I spent the weekend binge-watching and reading articles written about the new Netflix series Maniac. From Slate to Rolling Stone, none of the writers for the magazines loved it as much as I did and not one of them gave enough attention to, what to me, was the most important, groundbreaking, enduring, and thrilling part of the whole show. The gem I am referring to is, there was a character who has paranoid schizophrenia (like me) and wasn’t a cookie cutter stereotype like almost every other character written into a movie or television show where the writers try to explore one of the most stigmatized and baffling of the mental illnesses.
As someone who has lived with paranoid schizophrenia for over two decades, I wouldn’t say I am an expert, but I do know a thing or two about the disorder that writers usually get wrong, mess up, or rely heavily on worn-out stereotypes like the mass murderer, the genius or the lovable clown.
One of the main characters (Owen) is sensitive, frightened, unsure, intelligent, heroic, courageous and has a sense of integrity and insight into his illness. I have never been more excited or pleased to see schizophrenia on the screen as I was this weekend.
Don’t get me wrong; the writers don’t ignore some of the more troubling symptoms of schizophrenia for example hallucinations, delusions, conspiracies, seeing patterns in random events, and the desire not to take medication. All those details are there, but so is a likable and complex character that people can imagine wanting to get to know it real life.
The show also deals with addiction, borderline personality disorder, loss, grief, and complicated relationships as well as a wide range of emotions. I found it to be a playground of delight for those of us who for whatever reason, through necessity or curiosity, love psychology, therapy and the world of the mind. The scenes are graphic (two are reminiscent of Pulp Fiction) and many are colorful, fantastic and a treat for the eyes.
Maniac is easily my favorite show this year, and it ranks as my all time favorite show that deals in any way with schizophrenia and it may become one of the few shows that I watch multiple times and put on my list of best I’ve seen.