Finished With Tiger King: Watch Overlooked Movie About Mental Illness And The Power Of Community Acceptance

(5-15-20) FROM MY FILES FRIDAY: Unfortunately, Hollywood marketers always believe that sex sells so when the movie  Lars and the Real Girl was released in 2007, they packaged it as a comedy about a man who orders a life-size sex doll which he believes is real. This titillation harms what is a charming story written by Nancy Oliver and directed by Craig Gillespie about mental illness and community acceptance. Now that you have watched Tiger King during stay at home orders, watch this movie. Those seeking a cheap sexual buzz will be disappointed but viewers who want to see what happens when someone with a mental illness is embraced by those around them will find it well worth their time.

Lars and the Real Girl (blog first posted in March 2010)

Actor Ryan Gosling plays Lars Lindstrom, a likable but withdrawn young man who has trouble making friends. One night he buys a life-size sex doll on the Internet and falls in love with it. He names her Bianca and explains that she is a Brazilian missionary so she doesn’t believe in pre-marital sex. He treats her as if she were a real person.

Now here’s where this movie turns from — as a reviewer in The Wall Street Journal put it – “a five minute sketch on tv” into an “achievement that borders on the miraculous.”

Rather than dismissing Lars as a deeply disturbed person and shunning him, the entire small town community goes along with his delusion – cautiously at first. They understand that Lars is a person who needs their support and as they go about helping him heal, they discover themselves being changed and healed too.

That is why I liked this movie so much – it shows the power of community support and acceptance.

Simply having community support is not enough when someone has a serious mental illness. But it plays a major role in helping others recover.

All of us want to be connected to other people, to be appreciated, to be someone who matters. My late friend, Tom Mullen, who created the treatment program Passageway in Miami, used to say that persons with severe mental illnesses are the most isolated people in our world. Tom understood the important of acceptance in the recovery process.

If you doubt the importance of persons with mental illness interacting with other people, consider a note that I received recently from a psychiatrist whom I greatly admire. She told me that she had a patient with severe schizophrenia who was homeless. She managed to get him into an apartment, but he kept sleeping at night in an alleyway behind a Starbucks. When she asked him why, he explained that he wanted to be outside the store every morning when it opened because people would talk to him and buy him coffee.
That note reminded me of another scene that I watched recently in a tremendous documentary called EMPRESS HOTEL.

Empress Hotel

One of the homeless persons featured in this documentary explains that the reason why she panhandles every day is not because she wants money, but rather, it is the only way for her to get people who see her to talk to her.
Imagine being that desperate for human contact.
Do you know of a good story where community acceptance helped someone? Or a book or movie that offers hope through community support? If so, please share it on my facebook page. During this pandemic, all of us need to support one another, especially those who are alone and have symptoms of mental illnesses.
About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.