Why Moon Knight’s portrayal of his mental illness will be pivotal

moon knight is slated for release on Disney+ in March 2022, and it offers a great opportunity to portray mental health with it. So far, MCU TV shows have focused heavily on mental health, exploring topics in a variety of directions. Moon Knight’s character has a largely misunderstood condition, dissociative identity disorder (DID), which has a history of mistreatment in fiction. Naturally, some members of the audience are concerned about the quality moon knight will present the mental illness of its main character, played by actor Oscar Isaac.

Mental health allegories are common among Marvel characters, often forming a core part of their appeal. moon knight is slightly different in this respect, as his mental illness is not just allegorical but central to his characterization. Moon Knight, aka Marc Spector, knows and understands his condition in the comic canon. He was diagnosed at an early age and is aware of it and accepts it, even when those around him find it difficult to adapt. The MCU Trailer moon knight The series, however, has a chaotic and confusing tone that has left some comic book readers unsure of how the show will handle this aspect of the character. Naturally, removing the character’s understanding of themselves can cause issues for how they are displayed on screen.

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Simply, moon knight is a great opportunity to further improve the understanding and perception of mental health, but doing so will require going beyond the kind of psychological thriller tropes that have already been used extensively in film. Entire communities are regularly stigmatized for their mental illnesses. As with any marginalized group, good representation in popular high profile media, such as how Jinx was treated in Esoteric, can play an important role in making things better for them. The MCU has spent a lot of time exploring mental health and has given some thought-provoking depictions of conditions like PTSD in the past. For them to continue this trend with even more stigmatized conditions would be a welcome move, but Moon Knight’s particular mental illness has been so consistently abused that it will require care to get it right.


Moon Knight’s Condition Requires Thoughtful Representation


Marc Spector in bed in the Moon Knight comic

Marc Spector, the man behind the Moon Knight mask, has dissociative identity disorder (DID). It’s a rare condition associated with traumatic childhood events, and it has a history of being over-sensationalized in the media. Formerly known as multiple personality disorder (MPD), people with this condition have two or more persistent personality states, accompanied by memory lapses. For superheroes in the MCU and elsewhere, an alter-ego usually refers to a secret identity or persona, but that term is used much more literally for people with DID. Additionally, people with DID can often have other distinct conditions like borderline personality disorder, major depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Each of these has its own set of symptoms but, unfortunately, also comes with its own set of misconceptions.


DID, in particular, has a long history of mischaracterization, often used as a writing shorthand to make characters seem violent, unpredictable, or deceitful. When characters with symptoms consistent with DID are featured in fiction, one or more of their personalities tends to be a villain. Famous examples are Sméagol in the Lord of the Ringswith his sinister alter-ego Gollum, or the anonymous narrator of fight club and his violent personality, Tyler Durden. It should be pointed out, however, that in reality, people with DID are no more likely to be violent than anyone else, and the trope of an evil alter ego is pure fiction. Unfortunately, the overuse of harmful tropes like these in fiction contributes to a genuine lack of understanding and stigmatization of conditions that affect real people. With good writing, moon knight can dispel some of these myths.


Misunderstandings of DID also overlap with misunderstandings of a few other conditions. People often mistakenly confuse DID with schizophrenia, even though the two conditions have very different symptoms. Prejudicial portrayal in the media is one of the main reasons for this confusion, and sadly, misconceptions are so common that they are shared by audiences and writers alike. It’s even included former Marvel writers moon knight who have mistakenly characterized his condition as schizophrenia on occasion.

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The MCU’s Record of Depicting Mental Illness


The MCU’s history of depicting mental illness is mixed, with some aspects shown extremely well while others are glossed over. Of course, some of this is a necessary part of storytelling and 100% accurate depiction may not always be appropriate. What’s important is to make sure the finished product doesn’t contain any harmful stereotypes, which, in all honesty, the MCU usually does quite well.

iron man 3 shows Tony Stark suffering from PTSD, with anxiety, nightmares and panic attacks. Although it’s occasionally played for laughs in the film, therapists noted that it’s, for the most part, a pretty accurate portrayal of how PTSD can affect people. The story doesn’t shy away from the negative impact it has on Tony after being traumatized by Loki’s attack in New York, and the humor never feels petty. Wanda Vision also explores the aftermath of trauma, but from a different angle. Where Tony Stark suffers from flashbacks caused by psychological triggers, Wanda Maximoff walks away from her trauma through maladaptive daydreams (as explained Cinema TherapyGoing through Youtube). Her superpowers allow her to turn her daydreams into something far more real, literally building an imaginary world as a coping mechanism. Another series, Lokican be read as an extended psychotherapy session for its titular main character with his narcissistic personality disorder, as he is forced to literally confront himself (or herself) and the things he is capable of.


These plots are often insufficient in a few areas. Wanda Vision explores the stages of grief, excelling in all stages except depression, which it arguably fails to show in sufficient depth. One of Tony Stark’s panic attacks in iron man 3 is healed at an improbable speed because he was told the right thing at the right time. Loki builds on the characterization that has already been established in the MCU movies but, as a result, it sometimes feels like the character’s narcissism is more stated than shown. Notably, MCU portrayals often fail when it comes to recovery, due to the fact that on-screen stories have to be compelling. A dramatic recovery in the third act obviously makes for a better story than years of therapy and medication. But while it’s a flaw in some stories, it might actually work favorably for moon knight and its multiple personalities. DID is a long-term condition that one simply cannot recover from. Removing the need for the hero to be “cured” of their condition at the end can lead to a more accurate story. Instead of casting Moon Knight as a broken character who somehow needs to be fixed, tactful writing could emphasize how his condition is simply a part of who he is.


How Moon Knight Can Advance Representation


Moon Knight comic artwork

As a heroic character, Moon Knight is in an interesting position for portraying sanity. In comics, conditions like DID are usually given to villains. One example is Batman antagonist Harvey Dent (Two-Face), whose portrayal of sanity is just as problematic as any entourage of Batman villains, who tend to find themselves locked up in Arkham Asylum. . The fact that Moon Knight is a hero with this condition gives the opportunity to show a much more sympathetic portrayal, mainly because understanding the protagonist is an essential part of any good story.

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As one of the most popular and recognized transmedia franchises in the world, the MCU has a significant influence on representation in popular culture, and whether good or bad, it is likely to leave an impression. A good on-screen portrayal of DID could begin to rewrite our cultural understanding of the condition and work towards a better depiction of mental health more generally. Of course, there is also the risk that poor representation will do the opposite and cement harmful tropes that already exist. From what he has said in interviews, Oscar Isaac is well aware of this risk, and the impact his character could have, but is still willing to make the effort.


With the background of the MCU, moon knight is likely to make at least an effort to represent DID well, although it may still include some inaccuracies. As long as these inaccuracies don’t support harmful outdated tropes, however, it will likely have an overall positive effect on the representation of sanity. If nothing else, it can be helpful for people to refer to well-known fictional characters when explaining their conditions to others. Some people will no doubt want to be optimistic about being able to talk about a superhero like Moon Knight rather than a villain.

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