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Driving Me Crazy - A Representational Analysis of Bipolar Disorder in Television

Madness is an enigma. It exists only in the human brainthe most impenetrable and

confusing organ but its limbs and roots extend into the lives of everyone surrounding it.

Personality and the self get intertwined with neural pathways and neurotransmitters;

distinguishing disease from reality grows more impossible as an illness begins to control the

mind. Our anthropocentric hubris convinces us we have an understanding of and control over the

brain. But like the fish who doesnt recognize hes in water, our brain is the very thing that

prevents us from fully understanding it. As Audre Lord says, The masters tools will never

dismantle the masters house. In the case of mental illness, the human phenomenological

experience will forever impede a true understanding of the internal computer that drives the

whole thing. How, then, do we attempt to navigate a disorder as complex and fickle as bipolar

disorder? The disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose, and until the late 19th century it wasnt

even recognized as an identifiable illness. As a result, its public understanding exists more in

mythology than any scienceunderscored by its prominence in the lives of historical geniuses

and artists. Its a mythology of the starkest highs the deepest lows, where Sylvia Plath could see

day after day glaring ahead of me like a white, broad, infinitely desolate avenue, (The Bell Jar)

and Edgar Allen Poe could derive positive pleasure even from many of the legitimate sources of

pain. Each of these writers is trying to encompass the mind-boggling experience of suffering

under such an unpredictable disorder, but in so doing they create a representational idea of how

and in whom bipolar disorder manifests. Their disease correlates with the beauty they

createhow, then, can the public interpret the disorder as anything but a blessing? In the

television shows Homeland and Six Feet Under, the bipolar characters both embody the persona
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of bipolar artist/genius. Ultimately, though, the efficacy, nuance, and responsibility of their

representations comes down to whether or not the show uses the disorder as a narrative

instigator.

The lack of research around opinion of bipolar disorder, as well as the relative infancy of

its neurological understanding, creates an environment susceptible to damaging stereotypes.

According to research by Diana Chan and Lester Sireling, there has been little further research

on the public opinion of different mood disorders, in particular bipolar disorder, (Chan and

Sireling 2010, 103). Despite presence throughout history, the disease itself didnt gain much

clinical and psychological traction until Kraepelin coined manic-depressive illness in 1899 and

the development of lithium as a treatment plan began in earnest the 1960s (Kramer 1993, 44).

These are both still early advancements, as science continued to find more and more

categorizations; the distinction between bipolar-I and bipolar-II didnt arrive until 1976

(Goodwin and Jamison 1990, 9). Even with these distinctions, there are patients classified as

unipolar who subsequently experience a manic or hypomanic episodeso called false

unipolarsconfound studies of bipolar-unipolar differences (Goodwin and Jamison 1990, 14).

With such a constantly evolving science and continued uncertainty about what exactly

constitutes the disease, it becomes difficult to extract and delineate specifics, leading to a

muddled and stereotype-heavy impression of the disorder.

As the experiences of authors like Sylvia Plath and Edgar Allen Poe demonstrate, the

most prominent stereotype of bipolar disorder is that of an artist/genius. Its an understandable

assumption, considering both common anecdotal support as well as actual research like that of

Dr. Thomas McNeil. In one of his studies, his research led him to ascertain that Mental illness
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rates [] were positively and significantly related to their creative ability level, substantiating

the hypothesized relationship between creative ability and mental illness, (Jamison 1993, 87).

Kay Jamison brings in different angle to that argument, though, when she describes how The

manic drive in its controlled form and phase is of value only if joined to ability, (Jamison 1993,

55). Take this research in comparison to the point of view of people with the disorder who

chose to keep the illness. They commented on the enjoyable experience of having new ideas

with increased activity, the excitement of feeling high in mood, and powerful, and how these

experiences would be difficult to relinquish, (Chan and Sireling 2010, 103). Research indicates

both correlation and causation between mental illness and ability, and people who are themselves

bipolar cant make the distinction between their own capabilities and the effects of the disorder.

This confusion allows for a gray area of cause and effect in terms of the mental illness and the

livelihood of the person suffering.

Homeland and Six Feet Under both approach this gray area, but to opposite effect:

whereas Homeland uses Carries bipolar disorder to wrap up the audience in the action of the

series, Six Feet Under uses Billys bipolar disorder to highlight the emotional paths of each

character. As a result, Six Feet Under ultimately creates an insightful portrait of the connections

between everyone in his world rather than contributing to an unrealistic expectation of the way

bipolar disorder manifests. Homeland takes the historical genius/creativity connection and

undermines the realities of Carries disorder while exploiting it for narrative gain. Ironically, by

irresponsibly representing bipolar disorder the show manages to embody the disease. Watching

Homeland reflects the experience of having bipolar disorderthe audience takes on Carries

mania and paranoia because the show wraps it up with the thrilling elements of the terrorist plot.
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Six Feet Under reflects the experience of loving someone who suffers from it, which allows the

show to instill a level of empathy and understanding towards the reality of how bipolar disorder

manifests.

Homeland takes time to develop Carries relationship with her bipolar disorder, therefore

creating an aura of respect and understanding towards the disease; ultimately, though, this allows

for the show to disguise its use of stereotype. In the first season finale Marine One, Carrie is

recovering from an intense hospitalization and getting fired from her job. Her first appearance in

the episode is by name only, when Virgil asks Carries sister about her mental state. Her sister

explains its a state Carrie hasnt been in awhile and when Virgil asks whether the lithium has

kicked in by now, she responds affirmatively and describes how this is actually the

depression in the wake of the mania. Much harder to treat. In moments like this, Carries

disorder appears to take on a human formit has patterns, it has treatments, it has variants. The

timeline for her treatment is unrealistically short, though, considering for lithium to reach its

maximum effectiveness, two to three weeks are often required, (NAMI). Lithium is also a

life-long mood stabilizer that should be taken every day in regularly spaced doses. Not that

people with bipolar disorder regularly respect this rule; as previously mentioned, the appeal of

mania is so high that people often prefer to be sick. Despite this, the necessity for the drug is not

lost on those who suffer from the illness, so Homelands level of disregard and sudden

rehabilitation offers a dissonant portrait of bipolar disorder. The dissonance arises not out of

ignorance; rather, it comes from how the show still uses the illness to serve the narrative despite

this care towards giving thorough explanation.

The show maintains a similar intimacy with the mannerisms and experiences of living
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with the disease, allowing for more chances to disguise its conflation of story and illness. In the

penultimate episode of the season, The Vest, Carrie becomes fully manic in a way that

parallels an experience the writer, Meredith Steihm, had with her sister: After the manic episode

landed [the sister] in the Johns Hopkins hospital years ago, Meredith stayed with me at home for

a week to help me get back to the regular simplicity of sleeping and waking, (Steihm 2012). In

the episode, shes been off her medication as a result of hospitalization. The specificity of

Carries incessant need to use a green pen and her increasingly speedy and paranoid speech

comes from real exposure to and knowledge of the disorder. This level of awareness of the

disease parallels the aforementioned scenes describing Carries lithium use. Together, they create

an insidious faade of trust and understanding; by taking such a close and thorough look at the

mechanisms of the disease, the show attempts to disguise its own exploitative narrative use of

Carries bipolar disorder. And it works, to a degree; most of the journalistic reviews of the show

positively point out Claire Danes acting: Daness stunning performance is one of several new

groundbreakingly realistic depictions of mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder, on

television, (Lacob 2012). The consensus is Carries mania, medication, and hospitalization may

be fairly realistic, but she only has these experiences in order to set-up the mistrust with the CIA

and their mishandling of her information on Brody. This, in turn, sets up the suspense of the

finale, where Brody fully reveals his terrorist intentions in front of a video camera. Carries

bipolar disorder isnt a character description or an interpersonal influenceits the most

prominent narrative and thematic drive of the whole series.

Homeland derives this drive from one of the most common stereotypes of those suffering

from mental illness: The stereotype of the mental patient as eccentric artist who fights alone
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against the psychiatric establishment, (Hyler and Gabbard 1991, 1045). Homeland contorts this

stereotype by replacing the psychiatric establishment with the government, and brings psychiatry

into the fold of its oppressive tools. Carries story is constantly one of her versus the other;

whether that other is the US, her co-workers, or the effects of her disease doesnt mattershe

exists in her own world of truth. As Bethlehem Shoals wrote in GQ Magazine, If only the world

could get on her level, get in step with her rhythms. Then everyone, including Carrie, would be

safe forever, (Shoals 2013). In The Vest, Carrie calls Brody to gain more information about

his relationship to Issa; this conversation could potentially crack open the whole case for Carrie,

if Brody werent trying to protect his terrorist mission. When he suggests meeting up, the show

has created an apex of Carries emotional needs. Brody is both her romantic desire and the

answer to her professional obsession. By calling him, she is both vulnerable and right. When

Estes shows up at her door, then, the dynamic of her against the world reaches a climax. Estes

intercepts every possible emotional reward for Carrie, and strips her of any dignity or hope. He

becomes as purely evil as a person can be in this situation, which leads to inevitable sympathy

for Carries state. Combine this plot with the jazz that slowly subsumes the diegetic sound, and

the shaky camera at Carries eye-level where we only see the hulking shoulders of FBI suits.

Carrie is a complete victim of the governments strings, and when Estes asks her family What is

wrong with her?, Homeland drives home its obsession with linking Carries bipolar disorder to

the narrative outcome of the thriller plot.

In the season finale episode Marine One, the lines between illness and plot blur fully,

therefore eliminating the realistic humanity of Carries bipolar disorder and replacing it with the

thrill of a terrorist threat. Throughout the episode, Carrie appears in shadowseither in a dark
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room or disguised by a baseball hat. The show replaces her personhood with mystery. The

episodes editorial pattern cuts between scenes of Carrie hearing constant accusations of insanity

and scenes of Brody doing exactly what shes describing. The dramatic irony of the narrative

reveals both the accuracy Carries assumptions and the idiocy and cruelty of those with whom

she shares this knowledge. She spends the entire episode hearing about how her CIA work and

conspiracy was assembled by a crazy woman into a crazy job, and how shes working

[herself] up over nothing. The show gaslights Carries character in order to reinforce the

mythical power of her bipolar disorder. Her world knows shes crazy, and therefore doesnt

believe her; the audience and Carrie herself also know shes crazy, but believe the illness is the

fuel for her country-saving deductions. Regardless of the point of view, her bipolar disorder rests

firmly at the center of the narrative push and pull. Its interwoven with the terrorist plot, marking

her as a vehicle for thrills and suspense rather than a multi-faceted and sick woman in need of

support and recovery. Her status as a female incorporates the trend where female characters

appear to be vehicles for working through more public shifts in the relationships among

government, politics, and private family life, (Negra and Lagerway, 128). Her femininity and

mental illness both become ways through which the show can manifest its narrative drive. Shes

not just crazy; shes a crazy woman. And for Homeland, this craziness is also the key to all of

its thriller mysteries and answers.

When Brody doesnt go through with the terrorist plot (thanks to Carries plea to his

daughter, Dana), it becomes the nail in the coffin of her misguided theory. As the audienceand

Brodyknow, however, Carrie was right the whole time. She blames her seeming mistake on

the escalation of her bipolar disorder and decides to submit herself for electroconvulsive therapy.
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ECT can actually provide a lot of good to bipolar patients because it is a highly effective

treatment for mania, (Goodwin and Jamison 1990, 783), but here the show uses it to reinforce

Carries victimization by the world around her. Her motivation is the assumption that she was

wrong; the audience knows she was right, so the show colors ECT with a tone of misguided

punishment and cruelty. Its also an inherently confused choice, considering ECT As she slips

into the anesthesia, her memory recalls the clue to determining Brodys culpability. Its too late,

thoughshes already gone under. The exact moment of confronting her illness eliminates her

chance of uncovering the secret of the terrorist plot. By helping herself, she destroys her

intellectual and narrative redemption. The show places the narrative climax on how, by falling

prey to assumptions about her illness and wanting to take medicinal action, Carrie gives up her

genius edge. As Shoals writes in GQ, You have to wonder how much interest Homeland really

has in bipolar disorder if its not a narrative goldmine, (Shoals 2013).

By creating the dynamic of Carrie as isolated genius, Homeland adopts a manic tone. The

show reflects the experience of bipolar disorder by presenting the manic point of view as reality;

rather than elucidating truths about the disease itself, it perpetuates the stereotypes of mental

illness as a virtuous fight against the machine. The show creates a codependent relationship

between Carrie and the audience. The audience is Carries only supporter, because no other

character can provide truth and justice within the thriller narrative. Every hindrance to Carries

success occupies a villainous space in the showbe it the CIA, David Estes, Brody, or her

family. The shows story requires an audience investment, so all the villains against Carrie

become villains against the audience as well. The audiences emotions link up with

Carriescharacter relativism and nuance has little place in a world where the safety of America
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relies on the deductions of our main bipolar character. Carries position as the sole arbiter of

truth reflects Alex Gansas (the shows creator) fascination with people suffering from the

disorder: The interesting thing about bipolar disorder is that even at the hypomanic stage,

which is a degree below the manic stage, these people are incredibly interesting to be with and

they are more alive in a way. He continues by saying, They fly closer to the sun than the rest of

us, and there is an incandescence about them, (Shoals 2013). In Homeland, Carrie and the

audience fly close to the sun together, and it blinds them both.

Six Feet Under shares a lot in common with Homeland, but it detaches Billy Chenowith

and his disorder from the story machinations, therefore allowing it to breathe and exist as a

realistic and humanistic depiction of bipolar disorder. In the first season episode A Private

Life, the show grapples with the repercussions of Billy being off his regulatory medicine. Its a

similar plot to that of Homeland, but Six Feet Under contemplates the effects on the characters

lives and relationships rather than the effects on the plot. Billys medication doesnt have a

spontaneous impact, unlike the way Homeland implies how the medicine is a quick fix for

Carrie. Instead, the show grapples with the deep questions of how medication can create a

blurred line between mental illness and personality. The episode encapsulates this point of view

during a conversation he has with his sister, Brenda. When she finds Billy in her home without

her consent, she tells him Youve crossed a line; I dont think I can trust you anymore and

Im not going to deal with you when youre off your meds, Billy, because I dont even know

who you are. Billys bipolar disorder doesnt exist in a vacuum; as in real life, it hits the people

around him as much (if not more so) than it hits himself. In just a few lines, the show describes

how his actions have pushed into his sisters boundaries, the degree to which Brenda is adjusting
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her codependency, and the ways the siblings must try to find stability in such an unstable

environment.

Brendas fear-based response hones in on the effects of Billys medication (or lack

thereof). Is Billy himself during a period of mania, or is that purely a symptom of the disease? Is

Billy still Billy when the disease is medicated? Six Feet Under doesnt attempt to answer these

questions; instead, it asks them by demonstrating how the disease can affect the people around it.

In Listening to Prozac, Peter D. Kramer uses the effects of Prozac to examine the questions of

personality and mental illness. He mentions how So strong is the influence of medication on the

way we think about personality that a number of psychiatrists charged with updating the standard

diagnostic manual have suggested doing away with the distinction between mental illness and

personality disorder, (Kramer 1993, 180). Six Feet Under demonstrates how this confusion

manifests in a realistic and emotion-based relationship. Homeland doesnt even consider the

question; for Carrie, she wields her bipolar disorder like a flaming sword, leaving realistic

interpersonal dilemmas in the wake of its magical sleuthing powers.

As much as Six Feet Under creates a realistic portrait of the disease, it still falls into the

trope of tortured genius/artist. The show uses the trope without having it define Billy, however,

in contrast to the monopolizing effect of Carries genius in Homeland. Billys art becomes a lens

through which the show examines his relationships with the people in his life. At the end of the

aforementioned episode, Nate Fisher comes across Billy in full manic mode. The show

introduces Billys presence through photographs he lined against the wall. Throughout the series,

Billy uses his photography to connect with Claire Fisher, who also develops a passion for

photography. It serves as a common ground between these two people who suffer from feeling
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displaced in their own family and in the world around them. As a result, the photos Nate

encounters hold a profound level of meaning. Not only are they intrusive in a voyeuristic sense

(they depict Claire in a vulnerable state, as well as images of Nate and Brenda having sex), but

they also reveal the level of intimacy Billy has with Claire and Brenda. The show makes a clear

connection between his creativity and his bipolar disorder, but it uses that talent to illuminate the

degrees to which hes enmeshed himself in the lives of the other people in his life. Brenda and

Claire are also two of the most important people in Nates life (Brenda as girlfriend, Claire as

sister), so Billy knows he and Nate share these attachments. When Nate finally approaches Billy,

he sees the massive installation/shrine Billy has erected to convey his attachment to Brenda and

Claire. His skills provide context and a lens, but the true meaning comes from the web of

interpersonal relationships and how he manages to maneuver through them. The trope doesnt

define his disorder, and therefore it doesnt define his existence. Carrie Mathison, however, isnt

a character without her genius status.

Unlike the narrative codependence in Homeland, Six Feet Under uses its formal tools to

create distance from Billy and give the audience the experience of being with someone who has

bipolar disorder. At the end of A Private Life, Billy continues to be fully manic and starts

threatening Brendas safety. He comes to her house completely bloody after cutting their

matching tattoo off his lower back. The camera in this scene shakes to reflect the instability of

the situation, and the majority of their shot-reverse-shots place Billy at a farther distance from

the camera. The camera tries to shield Brenda, and the audience, from the danger Billy poses in

this situation. He isnt dehumanized, however; the camera comes close whenever Billy

emphasizes how he cut off the tattoo for the sake of saving his and Brendas relationship. By
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alternating between these two distances, the show can create a sense of detached empathy for

Billys situation. The audience takes on neither Billy nor Brendas roles; instead, the show

allows for the audience to understand the relational nuances at play in their interactions. When he

pulls out the box cutter, the clicking sound of the blade overwhelms the sound design.

Throughout the entire conversation, the audience undergoes constant reminder of the blades

presence. By elevating its place in the soundscape of the scene, the show privileges the point of

view of Brendas vulnerable state. This continues once things turn violent and Brenda is at a real

risk of major injury. When she manages to push Billy off of her, though, the camera goes to

Billys unconscious head against the door and his bloody clothes. He is now the vulnerable

onethe one to whom the audience extends sympathy. Six Feet Under manages to create a

tense, high drama scene that revolves around Billys bipolar disorder while maintaining the

emotional effects it has on both characters in the scene. Once Brenda commits Billy to the

hospital, it comes from a desire to repair and find solace, not a desire to create a narrative

cliffhanger la Homelands use of ECT. As John Teti writes in AV Club, This is a lifelong

relationship, and while [Brendas] not ending it, she is changing it irrevocably, (Teti 2011).

As generous as Six Feet Unders representation may be, Billys character is still more

often unstable, in need of medication and eventually hospitalization. While not an incorrect

representationbipolar disorder does instigate these experiencesit still perpetuates a media

focus on the unhealthy mentally ill characters, rather than on someone who is living a productive

life with a mental illness. Typical stereotypes for mentally ill include the mental patient as free

spirit, homicidal maniac, seductress, enlightened member of society, narcissistic parasite, and

zoo specimen, (Hyler and Gabbard 1991, 1044). Despite the holistic approach to Billys story,
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he still falls under several of these stereotypes. Six Feet Under spends the whole series showing

the fluctuations of Billys disease, but his plotlines always veer towards the destructive and

manipulative. The focus on his family dynamic, however, and the relationship with Brenda,

allows for the burden of his problems to extend across his entire life experience, rather than just

on his mental illness. Billy is not alone against the world, the way Carrie is in Homeland; this

distinction turns a one-sided depiction into a representation with believable repercussions. When

Billy comes to Brendas house in full mania, he reminds her of the story of their favorite

childhood book, Nathaniel and Isabel. The book makes frequent appearances in the show,

especially as tattoos on Brenda and Billys backs. It represents the boundary-pushing closeness

of their siblinghood, as well as the fantasy onto which Billy projects his expectations for Brenda.

When he tries to cut the tattoo off Brendas back the way he did for himself, he claims its so

they can be new people. Brenda recognizes the delusion in this projection, so she tries to calm

Billy by saying I dont want to be new people. I like us the way we are. Billy cant

differentiate between the storys characters and his and Brendas reality. This delusion stems

from his mental illness, of course, but its manifestation has direct ties to his hyper-close

relationship with his sister. The latter comes from a spiritually sick family dynamic; the former

comes from his mental illness. Six Feet Under doesnt make it easy to understand Billy

Chenowith, which elevates the representation into one of respect rather than exploitation.

The ways Homeland and Six Feet Under use genre help to illuminate the structural ways

television can hinder or enable respectful representations of mental illness. Television genre has

nebulous boundaries, so despite the narrative diversions between Homeland and Six Feet Under,

the two of them can still hold the same classification of character drama. In Jason Mittells A
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Cultural Approach to Television Genre Theory, he writes, As many genre scholars have noted,

there are no uniform criteria for genre delimitationsome are defined by setting (westerns),

some by actions (crime shows), some by audience effect (comedy), and some by narrative form

(mysteries), (Mittell 2011, 5). Looking at Homeland and Six Feet Under through narrative form

places them at opposite ends of the spectrum. A political, terrorism-oriented thriller and a

generational family drama cross over in tone only (serious, rather than comedic). Homeland

takes time to focus on the broader cultural and familial implications of the War on Terror within

this thriller genre, however, so it creates a bridge with Six Feet Under and its focus on

interpersonal conflict. In The Television Genre Book, Lisa Richards writes about how

Homeland presents a different take on the action genre by placing greater emphasis on the

psychological impact of the War on Terror, as seen from both sides, rather than the spectacle of

other shows, (Richards 2011, 34). Richards observation highlights the fallacy of Homelands

use of mental illness, thoughHomeland uses Carries bipolar disorder to facilitate this

conversation on the psychological impact of the War on Terror, at the expense of its own

non-exploitative representation. It incorporates the character drama of a show like Six Feet

Under, but by operating under a primacy of the thriller genre, the structural elements of

suspense, politics, and detective plotlines serve as hindrances to developing a comprehensive

representation of bipolar disorder. By contrast, Six Feet Under eschews most genre constraints,

allowing it to create a symbiotic relationship between the characters and the story.

The representations in Homeland and Six Feet Under carry a lot of weight because they

both fall under the category of prestige or quality television; this cultural designation also

makes it easier for poor representations to go unremarked. In Televisions Second Golden Age:
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From Hill Street Blues to ER, Robert J. Thompson describes this category using several

characteristics, including a quality pedigree, attracting a demographic of upscale,

well-educated, urban-dwelling, young viewers, and a subject matter that tends towards the

controversial, (Thompson 14-15). This cache guarantees a level of critical reverence and,

subsequently, cultural capital. America, as a society, prizes both capital gain and products of

high esteem. In television, premium channels epitomize these ideals: they require a paid

subscription and only produce cinematic-level television. Both Homeland and Six Feet Under

aired on premium channelsShowtime and HBO. At the time of Six Feet Unders release,

HBOs slogan was Its not TV, its HBO; Showtimes slogan is Brace Yourself. The diction

of these slogans reflects an identity of controversy, elevated taste, and a no-holds-barred

approach to television. When the stories on these channels veer into territories of race, class,

gender, disability, and a number of other complex and controversial subjects, the self-imposed

expectation is for nuanced and honest storytelling.

Homeland follows these parameters on Showtime by telling dark truths about the nature

of Americas homeland security methods and the collusion and conspiracy behind most major

diplomatic affairs. It uses established industry players (Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon of 24),

an adapted story (its adapted from the Israeli show Hatufim a.k.a. Prisoners of War), and a cast

of primarily film and stage actors (Claire Danes, Damien Lewis, and Mandy Patinkin). Behind

this money, technical aptitude, and cultural clout, though, lies a highly unrealistic and damaging

representation of mental illness. Six Feet Under only had an Academy Award-winning

screenwriter at the helm; otherwise, it cast mostly unknown actors and didnt have a

controversial and zeitgeist-friendly premise. It went on to win countless awards, though, so it


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earned its place on HBO for five seasons. This allows Six Feet Under to use its representation to

a positive effect. The same elements that make it easy for Homeland to disguise its problems

allow Six Feet Under to fully explore its representational aptitude. Their differences gain more

importance by virtue of their status as Quality TV, as theyre more likely to have long-lasting

cultural relevance and impact.

The representations of bipolar disorder on Homeland and Six Feet Under arent just

important because theyre culturally esteemed; theyre important because they are a part of such

a small cohort. Other television shows with bipolar characters include Shameless, The Big C, and

Empire. The list includes a few character arcs during the long run of a series, but otherwise the

list remains short. When representations exist in a shallow pool of offerings, each example

carries a much larger burden to get it right. It also makes it much easier for a poor representation

to continue without repercussion; if something is the only option, theres no competition to

improve. The necessity for positive representation extends beyond mental illnessit applies to

all points of view and lifestyles outside the accepted mainstream. Positive representation

improves quality of life, influences policy-makers, and affects the development of generations.

The mentally ill occupy a large percentage of the American population, and illness doesnt

discriminate when choosing whom to affect. Homeland creates a romanticized

representationdespite showing hospitalization and debilitating sociability, it ultimately frames

the illness as the key to keeping America just and safe. This type of representation creates a

dehumanized and fantastical version of someone suffering from bipolar disorder, which hinders a

general acceptance towards diagnosis and treatment. Six Feet Under shows a more realistic and

multi-faceted representation of the illness. While still dramatic and unlike an average experience,
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it puts empathy and vulnerability at the center of its story. With these tools, representation has a

shot at improving the experience for real people suffering from the disease. And what is

television ultimately for, if not to create a better world to reflect?