This article is relevant to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest because it discusses the role of media in shaping public opinion of mental illness. Many bodies of research on the film contend that its powerful negative portrayal of psychiatric institutions, procedures and staff contributed to negative attitudes toward the field. For instance, the graphic and grotesque image of widely-administered ECT procedures is said to have cultivated greater public opposition to technique. The portrayal is simultaneously informed by current public attitudes, such as the 1970s emphasis on individuality and freedom from oppression, which was represented by McMurphy's heroic rebellion against a repressive system. Anderson's article takes this dynamic relationship a step further, contending that the media is not a one-way directional pressure that molds public opinion; the audience plays an integral role in interpreting and applying meaning to representations. In considering Cuckoo's Nest sociological role in informing culture about mental illness by both capturing and shaping public opinion, this article provides a framework for analysis by identifying and explaining the factors that influence attitudes.
tagged illness_media_audience_representation_myth_psychiatry mental by jriegel ...on 10-APR-08
Levine, Richard (1975, April 13). A real mental ward becomes a movie 'Cuckoo's Nest'. New York Times.
This newspaper article published in the New York Times in 1975, describes the experience of the reporter on the movie set while filming of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was in progress. The movie was filmed on location in an abandoned ward of the Oregan State Hospital. Not only was the film shot in a real ward, but many of the actors and crew members were actual patients of the hospital. One patient, named Gordon, who had been admitted twice for rape, was a full-time employee of the filming company. Some of the hospital staff were concerned that audiences may draw the wrong conclusions from the film due to its location. They worried that the Oregon State Hospital would garner a bad reputation. However, the hospital director, who also has a role in the movie, believed that it would be a benefit both as an experience and financially for the patients to be involved in the filming. He did, however, ask that a disclaimer be placed on the film denying its factual portrayal of a real mental institution.
This article is interesting because it compares and contrasts life on a real ward with the events being portrayed in the film. The reporter's experience is nicely weaved within his observations of the filming, and they illuminate many of the similarities, as well as differences, between real life and the fictional ward. For example, the reporter describes an incident in which he witnesses a woman in the high-security wing being given oxygen by hospital aides. A nurse explained that the woman was an uncooperative patient who had been given an electroconvulsive shock treatment. This strongly mirrors the scene in Cuckoo's Nest where McMurphy and other patients, after creating havoc at a group meeting, are subjected to ECT treatments. It reminds one that these treatments do, in fact, exist, and are given out for similar reasons as in the film. It also shows the remnants from the older asylum system of mental health that still existed in the 70s. Another incident that the reporter described that bore resemblance to the film was a patient basketball team. The team had just played at a local high school, and although it had lost by 40 points, the existence of the team brings to mind the basketball match in Cuckoo's Nest between the staff and the patients. It also is an example of the beginning of the transition from institution-based to community-based mental health care. The basketball team was a form of community that would have fit in well with the reform efforts of the time.