"Mirror Image" (Poisoned Pen Press) now at your bookseller's.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


As some of you know, one of my pet peeves--as both a therapist and a writer--is the abundance of TV shows and films in which psychologists and psychiatrists are portrayed as villains. From Hannibal Lecter to your garden variety culprit on any TV crime show, male therapists are often shown as capable of everything from serial murders to sexual exploitation to brain-washing.

Last Sunday's episode of Foyle's War, on PBS' Masterpiece Theater Mystery, was no exception. Now let me be clear: I'm a huge fan of this series of World War II mysteries starring Michael Kitchen. (In fact, next week's episode is the series finale, after five years, and I'm very sorry to see it go.)

But in last Sunday's show, centered around dark deeds at a mental health clinic, all three of the male therapists at the clinic were guilty of something...one of theft and blackmail, another of sleeping with a disturbed patient's wife, and the third of murder. (The second shrink committed murder, too, but since the victim was the blackmailing, thieving first shrink, I don't think we were supposed to feel that badly about it.)

You see my point. In a first-rate, beautifully-scripted and acted series, there's yet another story in which the male shrinks are all killers, crooks and adulterers. As my old Italian grandmother used to say, "Oy!"

As I've written elsewhere, I know why male therapists are ideal villains...all that education, supposed empathy and concern for humanity, turned to the Dark Side. The ultimate paternal figure turned evil, running amok. Irresistible to screenwriters.

But, c'mon, people. Let's give this on-screen stereotype a rest. At least until the second season of HBO's In Treatment airs, wherein depressed shrink Gabriel Byrne, despite his all-too-human foibles, struggles to do the right thing.

End of rant.

1 comment:

Smitty said...

Point taken about the negative depiction of psychotherapists. But, who to replace them with? Any suggestions for those of us currently at work on crime novels?
Gynecologist, pediatrician, maybe orthodontist? Some scary permutations are definitely possible.