Blue is the New Black: How Popular Culture is Romanticizing Mental Illness




Dunn, Emily Rose

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There is a trend of romanticizing mental illness amongst the younger generation. I define this age group as high school to college-age, around 13-22 years old. In this thesis I clarify several reasons as to why this is happening, focusing on the influence of popular culture. I assert that due to the well-meaning intention of destigmatizing mental illness in society, there has been a movement in film and social media to humanize various mental illnesses, which in twist of perception has caused it to be sensationalized. I will be using the examples of depression, anxiety, personality disorder and schizophrenia. I use film as the main medium of influence because historically, film has mirrored and magnified social issues and changes of opinion as time progresses, a key example being both social opinions towards women’s, and civil rights. The parallel is that the changing attitudes towards mental health are now being shown through film as well. I add social media to the mixture of influences because it is just as, if not more of an influence on attitudes as film is, because social media is interactive. The consequence of admiration towards mental illnesses are varied. On a lesser scale, it has shown in behaviors such as using disorders such as depression or anxiety as accessories to make one’s personality more interesting. On a more critical scale, it may lead to the tendency to not seek out help if one is experiencing symptoms of poor mental health due to the weary opinions of the older generation suspicious of fakery for attention. On the flip-side, over diagnosis can also occur. There is nothing wrong with trying to humanize mental illness through depictions in film and social media. However, it needs to be done so more objectively, with realistic information, and with the “faded flower” aesthetic removed.



popular culture, romanticism, mental illness, mental health, glamorization, psychology, societal views, depression, anxiety, personality disorder, Honors College


Dunn, E. R. (2017). Blue is the new black: How popular culture is romanticizing mental illness (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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