May 18

New Season of “In Treatment”: Uzo Aduba As Therapist

Uzo Adubo portrays the central figure, therapist Brooke Taylor, in a new season of  In Treatment, an update fans may say is long overdue. The setting this time around is Los Angeles during COVID.

For info about the first three seasons (2008 to 2010), in which Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne) was a therapist in therapy himself, see my previous post.

When In Treatment resumes on May 23rd (HBO Max), its 30-minute episodes will air back to back on Sunday and Monday nights.

In addition to Adubo, the cast of the new season of In Treatment includes the following:

  • Adam (Joel Kinnaman), the guy in Brooke’s conflicted love life
  • Eladio (Anthony Ramos), a home health aide for a wealthy family
  • Rita (Liza Colón-Zayas), Brooke’s close friend
  • Colin (John Benjamin Hickey), a white-collar criminal recently released from prison
  • Laila (Quintessa Swindell), a teenager dealing with family expectations

Will Brooke, as In Treatment‘s prior therapist Paul Weston, seek her own therapy? Not sure, but viewers will definitely see that she has her own issues, at least in part via her conversations with friend Rita. “The press release says the therapist is dealing with ‘a life-altering loss,’ and her on-again, off-again boyfriend has resurfaced to complicate her life. As a Black woman, she also faces challenges in the field that Weston certainly never had to contend with” (Looper).

Kelly Lawler, USA Today, reports that Aduba and the series producers recently spoke at a conference about “the importance of bringing the series back with a Black woman at its center, which allowed them to explore new topics.” As therapy stigma is prevalent in communities of color, this is a welcomed approach. Related to this,  Aduba herself has been publicly relating her personal experience with therapy.

More from Lucy Feldman, Time, about what you can expect to see:

In the space of a few episodes, Brooke has to coax out the nuances of a young caretaker’s feelings of abandonment, help embrace a teenage girl’s Black and queer identity, and navigate a privileged man’s dishonesty. The show doesn’t shy away from contemporary tensions, pushing into violent racial fantasies and toxic masculinity. Watching Aduba’s performance in these scenes, it’s easy to feel Brooke’s frustration, unease, even danger. ‘This is a Black, female psychologist treating people through the lens of the world as she sees it,’ Aduba says. ‘There are a lot of unknowns of how that day is going to go, and why people have arrived there.’

Watch the trailer below:

Mar 24

“Men Who Hate Women” by Laura Bates

“(T)he terrorist movement no one is talking about” (Publisher, Men Who Hate Women: From Incels to Pickup Artists: The Truth about Extreme Misogyny and How it Affects Us All by Laura Bates)

In her 2014 book Everyday Sexism: The Project that Inspired a Worldwide Movement British author Laura Bates (founder of the Everyday Sexism Project) noted that “Women are silenced by both the invisibility and the acceptability of the problem” (i.e., sexism).

Now, in Men Who Hate Women she goes deeper, having secretly infiltrated such active online groups as the incel movement, internet trolls, pickup artists, and Men’s Rights Activists—the whole of it otherwise known by Bates as the “manosphere.”

An excerpt of what Kirkus Reviews says about the origins of Men Who Hate Women:

For nearly a decade since founding the Everyday Sexism Project, an online platform where individuals can share their experiences with sexism and inequality, Bates has endured daily messages from men ‘outlining their hatred of me, fantasizing about my brutal rape and murder, detailing which weapons they would use to slice my body open and disembowel me, describing me as a dripping poison.’

Further info, from Bates’s publisher:

Drawing parallels to other extremist movements around the world, including white nationalism, Bates shows what attracts men to the movement, how it grooms and radicalizes boys, how it operates, and what can be done to stop it. Most urgently of all, she follows the pathways this extreme ideology has taken from the darkest corners of the internet to emerge covertly in our mainstream media, our playgrounds, and our government.

David Futrelle, NPR, summarizes the author’s findings:

…Bates is deft in sorting through the angry, hostile, and self-pitying rhetoric of the incels, who manage, as she notes, to be both victims of and purveyors of hate. But she’s also expert in taking apart the self-serving nonsense of the seemingly more respectable Men’s Rights movement, which not only does ‘vanishingly little to tackle the many very real issues affecting men today’ but actually makes them worse by reinforcing the most toxic and backwards elements of toxic masculinity — all the while promoting the nonsense notion that men, not women, are the truly oppressed gender in the world today.

The role of the media, as covered by The Independent review:

In the US, Bates notes, attacks perpetrated by Muslims receive 357 per cent more coverage than those committed by white people, controlling for factors like the number of victims. And when white men do hit the headlines for terrorism or murder, they tend to be described as lone wolves, mentally ill, or driven to despair, as opposed to having been radicalised by a crazed but eerily consistent world view.

How common is the threat to women posed by men who hate them? “One expert Bates speaks to is convinced that roughly 70 percent of young men today have been exposed to manosphere ideologies in some form or another (NPR).

“In a cruel irony,” adds reviewer Ceri Radford of The Independent, “men and boys suffer too.” [Quoting Bates]: ‘We have to recognise that our current societal version of masculinity is failing them. It leaves them isolated, forced to adopt a swaggering bravado that prevents them from talking about how they feel or forming mutually supportive relationships’…”This could explain the high rates of male suicide that sincere men’s rights activists seek to tackle, in part by challenging rigid stereotypes.”

Oct 04

Toxic Masculinity and Homosociality

Activist Dr. Jackson Katz, who has pointed out that male perpetrators of sexual violence against women are often enabled by cultural elements that promote toxic masculinity, has said the following:

Blaming victims and minimizing the harms they have suffered is much easier than holding people accountable — especially the powerful and well-connected.

It’s a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at that term “violence against women,” nobody is doing it to them. It just happens to them. Men aren’t even a part of it.

We talk about how many women were raped last year, not about how many men raped women.

In other words, it all adds up to: we don’t talk enough about the right things. We talk too much about the wrong things.

Fact: Men in the most powerful positions in this country have been accused of violence against women. One of these alleged offenders is the President.

Fact: The important Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) appears to be endangered.

Fact: Our current federal administration sympathizes with male abusers, not victims and survivors. Trump, for example, has expressed concern about how scary a time it is for young men if they can be accused of sexual assaults and has mocked the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

Toxic masculinity, as defined by the Good Men Project, underlies rape culture:

Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. It’s the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything while emotions are a weakness; where sex and brutality are yardsticks by which men are measured, while supposedly ‘feminine’ traits – which can range from emotional vulnerability to simply not being hypersexual – are the means by which your status as ‘man’ can be taken away.

Toxic homosociality, a related phenomenon, was cited by Lili Loofbourow in a recent Slate article. She referred to this as a type of behavior “that involves males wooing other males over the comedy of being cruel to women.”

Regarding allegations that Brett Kavanaugh committed sexual offenses against two different women, Loofbourow states:

In each case the other men—not the woman—seem to be Kavanaugh’s true intended audience. In each story, the cruel and bizarre act the woman describes—restraining Christine Blasey Ford and attempting to remove her clothes in her allegation, and in Deborah Ramirez’s, putting his penis in front of her face—seems to have been done in the clumsy and even manic pursuit of male approval.

Much, of course, has been made of Kavanaugh’s use of alcohol. But Maggie Koerth-Baker, FiveThirtyEight, reported recently that although alcohol is often involved in sexual assaults, toxic masculinity is even more of a contributor.

If you compare men who have perpetrated sexual assault to those who have not, the perpetrator group always drinks more….But the impact of …other variables — anti-social behavior, for instance, and negative views about women — are much stronger predictors of sexual violence than alcohol use.

How do we ever end toxic masculinity, toxic homosociality, and rape culture? “…(T)he big focus in sexual violence prevention right now,” states Koerth-Baker, “is bystander intervention — finding ways to encourage people who are neither victim nor victimizer to change cultural norms and stop situations that are turning dangerous.”

Another corrective measure is the advent of courses at some colleges, e.g. Brown University, that address issues related to toxic masculinity.

Of course, parents and educators and therapists—and all responsible citizens—can also teach non-toxic masculinity to boys and girls, men and women, whenever possible. Possible resources include The Good Men Project and these lists of children’s books as well as books and movies for adults. Plus, coming full circle, check out Jackson Katz’s book The Macho Paradox and/or his popular TED Talk.

Feb 09

“Phantom Thread”: Some Psychology

I don’t know about you, but Phantom Thread left me wanting more info about the psychology of the couple’s love story. As the info I’ve put together involves SPOILERS, I’d advise you to read ahead with caution unless you’ve already seen the film.

From the start, whereas the character of dressmaker Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is sharply drawn, his newest lover and muse, Alma (Vicky Krieps), is significantly less known to the viewer.

David Edelstein, Vulture: “Woodcock allows only two people into his space: [Sister] Cyril [Lesley Manville], who takes care of the day-to-day business of living, and his mother, who is dead but ever present.”

Kristen Page-Kirby, Washington Post:

I have seen [Woodcock] described by other critics as ‘exacting,’ ‘meticulous,’ ‘rigid’ and ‘insatiable.’

He is all of those things. He is also emotionally abusive.

Put Woodcock and the much younger Alma together, and an unhealthy pairing ensues. As one Spoiler review on IMDB states, “Someone should refer them to counselling.”

While several critics have focused on the theme of toxic masculinity, Krieps herself has pointed out that her own character’s actions are feminist in nature (BBC), which winds up having the effect of balancing the couple’s dynamics.

Guy Lodge (Guardian): Alma “gradually begins to assert herself in ways that aren’t immediately perceptible, steering their relationship into obliquely sadomasochistic territory…It’s neither a story of subjugation nor one of empowerment: as the lovers figure out ways to play their weaknesses against each other, all traditional notions of one-way control are out the window.”

And Anna Silman, The Cut: “While the film starts out looking like a familiar tale of domineering male genius, it ultimately flips those expectations on their head. Alma vies for power and ultimately achieves it — through some rather unexpected (and twisted) means.”

Like, you know, the poisonous mushrooms.

Silman, seeking further elucidation herself, has called on psychiatrist Marc Feldman for help. Feldman, the author of an upcoming book on various types of medical deception, told Silman (The Cut) he sees in Alma “’Munchausen syndrome by adult proxy,’ a form of abuse in which a caregiver artificially induces illness in someone he/she is caring for.”

On the other hand, adult-to-adult cases are apparently very rare, and “Feldman says he has never seen a case where (à la Phantom Thread) the victim colludes with the perpetrator to achieve some sort of gratification. That’s because in most cases the victims tend to be unable to comprehend the abuse they are undergoing or unable to resist, often because they are physically or intellectually disabled.”

Well, it turns out that director Paul Thomas Anderson had Munchausen on his mind too in preparing to make Phantom Thread. As told to David Fear, Rolling Stone:

…I was sick and my wife [actress Maya Rudolph] was taking care of me. And my imagination just took over at some point, where I had this thought: ‘Oh, she is looking at me with such care and tenderness … wouldn’t it suit her to keep me sick in this state?’ I don’t know a lot about that disorder, Munchausen [symdrome] by proxy…But that moment was enough to … it gave me an idea that such a thing could be served up with some spark of mischievousness and humor that might, in a larger picture, lend itself to what it means to be in a long-term relationship, you know. And the balance of power that can happen in that…

Jan 23

Trumpism: And Related Terms We Know Better Now

As we’ve now officially crossed into the era of President Trump and Trumpism, some of the important terms we now know or need to know better:

Trumpism

A Johns Hopkins college syllabus (JHU) that went viral post-election states that it involves “personal and political gain marred by intolerance, derived from wealth, and rooted in the history of segregation, sexism, and exploitation.”

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

If President Trump indeed suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD, most in my field won’t publicly declare it because of an ethical code that prohibits such diagnoses without an appropriate in-person professional assessment.

However, last November three noted female psychiatrists (see previous post) provided President Obama supporting information about NPD—in case of its possible relevance.

A particularly salient point from their letter (Richard Greene, Huffington Post):

There are only two ways to deal with someone with NPD, and they are both dangerous. There is no healthy way of interacting with someone with this affliction. If you criticize them they will lash out at you and if they have a great deal of power, that can be consequential. If you compliment them it only acts to increase the delusional and grandiose reality the sufferer has created, causing him to be even more reliant on constant and endless compliments and unwavering support.

Gaslighting

As quoted in my previous post on gaslightingSusan Dominus, New York Times:

When I watch Donald Trump, I sometimes feel like Ingrid Bergman — not European and glamorous, but unnerved, as though I’m being gaslit, as in the famous plot of her old classic movie ‘Gaslight.’ The lights are flickering, but her character’s husband, who is secretly a seriously bad dude, is convincing her that no such thing is occurring. He is trying to get her to question her sense of reality, to think her mind is playing tricks on her — in short, to convince her that she is going slightly crazy, a tactic that can be scarily effective.

Post-Truth

Post-truth was named Oxford Dictionary‘s 2016 international word of the year: “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Indeed, as was confirmed just yesterday, Trumpism actually employs “alternative facts”—or what the rest of us call “lies.”

Toxic Masculinity

Not only is it bad for one’s own mental health and social functioning, reports Kevin McCarthy (Healthline), those who have toxic masculinity are less likely to seek help. Among the associated traits are exertion of power over women, misogyny, violence, and homophobia.

Xenophobia

The Word of 2016 picked by Dictionary.com is xenophobia, described as “fear of the other.” Katy Steinmetz, Time, notes that both listed definitions reflect sentiments that apply here:

1. fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers. 2. fear or dislike of the customs, dress, etc., of people who are culturally different from oneself.

Normalization

According to New Republic, “Normalization is saying yes to racism, sexism, and homophobia. It is saying yes to deplorable and offensive behavior. And it is saying no to those who believe differently, reaffirming that our definition of normal in this country most often comes from one dominant group.”

Trump Anxiety and Trumpsomnia

Anxiety and sleep disturbance often go hand in hand. Scott Timberg, Salon: “One of the ironies here is that several of those suffering from Trumpsomnia describe the election as ‘a bad dream.’ But it’s one they don’t seem to be able to wake up from.” Sleep remedies may provide only a short-term fix. Though, “Impeachment would work,” said one sufferer.