Movies can have profound effects on the world. They can delight, terrify, excite, and, above all, change minds. Recently, my Media Writing class watched the 2001 award-winning film A Beautiful Mind starring Russell Crowe as part of our movie review unit. During the course of our viewing, I realized how important this movie still is, even sixteen years after its initial release.
A Beautiful Mind tells the true story of John Nash, a mathematician from Princeton. It is probably a good time to say that there will be spoilers ahead. If you’ve already seen the movie, great, read on. If you haven’t, click away (I won’t be offended).
Towards the middle of the movie, it is revealed that John Nash has schizophrenia and he has been imagining all the misadventures he’s endured for the first half of the movie, ranging from a car chase to cracking codes for the Department of Defense. He goes through a violent treatment plan, including electric shock. Those around him are skeptical of his mental status and abilities. He is determined to return to his work: teaching and figuring out mathematical equations. Nearly everyone, except for his wife Alicia, doubts him. It seems to the viewer that he will not succeed due to the reactions of others around him. Regardless, he persists and goes back to Princeton and eventually wins the Nobel Prize.
This plot is still extremely important, especially in our modern world. Mental illnesses, like depression and schizophrenia, affect 18.5% of adults in the United States, according the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Mental illness is not normalized in today’s society. People with mental illnesses are seen as less fortunate or defects of society. I know that in my experience, those with mental illnesses are looked down upon. People with mental illnesses are not expected to amount to much in today’s world, to be completely honest. I have heard more than enough jokes about the mentally-challenged students at my school, some that repulse me. Also, people don’t understand mental illnesses and are generally deterred by or even afraid of them.
I feel that today’s society needs A Beautiful Mind to prove that those with mental illnesses are not problems in society or people who need to be sheltered and “fixed”. John Nash, a real person who was born in 1928 and died in 2015, is a role model to those with and without mental illnesses. He proves that even those who no one thinks will succeed can still make significant contributions to society. I believe that a quote by another respected mathematician, Alan Turing, would fit perfectly here.
“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.” – Alan Turing