So are you watching the “United States of Tara” series? (It’s on again tonight.) Have you been watching “One Life to Live”? Have you seen the various other shows on television that have a character with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD)?
I certainly have not watched all the shows and movies that incorporate DID’ers into their character line-up, but I have seen enough of them to hope that in the “United States of Tara” Showtime series, the dissociative character does not end up being the local serial killer.
Doesn’t that plot line get old for you?
It sure does for me.
The “United States of Tara” has potential to go either way. So far, one of Tara’s insiders, Buck, angrily refuses to conform to society’s rules, beats up neighborhood teenagers, aggressively humiliates his own children, and frequently takes target practice at the local gun range. Great – so the propensity for violence is there, but the show is supposed to be a comedy, so we’ll see how far they take this theme.
In the soap opera, “One Life to Live”, the dissociative character Jess-Tess-Bess (aren’t the rhyming names cute?) was just seconds away from being an official killer of her kidnapped sister, but something dramatic and wonderful happened just in the nick of time, and the sister got out, no thanks to Jess-Tess-Bess the great big mess.
I do like how “One Life to Live” has attempted to show the inside (internal world landscapes) and the ongoing discussions between internal alters as part of their storyline. That’s been interesting, and at least shows to the viewing audience that the insiders, even when inside, don’t just go back into nothingness. The scenes from the internal world are limited to one internal place where at least one character at a time is in a big cage (what’s up with that?). It shows how the external world becomes the world viewed on a movie screen, far away and separate from the insiders that have conversations with each other.
Jess, Tess, and Tara have shown amnesia for areas of their lives, especially the areas that are emotionally harder to digest. Ok, that’s true enough. And in that sense, the shows demonstrate how strong amnesia is for the dissociative person, but how much outside people can see the various alters, and their actions, and how outside people who aren’t filing information away via amnesia, can and do remember all the different actions that the dissociative person does.
Tara’s husband and children all remember vividly when Tara switches to T the obnoxious sexualized teenager. Tara’s son doesn’t forget how rude and crude Buck’s nasty comments are to him. Tara’s children are affected severely by the behaviors of her alters, and while Tara conveniently blocks out her obnoxious, damaging behaviors from her direct awareness, the children still carry the scars of her behavior.
Tara is a good mother, but she just isn’t there all the time. Tara’s relatively helpful alter, Alice, has potential to have positive motherly traits — she bakes a really mean cake! And she can put the troubled schoolteacher in his place, but she’s still not the mom, and the kids miss their mom. A lot. And understandably so.
While Jess is barely recalling the incidents involved with locking her sister up in a hidden room in the basement with dynamite, the sister and her fiance remember every detail and are understandably angry and upset about it.
Ok – ouch. That’s a painful point, but it can be true for dissociative disorders. Dissociative people can block themselves off from truly grasping how their negative behaviors have affected other people.
Obviously, the media has built up the extremities of the DIDer’s bad behavior for the drama ratings on their show, but the point is there. In regular life, most multiples do not go around locking their sisters up with dynamite or beating up ratty teenagers on the local schoolyard. They may feel like it, but most don’t actually do that.
Working on accepting responsibility for what the other alters do (or have done in the past) is a hard part of dissociative treatment. As demonstrated in the media, these negative behaviors which are much more comfortably hidden behind dissociative amnesiac walls, are often painfully remembered by others.
Now, if you are dissociative and reading this blog, please don’t start screaming at me about how much you are hurting, and get all in a huff about how dare I say that you could hurt others. I KNOW that you are hurting too – I really and truly do understand that. This blog is about a slightly different topic, so… please take a step back from that raw edge, and let me talk about what it’s like for other people.
For Tara, her husband is extremely supportive and understanding. That is actually very nice to see. It’s not easy for spouses to be as understanding of everything, but the fact that he accepts all of her insiders, has a connection with each of them, and responds to each of them as who they are, is good. (And no, I’m not going to touch the “who he should or should not have sex with” controversy in this particular blog, but who knows, I might tackle that another time, because it is, in all reality, a big issue.)
Tara’s daughter both loves the DID and hates it. It’s very cool, and yet it’s very embarrassing for her.
Tara’s sister seems to not understand or accept the dissociation, so that factors in another element in family dynamics. That’s going to be a big topic for further discussion too!
While I’m not totally thrilled with the way DID is being presented on these shows, for now, I’m certainly going to keep watching. I want to see more about how Dissociative Identity Disorder is being portrayed in the media, and I can use the shows as a baseline starting point to teach about the actual reality of DID to others. These latest shows have at least progressed somewhat from the old murder mystery approach to DID, and I’m pleased to see that.
I’ll certainly have many more comments to make before either of these television series are done.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts and comments about these dissociative characters in the media?
- Who is your favorite DID character in the media? What makes them your favorite?
- What is your most hated DID characterization from the media? Please explain.
- Have you seen yourself in any of the DID characters portrayed on the media? How so? How not?
- If you could affect how the media presents DID/MPD on the television, what would you suggest?
- What are your thoughts about “United States of Tara”?
- What are your thoughts about the dissociative characters on “One Life to Live”?
I’ll be posting more about this topic in weeks to come….
Happy SuperBowl Day everyone….
Copyright © 2008-2017 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation
My sister and i just finished binge watching Us of Tara. I have seen it probably four times. There are just a couple things i dont like about it.
1. All the sex stuff. Too triggering. Like with the alters, and marshall and his boyfriend, and tara.
2. That everyone keeps saying Tara is crazy, even tara says she is crazy, DID is not crazy! Or, it doesnt have to be. We certainly remember many years of feeling crazy and like no one could help us because we were too crazy. but DID isnt crazy, in our opinion. Its a coping skill
I just got my sister addicted to this series 🙂 She loves it. I have been telling her a little more about DID and said she might like this show. So now she is binge-watching it.
David – I just had to laugh because your description just is so incredibly apt!
That just is so incredibly cogently put – and its just so frickin true! Thanks for helping me get a laugh out of all this.
By the way, I truly do like the Tara show. Even though the characters are just so fixedly different, I keep noticing things that help me understand aspects of all this in myself more. Say for example the Alice character – I was kind of stunned by her because I am almost phobicly antithetical to being anything like her in any of my aspects – but she is eerily like my mom was when she was in that mode.
I also think the writing is truly witty, and I do find myself laughing, and somehow its a relief that she is portrayed so humanly – as someone struggleing out here in the real world. Its what I liked about the book “Set This House In Order” by Matt Ruff – again the characters are more clearly drawn than I experience all this within myself, but seeing them just trying out there a day at a time amidst real world stuff, I just did find them companionable and there were things that helped me be more accepting, or noticing of things in myself and how this works in me.
I am pretty convinced that the son character is actually a rewrite of Spielberg himself. There are things that this show gets wrong, but its very evidently been written from some kind of first hand experience because there are alot of things about the feel of the way the characters relate to each other and within the dynamics of the family that just seem very much the feel of things, so I hope the show continues to develop.
I am pretty convinced the sister is actually the sicker one, even if Tara is the so called “recognized one with a disorder” I am thinking that there are some very insightful directions this show is going in that keep impressing me, and its really not got a formula feel to it to me, so for me anyway I am impressed for the most part so far.
But your vignette is absolutely priceless! Thanks for posting it!
Multipixie — I think it would be possible to create a very accurate visual/theatrical representation of DID experience, but it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining … it would be a crowd of people, tugging at the central figure’s arm, and stepping in front of him, and shouting over him, and talking all at once. 🙂
I still thought the tara characters were too far out there. most of us did’ers that i’ve known were much more subtle in our switches. i thought they glossed over some of the family dynamics. most teen girls would have a lot more trouble with a “t” coming in to rifle through their closet and cosmetics. they would also be highly mortified by their mom’s being anything less than “normal” in their public presentation.
I refused to see the ridiculous Jim Carrey movie. now that was offensive even in just commercials. the movie sybil was so disturbing to me that i turned it off 21 times while trying to watch it.
i do not trust the visual media with the subject of DID. they are truly there only for entertainment and comercial revenue. there are more genuinely good books out on the subject. The Flock was good and another one I can’t remember about a man was written with far more authenticity and realism.
I do not identify with any characterisations of multiples in the visual media right now. What i would enjoy seeing would be hard to produce. it would be of a high-functioning dider going about normal routine and somehow showing the seperate lives going on inside his mind. i am not sure someone who has a singular mind would be willing or able to enjoy something like that. it might make them motion-sick, lol.
all i really want is to not be treated with disrespect because my mind functions somewhat differently than that of most people
Living on the other side of the world, I don’t see either of these so can’t any specific comments about them.
But as a general rule, I’m always cautious of the media. No matter how true they want to be about any situation/condition/issue etc; they’re there to make money. So the motivation for making the show is skewed from the beginning. They couldn’t make a show about my life because it’s not funny, sensational or dramatic enough to make it to production. So they show a generalised account that might challenge some beliefs about DID, but still be able to be palatable to the general public.
So I didn’t identify with the free online episode, but then I wasn’t expecting to. I’d still like to watch the rest of the series, just so I can see how other people may perceive how I live.
David, I agree that ‘Tara’ is yet again a not-perfect portrayal of who we DIDers are, BUT (kind of big) at least it’s putting DID out there as something REAL.With the disinformation project of FMS Groups Tara’s at least something in main stream media that says, “Yes DID is real and people actually live in this mind set.” I believe that’s a huge help, that she isn’t a serial killer is a breath of fresh air. I”m hoping that as the show develops Tara’s system will grow as well. I’m okay with the public swallowing the existance of DID thru humor, I like it better then showing us as killers or victims focused on our abuse.
**Who is your favorite DID character in the media? What makes them your favorite?
As teens Vicki/Nicki (OL2L) really struck a core. Right now I’m in love with Buck of Tara, I identify with his ‘bull-in-the-china-closet’ kind of set in the outside world.
***What is your most hated DID characterization from the media? Please explain.
“Me, Myself & Irene” Charlie/Hank. I really don’t like Jim Carrey.
***Have you seen yourself in any of the DID characters portrayed on the media? How so? How not?
Well, like I said above, I see a characterization of my less then PC self in Tara’s ‘Buck.’ There are some of our children in Sybil in their need to have someone care enough to see them.
On a whole I see the humor in being DID, not that we don’t have major issues dealing with the abusive past or dissociative coping, but the victim being ‘cured’ just isn’t us.
“Identity” comes very close to some in our system and this is disturbing. It’s a fine line we walk, DID folk do kill. (Our first DID therapist had a DID client kill his girlfriend.) So as much as I hate the DID serial killer mold, I get it too.
***If you could affect how the media presents DID/MPD on the television, what would you suggest?
In a perfect world we could be just like everyone else, just there. Not just a stereotype of DID. I’d like to see a DIDer who’s high functioning.
***What are your thoughts about “United States of Tara”?
I liked it, it did make me laugh. I watched it with a group of friends who also liked the show. No, they don’t know we’re multiple, but this could make it easier. I like the humor.
***What are your thoughts about the dissociative characters on “One Life to Live”?
We grew up with those characters, they were the first out there. That doesn’t make them Good, but they were something.
It’s somewhat difficult for me to imagine how portrayal of DID, in particular, as a form of entertainment, can possibly be a good thing for the DID community.
As a DIDer who has never lost time or had dissociative amnesia about current-day events, a show like “Tara” simply makes it more unlikely that I will feel comfortable disclosing my diagnosis, because I know that the show is portraying one end of the spectrum, but viewers won’t know that. They’ll swallow it whole, as TV viewers tend to do.
Who is your favorite DID character in the media? What makes them your favorite?
I like Tara. I know she isn’t portrayed 100% accurate, but she is close enough to be, as you said, a starting point for discussion. I also like that she is portrayed as intelligent and successful, not a twittering ball in the corner of a room in a psych ward. She is functional, and that’s cool. I also like how open she is, and while that idea has to be considered safely, I would love to be as open as she is.
What is your most hated DID characterization from the media? Please explain.
I HATE the movie me myself and Irene. It is ridiculous and offensive and just down right stupid.
Have you seen yourself in any of the DID characters portrayed on the media? How so? How not?
I actually see alot of us in Tara. Not everything is the same, but alot of things ring true for us.
If you could affect how the media presents DID/MPD on the television, what would you suggest?
I would want to see a character who is even more functional and “normal”. When our littles are out we play with toys, when are guys are out we walk and talk different, and sometimes we have to deal with really painful stuff. But, we also do what everyone else does, we go to work, pay our bills, cook dinner… It would be nice to see a character who is not in crisis every single day.
What are your thoughts about “United States of Tara”?
I like it. I can see potential for it to get better or worse, and I am hoping for better. I think the fact that they are consulting with T’s and DID’ers bodes well for it, but, we’ll see. I hope the show lasts long enough for them to really dig into DID and what its all about.
What are your thoughts about the dissociative characters on “One Life to Live”?
Haven’t seen it, but, sounds interesting.