Monkeys and how we judge mental illness

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by professional essay writers.

6 August 2015

Remember! This is just a sample.

You can get your custom paper by one of our expert writers.

Get custom essay

79 writers online

In the movie 12 Monkeys there features a virus which was deliberately released in 1996 and killed more than five billion people. The survivors seek refuge into the underground. The refugees send volunteers to bring insect specimens from the universe to test for the virus presence. One of the sent prisoners is James Cole. He is sent for a mission into the past to collect information about the virus. He arrives in Baltimore in 1990, instead of 1996. Cole begins to recall the past events as if he was in a dream. For instance, he recalls an event when he witnessed a man killed at the airport while he was a child. Cole seems to have mental problem. That is the theme of the movie (Lynette, 3). In the movie, the issue of mental illness is brought out vividly. The definition of mental illness in regard to the social norms and beliefs is brought out clearly. Also, the Cole’s experience and how it relates to Plato’s allegory of the cave is highlighted.

In this film, mental illness is featured several times. For instance, Jose mentions that the so called volunteers are said to go mad. This presents a clear case of mental illness in the movie. We also notice Cole getting locked up in the mental institution with other lunatics. That shows that there were many other lunatics present. Goines is definitely crazy or schizoid because of his hallucinating and grandiosity nature. Dr. Railly, the psychiatrist alludes that maybe the whole world may be insane. We really do not understand whether Cole was really from the future or he was ‘mentally divergent’. We notice Cole questioning his mental capabilities when he asks himself if it could not be great if he was crazy. Simultaneously, the Dr. is convinced that he is from the figure of which we know that this cannot 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 about the changing guard faces? Again, what about the fact that he is never seen coming or leaving and his memory lapses? We really cannot know the physical divergence he claims to have because one cannot explain his foreknowledge about the boy in the well. It is also to explain his appearances in a World War One photo and the bullet in his leg. In short, this movie seems to be implying that we may not be mentally ill or weirder than the world we live.

Relative to the social beliefs 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 measure 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 abnormal in one society is not the same in other societies. So, there is no society which is more superior to 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 he or she does not conform to what could be considered statistically normal. Those who focus on this explanation consider specific aspects such as the intelligence quotient (IQ), the personal traits and their distribution. Asserting that a person 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 unaccepted in the society, but they can still be expected to be applied in certain situations. Majority of people know how to adjust and come along with these changes (Weinberger, 2001). The ones that contradict what is socially normal are taken as abnormal or mentally ill to the extreme.

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. Such people can only participate in a limited range of functioning lifestyle (American Psychiatric Association. 2000). Distress can also be used to gauge the mental illness and capability of people as it could be an underlying mental problem. Another aspect of the social norms definition of mental illness is the person’s association with others. If a person’s relationship with others causes them discomfort, then, the approach of the person may lead to the description of abnormality in the context of that relationship.

The Cole’s experiences relate to the Plato’s’ allegatory of the cave’ with respect to 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 and vice versa. In real this could only be a dream or mere imaginations. In this case, 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. It could either be the underground that the people had escaped to after the virus struck the universe or the prison where Cole was imprisoned. Cole imagines that the prisoners could think that the sounds they had heard were really coming from the shadows. Surprisingly, that imagination coincides with his 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 be 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, cannot 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. That notion reflects 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 scans. Retrieved July 13, 2008

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

The Allegory of the Cave


Cite this page

Monkeys and how we judge mental illness. (6 August 2015). Retrieved from

"Monkeys and how we judge mental illness" StudyScroll, 6 August 2015,

StudyScroll. (2015). Monkeys and how we judge mental illness [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 2 February, 2023]

"Monkeys and how we judge mental illness" StudyScroll, Aug 6, 2015. Accessed Feb 2, 2023.

"Monkeys and how we judge mental illness" StudyScroll, Aug 6, 2015.

"Monkeys and how we judge mental illness" StudyScroll, 6-Aug-2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 2-Feb-2023]

StudyScroll. (2015). Monkeys and how we judge mental illness. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 2-Feb-2023]

Don't use plagiarized sources. Get your custom essay..

get custom paper

We use cookies to personalyze your web-site experience. By continuing we’ll assume you board with our cookie policy.