The Importance of Community Acceptance

Lars and the Real Girl

The next time you are looking for a DVD to watch, rent Lars and the Real Girl, written by Nancy Oliver, and directed by Craig Gillespie. When it first came out, I had no interest in it because of the  brief plot outline. The movie poster showed a man sitting on a coffin-like, wooden container that held a life-size sex doll.  The plot outline said the man thought the doll was real.
That wasn’t a premise that interested me.
But then Mike saw it and told me that I should watch it and one night, Patti and I did.

I was blown away.

Actor Ryan Gosling plays Lars Lindstrom, a likable but withdrawn young man who has trouble making friends.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 review 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 realize 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.
And that is why I liked this movie so much – it shows the power of community support.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that simply having community support is going to help someone control the symptoms of their illness. But what I am saying is that it can be play a huge role in helping them 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.
I’m not sure what the makers of Lars and the Real Girl were hoping to accomplish. But for me, the movie is a poignant testament to what can happen when a community recognizes that one of their own is suffering and needs understanding and help.

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, — a film that I plan to write more about later.

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? If so, tell us. Or just leave a comment with your thoughts!
If you liked this blog, send it to a friend. Fight stigma by speaking out!
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.


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  2. The importance of community acceptance is very impportant for social networking. I like that because it has socially prefences.