A Beautiful Mind is a true story that tells the life events of John Forbes Nash, Jr. who is a mathematician at Princeton University. He has a group of friends, that all study similar majors as him, but his best friend is Charles, whom he remands friends with his entire life, plays a significant role in this story. While at school, he is under a lot of pressure around his peers to publish his works, but he finds himself struggling as he makes it clear he wants his ideas to be original. When he finally figures it out, he is invited to MIT for the idea, where he ultimately meets his future wife. Later, he is excited to hear that the White House has a special project for him, which he thinks it finally a project his brains are worth of. His mission is to decode special codes for the government, to unveil Soviet plans, under the order of William Parcher. He becomes obsessed with the project, and it takes over his life. The beginning of the end, happens when Nash witnesses a shoot out between Parcher and the soviet agents. Parcher blackmails him to staying on the project, but everything erupts when Nash thinks a group of soviets are trying to attack him at an awards ceremony, and he ends up hitting a doctor that lands him in a psychiatric hospital. The doctor, Dr. Rosen, decides he has paranoid schizophrenia and needs to be treated with many drugs and electric shock. “Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been. What kind of hell would that be?” says Dr. Rosen, when realizing that Charles and Parcher never actually existed, and this was a quote that really resonated with me. He ends up deciding with his wife that the treatments weren’t working for them, because when he was on the medication, he was the most unlike himself than ever. They decide to go off the medication, and try to ignore the visions and years later he wins a Nobel Piece Prize, so his beautiful mind was able to figure a way to live with the hallucinations.
I chose this movie because it not only shows a man with a serious condition and how he overcame it, but also how a sickness can prey on anyone. Nash was a normal middle class, educated and otherwise healthy man all his life and then he found out he had schizophrenia later on. In our class we often talk about third world countries, or cultures that have not used medicine for thousands of years. These groups are easy to discuss because there are so many in a certain area to make the issue significant, just like we see with the Ebola outbreak. As we learned in week six, many third world nations are victims to structural violence, which Farmer kind of describes it as the threat to be places in a certain place in society that puts you at risk to either get sick, or get sick and never receive proper treatment. This is something that John Nash never really had to worry about. He found out he was sick in a difficult way, but then was provided with the proper medical treatment and what was thought to be the best option at the time. He also had the leisure of denying medical treatment and proceeding with the disease naturally, which ended up making him much happier.
This movie also made me think of one of our readings in week two, Madness in Zanzibar: A exploration of lived experience by Julie H. McGruder, obviously because of the schizophrenic stories she explains. In the opening sentence of this article McGruder says “It is clear that the outcome for schizophrenia is better in developing than in industrialized countries yet attempts to account for this difference have been speculative and elaborated in “a virtual ethnographic vacuum” (Hopper 1992:95)”. This kind of goes off what Farmer talks about in his studies, so I thought it was an interesting point to make for the sake of A Beautiful Mind.
I think this would be a good movie to have in the future for this class. It’s not an obvious pick when it comes to anthropology because its one person that’s affected, instead of a mass culture. But I think that’s why it would be significant. Many people make up a certain culture, and I think the whole point of this class was to recognize that and respect the wishes of every person. Because although my choice might be to use medicine, many other cultures like the Hmong’s, and Inuit’s haven’t used medicine in thousands of years, and want to respect their ancestors. Overall, the movie reflects on our health system again because the doctor didn’t persuade Nash to make his own decision, he told him what he thought was right.
A Beautiful Mind. Directed by Ron Howard. Performed by Russel Crowe and Ed Harris. Universal Pictures, 2001.
McGruder, Juli H. “Madness in Zanzibar: An Exploration of Lived Experience.” Schizophrenia, Culture, and Subjectivity: The Edge of Experience, March 5, 2015, 255-81.
Dr. Paul Farmer on African Ebola Outbreak: Growing Inequality in Global Healthcare at Root of Crisis.” Democracy Now! August 22, 2014. Accessed August 05, 2016. http://www.democracynow.org/2014/8/22/dr_paul_farmer_on_african_ebola.