Why Pricey Evan Hansen Is not Good Psychological Well being Illustration

Why Dear Evan Hansen Isn't Good Mental Health Representation

Picture Supply: YouTube user Universal Pictures

The trailer for the film adaptation of the musical Pricey Evan Hansen is formally right here, and though it is perhaps Broadway blasphemy to say it, I am extremely unimpressed. I’ve struggled with my emotions about this present since its 2017 Broadway debut, and the trailer for the film confirmed my worst fears: the movie will solely additional improve the worst elements of the stage present, somewhat than addressing or coping with them. Honest warning: we’re heading into spoiler territory right here, so in the event you’re not conversant in the plot, learn on at your individual danger!

Pricey Evan Hansen has garnered a repute — largely as a consequence of its savvy advertising — because the “teenage psychological well being present.” It is the story of Evan, a youngster who’s explicitly fighting psychological sickness, who, via a sequence of accidents, is assumed to be the key finest buddy of a classmate, Connor, who dies by suicide. The mere presence of points like melancholy, anxiousness, and suicide, nonetheless, is not sufficient to make this story into good psychological well being rep; they need to be addressed sensitively and thoughtfully, and that is the place Pricey Evan Hansen fails at each single flip.

Psychological sickness is a plot machine for a lot of the story, plain and easy. Evan’s anxiousness and melancholy are used as excuses for the manipulative, mendacity, downright egocentric habits he reveals all through. He has quite a few probabilities to set the report straight however chooses to not as a result of he simply cannot resist the eye — from his crush (who occurs to be Connor’s sister), from his classmates, from Connor’s dad and mom (whom he places on a pedestal above his personal desperately attempting single mother), and, finally, from an enormous social media community. By the top of the story, he barely even faces penalties for his actions. This isn’t “psychological well being rep”; that is actively taking part in into stereotypes that individuals with psychological well being struggles merely aren’t answerable for behaving badly or that they’ll, inevitably, behave badly. Each are horrible; each are damaging.

Very similar to Netflix’s 13 Causes Why, it ticks off packing containers of hot-button points whereas ignoring the very best practices for depicting these points with out inflicting additional hurt.

Maybe probably the most harmful stereotype this story pushes ahead is its views on psychological well being therapy. Within the stage present, Evan complains about having to do his therapist-assigned “homework” and, much more distressing, has an outburst the place he yells at his mom about not desirous to take medicine as a result of he does not need it to “change” him. As the sentiments of a scared, lonely teenage boy, these complaints are in character; the issue is that the present itself chooses to not push again on Evan’s concepts or present audiences that he is mistaken. As an alternative, it leans into these stereotypes of remedy and medicine because the “straightforward” approach out or one thing that may “change” an individual. For a present that intentionally courts a big fan base of younger individuals who could also be fighting related points, it is breathtakingly irresponsible to romanticize these inaccurate stereotypes. Very similar to Netflix’s 13 Causes Why, it ticks off packing containers of hot-button points whereas ignoring the very best practices for depicting these points with out inflicting additional hurt.

All of this would not be fairly as irritating if not for the advertising the present (and now the film) has leaned into. If it have been positioned as an antihero story, a darker exploration of the intuition to insert one’s self into close by tragedies, then we might be having a very totally different dialog. As an alternative, it is chosen to characterize itself as an uplifting, weepy coming-of-age story, helped alongside by extremely catchy, pop-tinged, anthemic songs. The advertising focuses on one of many breakout songs, “You Will Be Discovered,” an uplifting anthem about getting again up once more and realizing you are not alone.

This is the issue: within the context of the story, that tune is without doubt one of the largest lies. It is primarily based on a narrative Evan makes up as a backstory for his faked friendship with Connor, and it is sung as a tribute to Connor. However the factor is, there is a large disconnect between what the lyrics say (you may be discovered, we’re not alone) and what really occurs within the story (Connor died alone and isn’t even being seen as his actual self after his loss of life, nor did he discover Evan after Evan’s failed suicide try). With none curiosity in interrogating this disconnect, we’re as a substitute left with one thing that feels hole and that is solely uplifting superficially. The extremely efficient, emotional, and well-crafted music serves to obscure these uglier elements of the plot, which, as a musical-theater fan, disappoints me, too: it is irritating that this big-name illustration of musicals is displaying how the artwork kind can manipulate, somewhat than the way it can specific and increase and dig deep.

Maybe I am unsuitable concerning the trailer and the film as a complete. Maybe it actually will tackle these points from the stage model and inform a extra complicated story that does not take the straightforward approach out. I might be thrilled if that is the case. Because it stands now, although, I am only a Broadway fan dissatisfied that this, of all issues, is the story that normal audiences will see as a illustration of what trendy musical theater has to supply.


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