We are watching the third season of The United States of Tara and although I like it there are aspects that are too unrealistic and that hurt just to watch. The Showtime shows premise is that they are following a family in Overland Park, Kansas who's mother (Tara) has DID (multiple personalities). The family is an overworked landscaper (the cutie from Northern Exposure and Sex in the City. Oh, and the Applebee ads.) as the husband, a daughter who is trying to find herself through a variety of exploits (internet porn, comic-con character, and now flight attendant in training), a gay son, her sister who is pregnant and a whiney mess, and a cast of friends and neighbors who don't seem to mind that their neighbor is bat-shit crazy.
Growing up in Southern California with a mother who was bat-shit crazy I know that there aren't cute moments. Sure, everyone in the family is totally in denial about what is happening - mental illness sneaks in slowly and you begin to adapt to the crazy - but there aren't neighbors who are coming over for barbeque's. In fact, that thing I remember most is the arms length distance most of the other neighbors gave my mom. Sure, it was the 60's and 70's and we weren't all enlightened about mental illness, but seriously, do you want a neighbor who transitions into primal characters, teenagers with an attitude or a 1950's mother (from the show, not my life)?
I don't remember Jello being brought over, neighbors in for coffee, or anyone even really saying hello. It wasn't that they were mean, but they weren't overly friendly. Granted the Midwest is a bit nicer than California.
When I was an adult, my mom had a breakdown when a new doctor decided to take her off all of her medication. Brilliant. My mom was the spokesperson for Better Living Through Chemistry and this doctor wanted to cleanse her system. Most people who have to take any medication over a long period of time will probably want to go off that medication at any one time. That is normal. People who are on psychotropic drugs really want to go off their medication. Anyway, once we realized that things were getting really weird my mom had packed up a rug, told my husband she was leaving and called a cab. We found her at the airport trying to fly to Texas. During her hospital stay (which because of insurance reasons is always 30 days - yes they can cure any mental illness in 30 days) she was Mary mother of God, spoke German, and suddenly couldn't stand to look at the sun and needed dark glasses.
This was not neighborly talk. We didn't invite them over for a backyard social when she got out. In fact, we and everyone else pretended it didn't happen. Yep, that is how real people deal with mental illness. They talk amongst themselves and they pretend it isn't happening.
So, although I like the show - it makes me cringe at the unrealistic cuteness of it and sad that people don't just talk about it like it is normal. Wouldn't that make it less of a stereotype and more of something we, as a people, need to understand?