Bird Box Doesn’t Box in Mental Health

I’m at least a week late to have anything relevant to say about some movie, but here I am. It all started when I was scrolling through Facebook (our new once upon a time) and saw people posting, and yes I had to see what all the hype was about. 

Sandra Bullock, birds, some weird blindfold thing, sure I’ve got a few hours to not sleep tonight. Not like I was going to do that anyway. I have to be honest, I didn’t find myself impressed by the film itself. I was reminded of a spiraling M. Night Shyamalan and how much hope I once had in the movies he created. I guess you could say that while Bird Box was Happening, I was seeing dead box office rankings. The highlight of the film for me was Tom’s character. He was strong, sensitive, and intelligently capable of navigating the end times. As my friend Karla said, “when are you gonna find another sensitive brother during the End of Times?” I couldn’t agree more, honestly when can we find them now? I think I was saddest over Sandra’s love life, or soon to be lack-thereof more than anything. How could another man replace Tom?

Don’t get me wrong, Sandra was fit, cold as the rapids she fell in multiple times yet never got frost bite from, and did what she needed to in order to survive. Showing that women bring a formidable strength that can get the job done. But Tom tempered her seemingly cold-hearted nature and brought a softer touch to her emotionally withdrawn side. I can’t imagine going 5 years without having named children, but at the same time there’s a fierceness there she must’ve needed in order to keep herself safe, to protect her already broken heart. I can connect with the need to do what must be done even when others may not understand, too often, I feel we decry that which is unlike ourselves instead of trying to better understand it. But hey, that’s just me. 

After I watched the movie, I thought to myself. Meh. And didn’t plan on going anywhere else with it. But, there again on my feed I started seeing more comments and even opinion articles. So here we go being easily distracted some more. Many of you know that I work in the realm of suicide prevention, and some of the pieces I read had a few thoughts on how terribly suicide and mental illness was portrayed in the movie. Stating things like Bird Box is “stigmatizing for people with mental illness,” and I’m sure you can deduce more on your own. I honestly hadn’t put much thought into those aspects of the movie while watching it. I think I still find movies to play the part of helping me escape from reality. Letting me have the time to detach in a healthy way so that I can go back out into our world and try to do what little I can. 

So here I am, thinking about a movie and the societal repercussions it has on our perceptions of an entire population of people. I know, what gives me the right? Facebook, I guess. So thanks for that, Big Z. 

I must say I don’t agree with the notion that the film portrays the mentally ill as villainous creatures who have been possessed by some demon force. I think it’s easy to see a movie, photo, or any fraction of an idea and turn it over in our heads until it fits our own narrative. Which is really all I am doing now. This is what I saw when I looked more closely from my own perspective. 

In choosing to stay blind to the issues surrounding us, we have fed a world that grew disconnected and dangerous. It isn’t that those who are mentally ill are villainous even as the world is ending. But they have stared these demons in the face for so long in a state of unmatched vulnerability and had nothing but hope for months, years, and sadly, lifetimes. We’ve stayed blind to those who have most needed our help. And when those of us who have grown to excel at ignoring them the most are face to face with these concentrated demons, we cannot handle it. It is too much to bear because we have not accepted them, let alone seen them as real. 

But those who can see, the ones we view as “crazy,” have known what was coming all along. They’ve warned us until we called them condescending stereotypes and eventually disregarded their humanity all together. This archaic practice has taken place for centuries, only few of us realize this truth. So to the ones who’ve had their humanity taken from them, this image of desperation is not a mere vision of beauty; it is validation. It is justification. It is reinforcement that they have had value all along. And that is what they find most beautiful. I find it sad that our ignorance of their existence is also our own downfall. What could have changed, had we only listened to them?

Some of the pieces mentioned how unrealistic the scenes were and I was left wondering what they meant by unrealistic. Unrealistic in the manners of loss, unrealistic in the hopelessness of those who were stricken? I’m unsure. What I am sure of is suicide in the United States is getting worse. This line of thinking brought me back to recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control. Suicide is up 33% and currently at a 50 year peak. Every year, we are losing more and more humans to a desperate and unrelenting pain that we still don’t completely understand. If only, someone could tell us more about it. If only we could listen, without judgement. 

Some of my best life lessons were when I was spoken to as a human by someone who had something valuable to share with me, even if I didn’t see the value at first. Even if I didn’t deserve their grace and compassion at that time. Even if that lesson needed to stay with me for years until I finally understood the meaning behind it. More people are dying by suicide and I wonder what it would take for us to open our eyes and see what is all around us, before it is literally all around us. 


Special thank you to PsychKarlogy for her input and time. Stay tuned for our podcast.


3 thoughts on “Bird Box Doesn’t Box in Mental Health

  1. This is beautiful. I watched “Bird Box” with my mom recently and she wondered why I kept pausing it. I kept pausing it because it was so intense and I didn’t want to scare myself, but I doubt my mother really understood that. I thought the “unseen force” was some kind of hallucination – remember when the woman was talking to her mother in the beginning?

    Also, I feel like that’s exactly why Sandra Bullocks character didn’t name the kids right away – she didn’t want to get attached because everything else had already gone to pieces and she couldn’t bear the thought of losing them as well.

    • Southern Fried Asian – Susie Reynolds Reece, comedically known as the Southern Fried Asian (because she is southern raised with a crispy Korean coating), is a published author, national public speaker, and violence prevention strategist and consultant. Reece is most sought after for her expertise in the area of suicide prevention. She is skillfully adept at blending the realms of science and research with experiences and storytelling in order to engage and compel any person to be equipped to educatedly stand up for social issues.
      SouthernfriedAsian says:

      Thank you for sharing, Marialena. I would say you obviously paid much more attention to the movie than I did. I do remember that scene, and her husband said her mother had passed years before.

      I agree about their names, too. I think she was softer than she appeared for all their sakes.

      • I’m not sure if I paid more attention or if I’m just very empathetic. Or maybe sympathetic is the better word. I always get them confused. Either way, the movie definitely resonated with me. Your analysis of it is something I hadn’t even thought of, and it makes a lot of sense. Although, as I was watching it, I was leaning toward “society thinks people have gone absolutely crazy”.

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