I want to make a brief show recommendation. If you aren’t following Legion on FX, which just started its second season, I would suggest you start. There are a lot of reasons, from its obsessively constructed aesthetic to its engaging acting to its minor details.
But really why I keep watching it’s a show about mental illness that doesn’t make me feel crazy. Reality is malleable, and delusions abound jumping between the characters. Paranoia writhes in the dark corners of these characters lives, and yet they soldier on. Their memoires are suspect but they are not. They fall in love, and get better but they also get worse.
No one is ever cured.
No one is driven off the show or out of rooms because they aren’t cured.
There is a perpetuity to the series’ treatment of mental illness that feels right. It’s not something that goes away.
Of course, there’s something problematic in the portrayal of mental illness coming from super powers. But there’s two things that make me look the other way in this case.
For one, it’s not the super powers themselves that cause the exclusion the characters experience. No, it’s the social markers. It Syd’s dependence on gloves and icy independence that mark her out not her powers, and when she finds people who can see past that then she becomes, not normal, but integrated.
But secondly, and more importantly, they use the language of X-men to express some deeper truth about mental illness. It’s not one thing or another. The mind can become diseased and bear the outcome of rearing and a hard world, but mental illness is “of the genes, of the body”. Like trauma it lives there.