Norms are social constructs which have been defined over quite a long period of time which shape a society’s view on how one ought to behave. Some of these standards are essential to protect the well-being and safety of individuals and populations, such as laws. Others relating to stereotypes, for example, have been subliminally and overtly engrained in collective consciences. These predefined ideals can ostracize and exclude fellow humans who yearn for equity and connection with others. Authority figures may plainly or unknowingly perpetuate these cerebral conventions, creating further isolation in an “us versus them” mentality. Milos Forman’s 1975 Academy Award-winning classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest bravely explores these notions among a stigmatized group of individuals and their care providers’ draconian techniques.
Randall P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) has been working on a prison farm following his most recent charge of statutory rape. He has offended five previous times with assault. Therefore, prison officials and his psychiatrist agree to a forensic evaluation on a diverse and quiet all-male unit subdued mainly by the manipulative, authoritative, passive-aggressive, and wretched Nurse Mildred Ratched (Louise Fletcher). Her approach to nursing care is far from collaborative. She steers therapy groups with uncomfortable, leading questions, intimidating all of the patients with her calm and calculating mannerisms and word choice. The introduction of McMurphy to the unit is threatening to Nurse Ratched, and it is evident that she holds great hostility and transference towards him from the very beginning. He is also calculating, is malingering his “symptoms”, and should not . He is anything but disorganized in his efforts to anger Nurse Ratched, and he aspires to infuse patients’ daily routines with variety. The inpatients (Danny DeVito, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lloyd, and Will Sampson among many others in a wonderful supporting cast) evolve from terror to resentment to amusement towards Nurse Ratched throughout the film largely in part to McMurphy’s actions.
I feel as if the title can be implicated via many facets of a spectrum. One can literally escape from a confined space, “flying over” or “away” from that enclosure. It could refer to one’s condition deteriorating to a great degree, in that “flying over” can refer to lost hope and complacency. As in the film, some individuals have serious psychiatric conditions and have been involuntarily admitted to the hospital having likely been very ill with no insight prior to admission. Much has changed since this film’s era, and much continues to evolve within psychiatry as it is still considered to be a new discipline. Antipsychotics and other medications have become more widespread and appropriately used, and lobotomies are thankfully not performed as far as I know. While an outstanding masterclass in ensemble acting and directing, this film may have propagated some dangerous ideas. For example, electroconvulsive therapy is not used as a form of punishment without anesthesia but is a highly treatment for severe depression. It is my experience that great care is taken in psychiatric care to ensure a high level of collaboration between patients, families, and other care providers. This allows for a holistic approach towards recovery and living a meaningful life with a mental illness. In my opinion, attitudes held similar to Nurse Ratched high contrast and are detrimental to current standards of care and human dignity. Overall, I feel that “flying over” a mental health issue should nowadays be referred to “flying through”, living life day by day with hope and celebration of each success.
I do not own any of the pictures in this post. This is a part of the Great Villain Blogathon 2017 hosted by Shadows and Satin, Silver Screenings, and Speakeasy! Please keep checking their blogs over the next few days as well as look at yesterday’s posts for intriguing and informative posts and opinions on movie villains!