Sexual Abuse, Mental Illness, Depression – The Importance Of Representation
Arjun Raj, Blogger – Huffington Post
Photo Source: BigStockPhoto
I’m not a big fan of physical contact in general, let alone unwanted physical contact. Unless you are my imaginary-at-the-moment significant other, you keep that hug to yourself. I know you mean well and everything, but cooties! Unwanted physical contact, in any form, can do serious damage to a person. It’s demeaning, you lose control, and it makes you someone with serious intimacy issues. When it’s sexual, of course, it’s much worse. Most of it are because the way society sees a victim and all the shame and guilt that comes with it. But even if you take society out of it, it’s still damaging. When you are an adult, you learn to cope, with or without a support system. But when you are a child, it’s something else. Something really, really strange. I say that because I genuinely can’t figure out what that feeling is. All I know is that it’s definitely not a good feeling.
The most disturbing fact is, almost everyone I’ve had a heart-to-heart conversation with, has had a horrible sexual experience, when they were kids, with an adult. It’s funny how casually we all talked about it as if it’s so normal! For me, it was when I was 15, on a crowded bus. An elderly man with wandering hands sat beside me on what seemed to be a never-ending bus ride. I felt helpless and after a while, I reacted. I pushed those hands away. He got pissed and told me he’s just being “friendly and nice” and continued and I kept resisting. The weirdest part was, more than him and his hands, I remember being worried about people noticing. I don’t think I’d have thought that way if I were a girl. I didn’t want to be rescued, I just wanted him to go away. I didn’t want people to see me, a boy, in that situation because a part of me was blaming myself, which is saying a lot because I blame others for everything! But he finally got off the bus and I felt so relieved and happy. That ride was to a friend’s house, which I was really looking forward to. So I thought I could just forget about that incident and go back to being normal. But I remember getting there and when everyone was having fun, that strange feeling started kicking in. I don’t know how to describe it, so I’m not going to. Let’s just say it was really bad.
Then I grew up. There were some wanted physical contacts and all was well. And then one day in 2012, after graduating college, I watched and read Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Needless to say, I’ve never related to a character like Charlie before. He was an introvert, he found it difficult to belong and, as he says, ‘participate’. He was sexually abused, suicidal and good looking. Me af! After the initial ‘so relatable!’ freak out and heartbreak, I realized how comforting the story is. I got the kind of comfort I never had the courage to ask for, the same way ‘Prayers for Bobby’ made me feel about my sexuality. So representation in movies, TV, and literature is important. Not just for sexual abuse victims or gay people, for everyone! There aren’t many mainstream movies that talk about these things the way Wallflower does about sexual abuse, depression and introversion, or how Silver Linings Playbook shows a bi-polar man and a depressed woman falling in love or even the animated movie, Inside Out, showing both children and adults the importance of being in touch with all your emotions.
We see movies and shows about doctors and the difficult choices they make, homecoming soldiers and their PTSD, woman who lost her husband, man who got divorced – a lot of tragic stories. While all of them are equally important and should be told, stories about sexual abuse, depression and other mental illness, or just complex emotions in general, are important too. It doesn’t have to be in the mainstream, it could be as low-budget and indie as this years’ Academy Award-winning actor Brie Larsen’s Short Term 12. Her movie, Room, might have gotten her that Oscar, but her heartbreaking performance in the indie film as a victim of pedophilia and depression was phenomenal.
Indian movies have a long way to go in terms of representations. We have Bollywood movies that don’t even show south Indians properly, let alone depression and sexual abuse! But there are a few exceptions: Imtiaz Ali’s Hindi movie Highway was one. The recent Malayalam movie Amar Akbar Antony, even with all its cinematic flaws, somehow managed to show how irrelevant gender is when it comes to child sexual abuse. The latest Hindi movie Kapoor and Sons was a win for the LGBT community in terms of genuine and true representation.
We have passed that part on the civilization timeline where movies, TV, music, literature etc were just for entertainment. Yes, it’s fun and important to watch Deadpool in all his glory! To watch Batman and Superman kick each other’s’ butts and then Spiderman lands on top of a van and scares them or something. It’s all important! But let’s also talk about real issues. That might not be entertaining, but it, sure as hell, is comforting to someone in your life or maybe even yourself!