The concept of shared psychosis in pop culture

Please forgive me dear reader, if this entry is laden with lots of psychology as I am on a psychological high as of the moment.

It is no denying that psychology and many of its concepts are already visible in pop culture. There is this one psychological concept that got my particular interest at the moment; it is the concept of shared psychosis also known as Folie à deux. Quoting Wikipedia, Folie à deux is a syndrome in which symptoms of a delusional belief are transmitted from one individual to another.

Perfect Blue: Of idols and psychology

As far as I can recall, I have first seen the concept in the thriller anime movie, Perfect Blue as it was expertly woven into the story by Satoshi Kon. It really is hard to notice at first but it is there, specifically, the manager Rumi Hidaka in manipulating the stalker Me-Mania. Let me explain Rumi Hidaka , Mima Kirigoe’s manager, was once a former idol, but she did not last long in the industry, making her a mere shell of her former self. It maybe that she was living “her idol hood“ through Mima to the point that already having the delusion of she is Mima herself and setting up a blogsite that details Mima’s activities each day. When Mima shift to acting, she acts as if it will tarnish her Mima persona’s idolhood asking for a fan to “help” Mima. This is where Me-Mania steps in, influenced by the false Mima’s blogsite, he goes on a killing spree, murdering all those he deemed to be the cause of “ruining” Mima’s idol career. Me-Mania is constantly manipulated and deluded into this savior complex by a delusional Rumi Hidaka who believes herself to be a Mima who is forever young and graceful. In simple explanation, Rumi’s delusion of being a forever young idol is transmitted to the stalker Me-Mania, giving him the delusion of being a savior to Mima. That’s Folie à deux for you.

Persona 4: Of high schoolers and psychology

Perfect Blue is not the only pop culture medium to exhibit this psychological concept. There’s also a game that exhibits a degree of Folie à deux namely Persona 4. The concept of the shared psychosis revolves around Tohru Adachi and Taro Namatame. It is important to know that in Persona 4, Adachi denotes “Despair” while Namatame denotes “Emptiness”. Adachi’s “despair” morphs him into a sociopath who is disgusted with life and how people have treated him, rationalizing his action of murdering of two women and manipulating people so that his so-called “game” will not end. Talk about a dude with serious issues. Namatame’s has lost everything, his job, his marriage (that was already strained), and the woman he loved and thus his “emptiness”. Here’s the shared psychosis: Namatame knew that he has the “ability” to help the next would be victim but knows that he can’t do it alone and thus calls the police and by chance Adachi, who was the real suspect behind the two murders answers him and subtly manipulates Namatame into “rescuing” people by pushing them into the TV, knowing full well that people who go inside the TV never come back alive. This gives Namatame an escape from his “emptiness”, a sense of mission that morphs into a manic messiah complex. In simple words, Adachi’s “despair” which caused him to have a twisted view of the world indirectly manipulated Namatame and his “emptiness”, giving the latter a false sense of mission, warped into a messiah complex.

The only difference between the two is that in Perfect Blue, the influence was direct while in Persona 4, the influence was indirect. The one thing constant is that the one influenced with psychosis is being manipulated, directly or indirectly.

I must say as a fan of pop culture, I’ve observed that complex manipulation is now becoming a trend TV shows, movies and anime nowadays and it is becoming quite a hit. Maybe TV show and movie creators and writers can benefit from reading a little psychology, eh?

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