Why Gothika Exposes The Hidden Thoughts of Every Black Woman Who’s Ever Experienced Mental Illness
By Janiera Eldridge (@janieraeldridge)
Chloe: He came back again last night and tore me like paper. He opened me like a flower of pain, and it felt good. He sank into me and set me on fire, like he always does. Made me burn from the inside out.
Miranda: How did you know it was the devil?
While Gothika was mostly written off by critics as being just your average horror fare, it was seen as a pretty innovative and genuinely scary movie by many fans of the horror genre. Yes, it has flaws but if you want a shocking thriller, this movies does deliver. The 2003 horror film stars Halle Berry as the beautiful and well respected psychologist for the criminally insane, Miranda Grey. Miranda is married to the man who runs the institution. They appear to be the perfect example of relationship goals.
Flash forward a few scenes and Miranda is now in one of the institution's cells screaming her lungs out after being put away for brutally chopping up her husband with an ax! The sudden story twist leaves you wondering: what the hell is going on here? How can such a successful, smart and seemingly rational woman end up chopping her husband into tiny, bloody bits?
While the actual reason she’s locked in a glass cage is surprising, the metaphor her situation stands for is a little less obvious. The story of Miranda Grey feels like a mirror image of the experience of every black woman who’s ever experienced mental illness. Throughout the entire ordeal, Miranda is told to just take her medication and confess to the horrible crime she’s committed. No one wants to hear her stories about how she is being haunted by a ghost and genuinely can’t remember what happened the night she murdered her husband. No one wants to really help her, they just want her to fess up to her crime so she can be medicated and locked away for good.
Why does this sound so damn much like being a black woman suffering from mental illness?
Black women are always expected to be reliable, fierce and hold everything together at all times. What happens when she’s suddenly showing signs of unraveling and she is no longer herself? People just want her to be silent, get back to her daily grind and stop causing trouble. Meanwhile, the woman suffering is terrified and tries to act as normal as possible while she’s being terrorized by her mental illness. Even at the end of the movie when Halle Berry proves she isn’t crazy, we never know if she’s truly vindicated in the eyes of the people close to her.
My continual journey through depression luckily was not nearly as bad as the experience mirrored in Gothika, but I’ve read about and witnessed a woman treated less than for having a mental illness. My family and those that love me were generally concerned about my mental well-being and were supportive of my experiments with treatments. However, all sistas aren’t as lucky. Although Gothika offers no solution to this seemingly never-ending problem, it does offer a happy and reassuring ending.
You are not “crazy,” sista. Your behavior is not something that will just go away without recognizing it, being compassionate towards it and being proactive by moving forward with rectifying the problem.
No matter what they say, you’re. not. crazy!