Depression is not romantic. There, I said it, topic sentence, tired media-directed muttering of the week.
It is a mental disorder that messes with a person’s biochemistry and leads to mood swings, crashes in self-esteem, anxiety, apathy and a range of other difficult things. It varies from person to person, so I will try to avoid making sweeping generalisations or flippant comments as I know this is an awful, awful affliction that makes life horrendously hard for millions of people all over the world. It should not be brushed off as teenaged moodiness, midlife crises or something people can get over as simply as getting out of bed, and it should not be made into something desirable.
On the one hand, it’s sort of good to have mental disorders making appearances in popular media, as it shows the stigma around them is lifting and it’s becoming accepted enough that we can dare to acknowledge its existence in our fiction, even if the name is not dropped and the characters in play don’t necessarily have depression but merely symptoms, which are, of course, part of human life. It’s only when they reach their extremes by some skewiff neurology that they become illnesses, and we have to remember that. The media of the world, of course, does not always do this, and these inclusive appearances have quickly bundled themselves into a series of recurring and not entirely tactful tropes.
When not parcelled into stock-standard ‘emo’, angsty poet or other horrid suicidal stereotypes, characters with symptoms of depression are made into the stars of the show. There’s been a stream of annoyed blog posts about this recently, and I don’t know exactly what brought them on, but I have to agree with the notion: the picturesque imagery of a troubled, self-conscious lost soul wafting around reading Keats on a rainy day with her hair falling into her face and the expression of a mournful marble angel is one that many a hero has fallen in love with, and this is not necessarily a good message to encourage. Continue reading