James Berardinelli. “Twelve Monkeys”

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6 October 2015

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12 monkeys


            In the movie ‘12 monkeys’ there was a virus which was deliberately released in 1996 and killed more than five billion people. The survivors went to seek refuge into the underground sending volunteers to bring insect specimen from the universe to test for the virus presence. One of the sent prisoners is James cole who goes is given a chance to go back to 1996 but he is taken to 1990 instead. He remembers things as if he was in a dream. Among the things is where he remembers witnessing a man being killed in the airport while he was a child. This is what is always seen to be the Centre stage in whole movie (Lynette, 3). Below is a discussion on how mental illness can be judged on this particular movie for part one, part two discusses the definition of mental illness in regard to the social norms and believes, with part three closing with the discussion of how Cole’s experience relate to Plato’s allegory of the cave.

            In this film, mental illness is featured in many instances for instance, when Jose mentions that the so called volunteers are said to go mad. This presents a clear show of mental illness in the movie. We also notice cole being locked up in the mental institution with other lunatics, showing that there were other many lunatics present. Goines is definitely crazy or schizoid because of his hallucinating and grandiosity nature. Dr. Railly, the psychiatrist alludes that may be the whole world may be insane. We really don’t understand if cole was really from the futureor was he ‘mentally divergent’. We notice cole questioning his mental capabilities, where he asks himself if it could not be great if he was crazy. Simultaneously the Dr. is convinced that he is from the furfure of which we know that this can not be right (Lynette, 8). If he was really sane and from the furfure, then how can one explain the voice that he hears, the one he calls bum calling him Bob, what of the changing guard faces what of the fact that he is never seen coming or leaving and his memory lapses? We really can’t know the physical divergence he claims to have because one can’t explain his fore knowledge about the boy in the well. The appearances in the world War onephotos and the bullets in his leg. In short, this movie seems to be implying that we may not be mentally ill or weird than the world we live.

            Relative to the social believes and norms, mental illness or abnormality can be seen as not being an exact process as it tends to focus on different individuals with different lines of thinking. This relies on different situations, behaviors and context to which the measurement is applied (Weinberger ,2001)

            In defining abnormality, people from different societies and countries have varied ideas. Each and every culture has its own concepts of what it considers to be normal or abnormal. This can make us conclude that what is considered as abnormal in one society is not the same in other societies. So, there is no society which is mere superior than the other in their perception of mental illness or one society has got many mental disorders than the other (American Psychiatric Association. 2000).

            If we look at the deviation from the norms, something or somebody can be considered abnormal if does not conform to what could be considered statistically abnormal. Those who focus on this aspect, only consider specific aspects. For instance, the intelligence quotient (IQ), the personal traits and their distribution. Asserting that a person is is abnormal in this aspect typically means that they deviate from the numeric average of a specific trait and behavior patterns.

            The other mostly applied aspect in examining the mental illness of people is the deviation from the social norms. Naturally, some behaviors are considered as being not accepted in the society, but they can still be expected to be applied in certain situations. The majority of the population knows how to adjust and come along with these changes (Weinberger ,2001). The ones that contradict this are taken as abnormal or mentally ill on the extremes.

            Also, a person is considered abnormal if he/she is not functioning correctly in that he or she may lack a full range of emotion and feelings and therefore his life is considered abnormal. These kinds of people can only be able to participate in only limited range of functioning lifestyle(American Psychiatric Association. 2000). Distress can also be used to gauge the mental illness capability of people as it could be an underlying mental problem.

            Another aspect in the social norms definition of mental illness is the person’s association with others. If a person relation with others courses people to feel discomfort, it could be taken as these people are not mentally right. Along with this is the people’s unpredictable behavior which could much reflect on their mental health.

            The Cole’s experiences relate to the Plato’s’ allegatory of the cave’ as his allegations that the real world may not be what our senses reveal. In relation to the Cole’s experience, we see him moving from one world of the past to the furfure or the vice varsa. In real this could only be a dream or mere imaginations, this alludes that Cole’s experiences could be reflecting Plato’s thoughts or allegations. In his Dialogue with Glaucon, we are not sure of the cave which he was referring to, either it could be the underground that the people had escaped to after the virus struck the universe or the prison where Cole was imprisoned.

            When he imagined that the prisoners could think that the sound that they heard were really coming from the shadows, it coincides with Cole seeing the changing face of the guard and that of omnipresence. His concepts on the shadows could reflect Cole’s switching from one world to another. Was what he saw from the 1990 world true or could it his experience from the 1996 and 2035? Which was the truer experience?

            On the last part of their discussion with Glaucon, he tells him that they, meaning the government, can not show any gratitude for the culture which they have never received. This could be reflecting the 12 monkeys who had released the virus that almost eliminated the human race according to the film. He said that with education on how to tackle issues, one will be able to defeat these ill minded people, reflecting Cole’s endeavors.


Roger Ebert (1996-01-05). “12 Monkeys”.Chicago Sun-TimesLynette Rice (August 26, 2013). “12 monkeys pilot”. Entertainment Weekly

James Berardinelli. “Twelve Monkeys”.Reviews

Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences Education, National Research Council. 2000. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Weinberger, D., Torrey, E.F., and Berman, K. 2001. Schizophrenia PET scan. Retrieved July 13, 2008

American Psychiatric Association. 2000. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition

The Allegory of the Cave http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/allegory.html

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StudyScroll. (2015). James Berardinelli. “Twelve Monkeys”. [Online]. Available at: https://studyscroll.com/12-monkeys-essay [Accessed: 10-Jun-2023]

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