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Richards, A.D. (1994). Psychiatry and the Cinema: By Krin Gabbard and Glen O. Gabbard. Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press, 1989, 304 pp., $14.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 42:261-263.
(1994). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 42:261-263
Psychiatry and the Cinema: By Krin Gabbard and Glen O. Gabbard. Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press, 1989, 304 pp., $14.95.
Review by: Arnold D. Richards, M.D.
Psychiatry and the Cinema is the collaborative efforts of two brothers, the film critic and scholar, Krin Gabbard, Professor of Comparative Literature at SUNY, Stony Brook, and the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Glen Gabbard, Director of the Menninger Memorial Hospital in Topeka.
Their book, a labor of love, is really two books in one. The first, "The Psychiatrist in the Cinema," is devoted to portrayals of psychiatrists in 250 American movies from 1906 ("Dr. Dippy's Sanitarium") to 1986 ("Psycho III"). The second book, "The Psychiatrist at the Movies," begins with a chapter on methodology on film criticism that traces in particular the influence of de Saussure, Levi-Strauss, Althusser, Bartes, Kristeva, Derrida and Lacan. Treated also are the theories of narcissism developed by Kohut and Kernberg and popularized by Lasch.
The Gabbards' enthusiasm for their subject makes the book both entertaining and stimulating. What is not clear is the extent to which they have been able to offer new insights regarding sociological, cultural, and historical trends in twentieth-century America. A useful point they make is that the great film transcends its subject and cannot be judged by its devaluation of the profession of psychiatry or psychoanalysis, however, untoward: psychoanalysis does not rise or fall on Woody Allen's view of the profession and its practitioners.
Four chapters written by Krin Gabbard chronicle the fall, rise, and fall of the psychiatrist in the American cinema. Except for a brief "golden age" in the late 1950's and early 1960's, during which psychiatrists were idealized, they are almost consistently negatively depicted. The authors are struck particularly by an image of the psychiatrist as the facelle "whose presence allows the character to engage in intense self-scrutiny before the camera," the "faceless" psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist as "plot expediter" (p. 7). In recent films, they note, this facelessness is more often portrayed as a function of ineffectiveness: if psychiatrists had more character, they might be able to help people.
Despite the negative stereotype of the psychiatrist, the impact of some of these films should not be minimized.
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