Netflix’s “Deadly Illusions” is yet another deadly threat to mental health

Mental health stories do not need to be told by people who have no direct, personal experience with that diagnosis.

Everyone has mental health. The people who do not struggle with it on a daily basis, whose mental health is not affected by trauma, either forget they also have mental health or completely dismiss the idea that mental health is relevant to them. If it bothers them not, they care not.

Netflix’s new film, Deadly Illusions, poses two problematic themes that would do best addressed separately, in a series, or perhaps not at all.

I have dissociative identity disorder, and I am a lesbian.

It’s been a while — I wanted to experience watching a psychological thriller again and this one’s trailer looked promising.

Spoiler alert.

Problematic plot

Author Mary’s husband gambled half their real estate, so she hired a nanny to manage her children and home so she could focus on a new book deal she only took because her husband fucked up.

Mary has writer’s block and, based on the scenes, is experiencing a mid-life crisis during which she is so unhappy that she projects onto nanny Grace the importance of being happy with her body. Further, she is constantly checking Grace out, looking at her breast instead of her face — it feels both curious and predatory. I’ve no reason to believe Grace is not a consenting adult, for she is college age, but alas…what is going on with Mary??

Meanwhile, the story her agents want her to create resemble more of what is going on in her life. Is this actually happening, or is she simply an unrealiable narrator? Mary couldn’t care less about anything, for she only pictures Grace in the clothes she bought her.

Blonde woman speaking in brunette woman's ear
© Netflix

Her friend is also concerned, and Mary implies it’s Grace’s fault for being innocent one second, seductive the next.

Tell me…have you not heard this from a man before? He looks at you, even when you feel your least sexiest, and yet still…you’re somehow turning him on and it’s your fault.

Women can do it, too.

And then…all her problems dissipate.

1. Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is, yet again, portrayed awfully on a mainstream channel and no one cares enough to criticize it except the people who actually have DID.

The portrayed implications of dissociative identity disorder — which Hollywood and other ignorant people often stigmatically regard as “split personality” — are monumentally damaging, yet media websites are not calling it out (because they don’t care).

Thusly, even more people are wrongfully learning about dissociative identity disorder the way most people learn about anything, and the real problem character is not even being addressed because of it.

Deadly Illusions implies that people who have dissociative identity disorder live such lives wherein an “evil” alter exists to do harm, but that’s actually rarely the case. Difficult, destructive alters do exist, but the one I’ve personally came to fear the most is the protective alter. Destructive alters are at least manageable. Protective alters, however, seek to protect the system and will eventually silence the destructive alter.

More often than not, you will be unaware of anyone’s alters because of a thing called masking.

Deadly Illusions further implies that people with dissociative identity disorder are the villains, that they merely want to destroy the lives of happy people because they didn’t have happy childhoods themselves.

I don’t speak for every system, but I believe people who are not plural systems themselves have no place in telling the story of any system simply because it is way beyond their understanding.

Because we now have sites such as Marie Claire referring to dissociative identity disorder like this:

Basically, Grace tries to kill Mary’s husband Tom, we realise Grace is two people – Grace, and “Margaret”, a personality she has invented due to trauma she experienced as a child in an abusive family.

No. Grace did not invent a personality. Rather, from the flashback featuring her brother, the name of her system’s (collective identities) host (body) is actually Margaret. This means her legal name is likely Margaret, but she doesn’t identify with it. It’s not inherently wrong, it just means the dominant identity is Grace.

From there, regardless of her chosen/preferred name, she did not “invent a personality”. Her brain created a compartmentalized persona to help her cope with the trauma she had endured.

2. Grace is implied to be the lesbian seductress, for Mary is certain she never thought of another woman this way.

Ummmm.

UMMMMM.

WHAT?!

So first, Grace has dissociative identity disorder. Her “evil” alter does the “bad” things — seduce Mary, who acts like she doesn’t want it; then the actually bad things, like murder, because she snapped.

At least, that’s implied. It’s implied that Grace did these things, but never actually shown. The only murder shown is an attempt on the husband’s life.

Deadly Illusions implies it is the “evil” alter who seduces the couple, the “evil” alter who seduces seduces the wife.

I’ll say it again. Netflix’s new film implies the rare “evil” alter that happens to people who have the rare dissociative identity disorder likes women, when she is a woman herself.

evil alter + lesbian

Netflix has already experienced backlash re: lesbian visibility on their platform. I don’t want to get into it, for the bullshit I’m calling out in this post is exhausting enough.

It was never entirely Grace’s fault for any seductive actions.

Mary was so keen to both live vicariously through Grace and fuck her that she didn’t see Grace as human, but as an object. If anyone’s mental health deserved to be questioned, it’s Mary’s — she was so absorbed in her own desires and needs; she would fantasize about Grace performing sexual acts for and to her, and snap out of it so disappointingly; she purposely seduced Grace by wearing barely anything and touching her inappropriately.

Brunette woman holding blonde woman close for a kiss
“I see so much of myself when I look at you,” Mary said before she kissed Grace. © Netflix

The married couple had their issues. The husband later checked Grace out, wanted to include her as part of their family. Perhaps a healthier story to tell here would be a family exploring polyamory with a woman comprised of multitudes, of many sides.

I propose Mary is the actual villain here, much like in her new book.

Before I was aware, I would have related to Mary. Blaming external factors was easier. Writing helped me express myself. She admits to having such vivid imaginations that she can’t distinguish between what actually happened.

But I don’t think it would be dissociative identity disorder. I’m not a psychiatrist, so I can’t diagnose, but…she is hallucinating. Her moods change so abruptly, and her life sucks so much right now that she fantasizes about a young woman whose life is just beginning.

Grace had zero interactions with Elaine in the film, so why is the audience expected to believe she murdered Mary’s best friend?

In the film itself, Mary tells a colleague she wrote his favorite during a difficult time — a dark time, if you will. Her facial expression waxed nostalgic.

Every film about authors, without the mental health spin, features them writing and the vivid imagination playing out at the same time.

All the evidence points to Mary, essentially sabotaging herself. She cannot distinguish between reality and fiction.

The plot her agent and editor pitch to her is that it’s the mom who is the villain in the end. She says it doesn’t work, doesn’t know how it can work.

Plot holes on plot holes on plot holes

  • Grace has zero motive to insert herself into Mary’s life.
  • Grace’s aunt is implied to have dissociative identity disorder. DID is not hereditary, so I’m not sure what the intended direction was
  • The montage of Grace playing out in the end comes off as more of Mary’s imagining how a scene she’s writing could go.
  • It’s revealed that Mary has not seen Elaine, who is actually her therapist, in several years and ran into her at the gym at the start of the movie, to inspire her to hire some help around the house.

A similar controversy surrounds Sia’s film Music, which features an autistic character played by an allistic (non-autistic) actress. Sia consulted with no actually autistic people, but rather based the character on that which she’d read about autistic people, mostly told from the perspectives of allistic people who cared for autistic people.

Bad representation is not new in film, but considering it’s 2021…I would personally think we were all above this and on our way to quality rep — not focused on inspiration porn.

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