100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608
To Whom It May Concern:
Within twenty-one seconds of watching the trailer for Split during a presentation I gave, someone in my class jumped. Fear lies at the core of the various emotions you have invoked in the audience. This is not a typical psychological thriller despite the fact that mental illness plays a role. This is a horror film.
From the beginning of the trailer, the audience is terrified. Some people may close their eyes at various moments, such as when the kidnapper hazes one of the young girls, because they do not know what to expect next. The suspense and curiosity captivate the audience because they not only want to know the mystery behind the kidnapper, they want to know the mystery behind a rare diagnosis that is being heavily glorified: DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder, previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder).
When I presented the trailer as part of a college class, I was the one afraid. I was afraid to admit that I have DID. There are times when I am sitting in a class and I ask myself: Is my DID showing? Can people see what I have to battle every single day? Then, I wondered if my class would judge me more if they knew that I have this controversial, stigmatized disorder.
Although I do not define myself based on this mental illness alone, it is a part of my identity. I do not want a mother to watch this movie and stop letting me tutor her daughter because she fears that I will harm her daughter. I do not want an administrator from my school to watch this movie and expel me because they think I will be the reason for another school shooting. I was afraid that someone in the class may move their seat away from me after I gave this presentation.
Throughout my entire childhood, all I felt was fear. I was the one who was conditioned to be afraid of taking a five-minute walk in the dark; I was the one who was conditioned to shake, bite my nails, and grind my teeth as I sat in a cab driver’s car. I was the one who was conditioned to put up my guard in all social situations as an adult because when I was being abused as a kid, the fear took over my mind. I created my “multiple personalities” based on fear.
Through fear, you give an unrealistic portrayal of what DID truly is. The trailer teaches people that those who have a diagnosis of DID will cause trauma to others. One of Kevin’s personalities says, “He’s done awful things to people . . . And he’ll do awful things to you.” Ironically, this statement is said by his child personality. His child personality appears to be innocent through his bright yellow clothing and his high-pitched voice.
Kevin, as explained by the therapist, has twenty-three personalities. While the therapist describes some accurate symptoms of DID, you have not chosen to explain why he switches into a child personality. You also use his twenty-three multiple personalities to make his character all the more powerful. It is three against twenty-three. Kevin kidnaps three girls and holds them captive in his house as if they are prisoners.
Imagine what it would be like to feel like a prisoner as a child. Imagine what it is like to live in pain and learn about the terrible realities of the world when you are too young. Imagine what it is like to lose your innocence too quickly. When children are constantly abused, they do not know how to cope. This is why they create alters; this is why they create parts.
Kevin causes trauma, but you did not show that his entire childhood was filled with trauma. Instead, you make Kevin’s child part seem funny instead of showing that people with DID feel helpless during this age. There are times now, as a twenty-two-year-old, when I dissociate into my child part. This is not empowering. Since I stopped talking around the time I was four and needed a speech therapist, I often cannot speak when I dissociate as my child part. Representations of DID like Split continue to prevent me from feeling as though I have a voice.
In the trailer, the young girls continue to look more petrified. One says, “There’s a man here. He abducted us. He’s going to kill me.” However, Kevin is largely reduced to a stereotype. He is referred to as “The Beast” later in the trailer. The voice-over says, “The world will understand now. The Beast is real.” The audience feels deeply horrified after this statement, believing that this man, this kidnapper is a monster. As a monster, he is no longer portrayed as a man. He is not portrayed as a person. By calling him “The Beast,” he is dehumanized.
As a result, all of his other characteristics are overlooked due to the negative label.
According to the trailer, this is a realistic depiction of DID, and the audience starts to feel the same feelings as the young girls. The intensity of emotion created by the strong imagery in the trailer makes the audience feel like they are right there with the screaming girls because the audience is supposed to empathize with them.
When I dissociated as a child, I also hallucinated a protector part: a red dragon. Am I only the Red Dragon to you? My protector part, my red dragon is powerful and strong, yet he is not dangerous. Perhaps “The Beast” protected Kevin when he was a child during the times he felt no hope. Also, I wonder who Kevin is; I wonder who Kevin was before he created twenty-three parts. We should also empathize with Kevin, but you have given us no reason to do so.
Aristotle said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” There is more to me than the Red Dragon. There is more to DID. I am a tutor. I am a feminist. I am a writer. Whether or not someone has DID, there are different aspects to everyone. Everyone presents themselves differently to people depending on the social situation. There will always be a spectrum in the ways in which people interact with the world.
Although there are layers to everyone’s personality, your trailer encourages people to see me as an evil and violent red dragon. Your trailer teaches people to overlook the goodness in me. You may wonder, if I can function most of the time now, why I do not consider myself as one person, why I still have a red dragon by my side. Then, I will ask if you would stop talking to the people who saved your childhood.
The Red Dragon (but most importantly, Amber Wolfe)