Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Fear of Milk: Part 2

I was wrong. Monk is first and foremost a detective show. Wait…let me back up a bit.

What’s happenin’ people?  Chris Weise here for part two of my look at mental illness in Monk. (Click here to read part one.)

What was I wrong about, you ask?  Well…after watching the second part of “Mr. Monk and the Candidate,” the pilot episode, I sadly learned that the creators are scared…and I understand why.

In my last post, I thought that the writers would turn Adrian Monk’s “anxiety disorder” into heroism. Instead, it is simply an obstacle on the outskirts of his murder case. That’s all.

In this particular episode Adrian Monk, played sincerely by Tony Shalhoub, solves the murder he started to investigate in the first episode. He figures out who tried to kill the mayoral candidate in a very clever scenario that puts his associate Sharona Fleming, portrayed by Bitty Schram, in danger. She’s his personal nurse/assistant who helps him function with his “anxiety disorder.”  

Sharona finds herself being dragged through raw sewage by a vicious assassin. Monk is the only one who knows where they are, and he follows…much to his discomfort. He faces his “anxiety disorder” to save Sharona and capture the villain…yay.   

Adrian Monk is a brilliant detective. When I mentioned Sherlock Holmes…I was NOT exaggerating. This show IS a modern American adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous stories. Adrian has his own Dr. Watson in Sharona. Monk even goes so far as to show up unannounced while she is on a date. Holmes has a history of butting in on Watson’s dates as well. Let’s not forget Monk’s cocaine addiction…wait…”anxiety disorder.”  Sherlock is the one with the cocaine addiction…sorry ‘bout that.

Monk is FIRST and FOREMOST a detective show. Holmes influences aside, what does ANY of this have to do with Monk’s mental illness?  I’ll tell you - it shows that the mental illness is an obstacle used for comedy, nothing more. The show gives far more weight to the detective aspect than the “anxiety disorder.” I get that. If the creators didn’t do it, the show never would have sold. 

Detective shows rock…there are a BAGLAZILLION out there! I was REALLY hoping that Monk would have viewed this genre through the lens of honest OCD and all that comes with it, not the lens of an “anxiety disorder” that provides comedic obstacles.  

The creators’ unwillingness to call the “anxiety disorder” OCD does a VERY crucial thing…it makes the show commercial. By not committing to any specific mental illness, Adrian’s OCD is quirky and cute. It is DUMBED down because the creators feel that we, the audience, wouldn’t get it. They break it down for us, into the lowest common denominator…because we are incapable of handling that Adrian Monk has OCD.

Thanks for being so patronizing when it comes to mental illness, Monk. It really makes me feel warm and fuzzy…

Monk is not a bad show. Unfortunately, it treats its bright audience like it’s muted. 

Mental illness in popular culture cannot be portrayed honestly if these creators/writers continue to talk down to the people who put food on their table. In this arena, mental illness must be treated respectfully and intelligently. The audience will rise to the occasion when you give them the chance. 

We are astute and can handle it…don’t be afraid to give us the opportunity.   


Chris Weise is ETD's Production Manager and a member of the Ambassador Council. He also wears a directing hat for ETD from time to time. Click here to read more posts from Chris.

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