The following is my reply to the opinion piece Mental Illness Is Not a Horror Show – The New York Times.
Mental illness is an easy plot device for writers and directors to go to to insert drama, action, and suspense into their stories, just as slapstick is an easy plot device they go to for comedy. Anything and everything will be used at some point as a plot device, depending on the current societal triggers.
Mental illness and physical misfortune are emotional triggers, and writers are going for emotion. Police abuse has been a trigger and is more so now, and has been used as a plot device in dramas and sometimes horror. Food safety was a trigger when Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle”.
People are going to write about triggers, and it can’t be avoided. The problem with emotional triggers as plot devices is they affect people who have had personal experience with real situations that have not been romanticized, satirized, or dramatized.
The fiction is a constant reminder of the reality, and they can’t help but feel ostracized. That can’t be avoided either, but nor should it be. Rather than trying to censor dramatized or satirized depictions of mental illness, gun violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, etc., which is a losing fight, those affected by the reality can use the fiction as an opportunity to educate people about the real consequences, as Dr. Solomon has done here.
Censorship is unproductive, but education produces more knowledge and care about the reality than if the fiction didn’t exist at all.
Secret passageways in mansions and castles are an old dramatic staple, so of course Gillette Castle would have them. This passage leads from the Study to the foyer, where William Gillette would suddenly appear at the top of the stairs to greet guests. He would also use it to sneak out of the castle if he had any visitors he wanted to avoid. He had a network of mirrors throughout the castle he would use to see who was in Great Room before meeting them, or not meeting them.
This lower room was used by the builders during the construction of the castle, and later as a workshop where Gillette designed and made the theatrical elements of his home. It’s just off the entry hall and was not apparent to his guests. It’s behind glass so the public won’t disturb the original items in the room.
On a personal note, a branch of my family helped build the castle in the 1910s, according to my father. I haven’t been able to find any reference to them, though. Their name was Bannon, if anyone comes across a reference they can point me to.