode, Alan has a dream sequence where it is a month later and he is now well enough to leave the hospital.

The jokes revolving around mental illness were in force. I don’t have an issue with jokes in general. I think it would be sad commentary on society if we ever lost the ability to laugh at ourselves. I take issue with the viciousness of the jokes - the continued references to Alan being in the “looney bin”, the seeming disregard of his plight by his son Jake and housekeeper Berta and the kid gloves treatment he receives from his friend Walden.

There has been an outcry in recent years against bullying in any form. There have been public announcements encouraging children who are being bullied, letting them know it gets better. How does perpetuating the stigma of mental illness in the guise of comedy fit into this newfound social conscience?

Some facts about mental illness: According to an October 2010 Center for Disease Control (CDC) article, an estimated 1 out of every 10 adults report having some form of depression. The National Institute of Mental Health's (NIMH) website lists several forms of depressive disorder, ranging from minor to major, psychotic to postpartum. The website also reports approximately 11 percent of adolescents suffer from depression. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among youth aged 15-24. Major depression is physically debilitating and is a major reason for increased work absenteeism that results in billions of dollars lost annually.

These statistics are obviously not funny. It’s also not funny to seek treatment for a depressive disorder. It is a brave and necessary step to get better. Hollywood is influential on society. What if someone needing treatment was deterred after seeing the treatment Alan received?

Yes, Two and Half Men is a comedy and shouldn’t be taken seriously. Maybe this writer is overly sensitive and making much ado about nothing, but I can’t help it. To me, tonight’s episode crossed the line from comedy to being mean. Just like a bully.

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