In this film, I witnessed a multitude of stereotypes and clichés that showcase the aspects I detest about my fellow Americans. These observations lead me to believe that they are intellectually weak.
Among the patients in therapy, one voluntary individual seeks help for his marital problems, specifically regarding sexual difficulties. This situation leads to a perception among both patients and observers that he may be homosexual. Additionally, there is a character who possesses all three impairments – blindness, deafness, and muteness – conveniently also being foreign. The central figure in this narrative is Randal McMurphy.
Mac, who was previously incarcerated at a nearby prison, is now being treated as a new patient at the mental institution. His admission is not for any psychiatric condition but rather because he refuses to obey authority. In the past, Mac has faced legal problems including assault and statutory rape charges.
Regardless of being a criminal deserving of incarceration, Mac asserts that he is not mentally unstable. He claims to be a difficult inmate as he does not passively comply with the prison guards. I maintain that the only threat posed by Mac lies in his rebellious attitude towards authority, directed primarily towards those in power. Although his approach to challenging authority may not be lawful, I believe that he possesses rational and valid ideas and principles, which he strives to uphold in various situations.
Both the protagonist in jail and I share the view that it was unjust for authorities to require him to behave like a “vegetable.” He believed that decisions in the institution should be made fairly and democratically. Consequently, he stood up for his beliefs, resulting in punishment through ECT. Additionally, Billy, another character in the film, exhibits evident self-esteem problems.
The film we watched in class only provides a glimpse of Billy’s true character. Billy has a readily apparent speech impediment that appears to make him hesitant in various aspects. He is the type of character who unquestioningly follows commands. Mac poses several threats to him, but simultaneously arouses his enthusiasm with his ideas.
The institution’s routine is being disrupted by Mac’s arrival, which has been successful for Billy in following for a long time. Although Billy’s innocence may be risky for himself, I don’t think he is inherently dangerous. In contrast, Chief is depicted as the typical character who is blind, deaf, and mute. Before Mac came along, everyone ignored Chief mainly because he never spoke.
The other patients and staff seemingly made no attempt to include Chief in their activities. However, when Mac arrives, he tries to make use of Chief’s height during a basketball game. Eventually, to everyone’s amazement, Chief catches on and assists Mac’s team in winning a game. To Mac’s astonishment, Chief privately speaks.
This suggests to the viewers that the silent man may only communicate with those deserving of his thoughts. Chief is not a threat, but rather vigilant. Nurse Ratched, the notorious head nurse of this department, conducts therapy sessions and strives to keep her patients under control.
The protagonist maintains a calm and rational speaking style while emphasizing her expertise in helping all patients. The audience is deceived into thinking she has ulterior motives when she insists on evaluating Mac’s mental condition and keeping him in the ward, despite it being clear to everyone that he is mentally stable. This decision may have been driven by her resentment towards his disruptive behavior.
Undoubtedly, she presents a considerable danger as she has the power to dominate someone’s life and imprison them indefinitely in a mental health institution. The individuals in this ward are administered medication and engage in therapy sessions led by Nurse Ratched.
During this therapy session, participation is limited to a specific group of patients, mostly those with less severe conditions. At the beginning of the session, these patients gather in a semi-circle formation. They have the option to either pick up where they left off in a previous session or address any new concerns. I am unsure about how extensively this therapy is utilized.
Despite acknowledging the benefits of group therapy, I believe that in certain situations where specific topics elicit strong reactions from some group members, it might be more suitable to opt for individual-based therapy. It appears probable that this film was made in the mid to late seventies. It is important to highlight that patients who are severely or have long-term mental illnesses do not seem to derive any advantages from this form of therapy as they are not actively engaged in these sessions. Nurse Ratched maintains a calm attitude towards the patients, but my disagreement lies with her views on democracy and fairness.
While I have doubts regarding the effectiveness of her therapy technique for all patients, my opinion could potentially change if she adjusts her approach. From my perspective, mental illness stems from a chemical imbalance in the brain that results in delusions among individuals. Additionally, I perceive disorder-related illnesses as a form of mental illness.
I believe that insanity should not always be considered a medical condition. Throughout history, people like Copernicus and Galileo who have expressed unconventional ideas have often been labeled as insane. It seems that society determines what is normal or abnormal based on the opinions of the majority and minority, rather than considering brain chemistry or ideas alone. Considering this, I think there are individuals who perfectly fit these descriptions in a peculiar manner.
Based on my definitions, Nurse Ratched is considered abnormal while the others are the ones who are patients in this situation. Additionally, perhaps Mac can be seen as insane because he holds ideas that go against the majority, such as having external interests like fishing and baseball outside of the institution. In the film, ECT is depicted as a form of punishment for intolerable behavior rather than as a method to address a clinical issue.
The issue that ECT aimed to resolve in this scenario was disruptive behavior. This technique was employed to suppress opinions that were disliked by the staff, specifically those held by Mac. I comprehend that today ECT is administered with reduced frequency and duration due to ethical concerns, which were not taken into account during the time depicted in this film. As I highlighted in my evaluation of Mac, he was sent to the facility because of his objectionable and unconventional beliefs, leading to the assumption that he must be mentally ill.
Some criminals may feign a mental illness to escape imprisonment and instead be sent to a psychiatric institution, but I don’t believe this was true for Mac. While both mental hospitals and prisons share similarities in terms of repressing negative thoughts and viewpoints, the ways in which they accomplish this differ markedly.
In a jail, physical consequences may result from such behavior, without being categorized as an illness. In an institution, the behavior would be addressed as a mental dysfunction, potentially treated with medication or ECT. In my opinion, Nurse Ratched acts as the guardian for the patients in the hospital, figuratively resembling a “mother bird” who flies around safeguarding their mental well-being in her own manner.