• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

'Split' Runs Into More Criticism Over Portrayal of Dissociative Identity Disorder

·Producer, Yahoo Entertainment
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • M. Night Shyamalan
    M. Night Shyamalan
    Indian-American screenwriter, film director and producer
  • James McAvoy
    James McAvoy
    Scottish actor

Split has been the No. 1 movie in the country for two weeks, but while audiences may be enjoying M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film, the critics are increasingly going after it. Split is a psychological horror film about a character with dissociative identity disorder (DID, or as it was previously known, “multiple identity disorder”).

Split (United International Pictures)
Split, featuring James McAvoy, is doing well at the box office, but many are critical of it. (Photo: Universal Pictures)

Some people feel Split unfairly perpetuates myths about DID. Award-winning psychologist and therapist Michelle Stevens is one of those people. Her soon-to-be-published book, Scared Selfless, is about Stevens’s experience as a child as the sex slave of her mother’s boyfriend. After her traumatic experience, she developed multiple personalities.

In an open letter to Shyamalan published in the Hollywood Reporter, Stevens criticized the director for his movie. “I have lived for years with the stigma created by movies such as yours,” she wrote. “Despite being a successful doctor who runs a charity for adult survivors of child abuse, I live with constant anxiety that people will learn of my diagnosis.”

Kevin in session with his therapist (Betty Buckley) (Credit: Universal Pictures)
Some feel that Split perpetuates harmful myths about DID (Photo: Universal Pictures)

Dr. Garrett Marie Deckel is a DID specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York. “[Split is] going to upset and potentially exacerbate symptoms in thousands of people who are already suffering,” she told CNN. Cathy Kezelman, a leading Australian mental health expert, has also weighed in. “Research shows … people with this diagnosis are no more likely to be violent offenders than the rest of the population,” she told SBS. “So for people to experience it, and see a movie about their diagnosis, is very traumatizing.”

The Verge writer Charles Bramesco summarized it succinctly. “It’s hard to imagine a more squarely on-the-nose example of demonizing mental illness than portraying a mentally ill man as a literal demon,” he wrote as part of critique of the film.

M. Night Shyamalan and McAvoy on the set of <em>Split.</em> (Photo: Everett)<br>
M. Night Shyamalan and McAvoy on the set of Split. (Photo: Everett)

M. Night Shyamalan discussed the controversy with Yahoo Movies. “We’ve had no issues from people that have seen the finished film, just zero,” he said. “It’s all taken in the right light, and they feel moved and honored by the way [James McAvoy] portrays the different [personalities].”

It’s Fine to Use Captain America to Make Political Statements, Says Daughter of Character’s Creator:

Tell us what you think. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or leave your comments below.