Reforming Mental Health Via Hollywood: "The Snake Pit" (1948) and Its Audiences
What shapes the public’s view of mental illness? How can the mass media create social reform? Answers to these questions can be seen in a study of the 1948 Hollywood film The Snake Pit. Based on an autobiographical novel by the same name, Snake Pit told of a woman’s nervous breakdown and recovery at an understaffed, overcrowded hospital in upstate New York. This talk starts with the life of the novelist and follows it into print and then onto the screen. There, it helped create major reforms in the treatment of the mentally ill. Although it was criticized in the 1970s for being anti-feminist, Freudian propaganda, the authors of this film’s screenplay were anti-fascists who hoped for a better, post-WWII society.