I wrote a piece in August about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. And because I’m so obsessed with the subject, I think I’ll write another.
Besides, it beats thinking up a new topic for this week. My motto: Why work harder when you can simply opt not to?
Hey, it works for Congress.
If you’re an optimist, you’ll agree OCD has its benefits. In my previous post, I mentioned that I never forget to lock my front door. That’s because I can’t leave my apartment without checking my lock five times. OCD makes me thorough.
Unfortunately, it also makes me 10 minutes late to work. Knowing my door’s locked is little consolation when my boss is chewing my hide.
Another benefit of OCD is it provides great fodder for Hollywood screenwriters. Who can forget Jack Nicholson in the completely forgettable film As Good As It Gets? His character is afraid of touching door handles, brings his own silverware to restaurants and washes his hands constantly. Nevertheless, he somehow seduces Helen Hunt. (But then again, so did Paul Reiser and Mel Gibson, so I’m not too sure if that’s a noteworthy accomplishment.)
And then there’s my favorite OCD flick, Matchstick Men, in which Nicolas Cage plays a chain-smoking con artist who cleans compulsively and hyperventilates at the thought of dirty carpet. Cage immerses himself in the character so completely, it coaxes you into forgiving him for starring in Knowing. His nervous, hiccuping speech and spastic tics rival some of the best performances in physical comedy I’ve seen — including Billy Bob Thornton’s sex scene in Monster’s Ball.
And finally, there’s Monk, the Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-winning TV series in which Tony Shalhoub plays an obsessive-compulsive private detective who solves homicides.
I’ll admit, I’ve never watched Monk. I always thought it was just a show about, you know, a monk. And if I wanted to see insufferable celibacy, I could just observe my own life.
However, it’s got great reviews on IMDB.com. (But then again, so does The Proposal, so who knows.)
Unlike cerebral palsy or schizophrenia, OCD is a disorder that provides moviegoers an excellent form of comic relief. After all, I don’t remember chuckles erupting when Russell Crowe underwent electric-shock treatment in A Beautiful Mind. But Nicolas Cage demanding people remove their shoes before entering his home, then having a panic attack when someone drops food on his carpet — now that’s pretty darn funny.
OCD doesn’t garner the same sensitivity as other disorders. Indeed, it often invites laughter. As one of the OCD-afflicted, I admit that compulsive behaviors are ridiculous. In fact, most people with OCD know they’re ridiculous.
That’s what makes OCD so distressing. Rationality has nothing to do with it. People who have OCD often are ashamed to perform their rituals because they’re all too aware of how strange and unnecessary they are. You have to go through the motions like an insentient robot — kind of like when your girlfriend takes you to visit her parents for the weekend.
“What’s that?” called my girlfriend* from the next room.
Nothing, hon. Just working on my blog.
I do find it interesting how in today’s ultra-PC world, there’s not much outrage over films that poke fun at OCD. Not that I think there should be. Personally, I think laughing at OCD is a great way of coping with it.
But I’m surprised you don’t hear much protesting of movies such as Matchstick Men and claims that they exploit OCD sufferers. After all, everyone’s scared of being offensive these days. I mean, I can’t even tell a blonde joke without my girlfriend getting all mad and —
“What’s that?” called my girlfriend from the next room.
Nothing, hon. Blogging.
Anyway, most movies I’ve seen don’t exploit OCD sufferers at all. Films such as As Good As It Gets and Matchstick Men — as well as the TV series Monk, I’m told — treat OCD with maturity and sensitivity.
For example, Matchstick Men invites us to laugh at Nicolas Cage’s tics, but it also shows the audience his character’s isolation and makes you emphasize with his problem. It’s helpful in educating people on what OCD actually is and what it involves. You’re invited to laugh at the character, but it’s an understanding laughter, not a mean-spirited one.
I was thinking of writing a screenplay that depicts my own OCD experiences. I just need a suitable actor to portray me. Nicolas Cage would be a good choice. Or even Jack Nicholson.
“How about Helen Hunt?” called my girlfriend from the next room. “You and her are tall, and you both have the same feminine features.”
Ha, ha. Very funny, I said. Now let me finish this up. I’m almost done.
“Good,” said my girlfriend, walking into the room. “Because we got to hit the road if we’re going to visit my parents. Remember?”
Yes, dear, I said. Sounds like fun.
See? Insentient robot.