Emma Stone Portrayal of Borderline Personality Disorder in Netflix Original Series

Authentic or a Misrepresentation? Emma Stone as BPD Sufferer on Netflix

Emma Stone’s portrayal as someone with Borderline Personality Disorder in the new Netflix Original series 'Maniac' is praised by sufferers - but it is not the first time the disorder has been featured on the silver screen, joining a host of Borderline perceptions in the media.

‘Maniac’s Surreal alternate reality world setting and sci fi themes aside, the character driven drama puts a lot on the table as all leading characters have some form of psychological disorder.

Emma Stone plays the character of ‘Annie’, who displays abandonment issues, obsessional, drug addiction and self loathing qualities, but is nonetheless a likeable character and very three dimensional. We get a glimpse into her past trauma which explains why she feels and behaves this way.

It’s left quite ambiguous as to what her disorder is until she takes a futuristic machine diagnosis and the printer spits out a piece of paper diagnostic stating she has borderline personality disorder.

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality Disorder is characterized by the following symptoms
  • Having an unstable or dysfunctional self-image or a distorted sense of self (how one feels about one’s self)
  • Feelings of isolation, boredom and emptiness
  • Difficulty feeling empathy for others
  • A history of unstable relationships that can change drastically from intense love and idealization to intense hate
  • A persistent fear of abandonment and rejection, including extreme emotional reactions to real and even perceived abandonment
  • Intense, highly changeable moods that can last for several days or for just a few hours
  • Strong feelings of anxiety, worry and depression
  • Impulsive, risky, self-destructive and dangerous behaviors, including reckless driving, drug or alcohol abuse and having unsafe sex
  • Hostility
  • Unstable career plans, goals and aspiration

A History of Violent Depictions

This is not the first time BPD has been portrayed in big screen dramas, for example take Fatal Attraction, featuring the infamous ‘Bunny Boiler’ scene. A irrational and obsessive lady stalks a man she slept with threats and crimes of increasing magnitude accumulating in the death of a rabbit.

Many critics say that this particular film worked towards sensationalising BPD or related illnesses, when in reality Borderlines are more likely to cause damage to themselves with self-destructive behaviours

Time for Change

Several people have said that Emma Stone’s representation of BPD is the first somewhat positive representation of BPD that there has been put out by a big-time media distributor. Those in the know of the symptoms would know that Stone’s character displays these symptoms purposefully. It’s likely that Stone would know the way in which you would display traits such as these as she herself has been treated for anxiety and panic attacks.

Her performance has been reviewed by sufferers posting on the site Reddit.

‘The realest and most hopeful portrayal of BPD I’ve ever seen’

‘I’m diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and I hope Emma Stone gets some awards for this series. Her portrayal is painfully accurate and actually excellent representation of the disorder.’

It’s praised for presenting a BPD sufferer as a human being, albeit a flawed individual but not so dislikeable and unrelatable - a 3 Dimensional character that one could even have empathy, and one with a fully fledged character arc.

On the other hand, some other Redditors had a different opinion on her portrayal.

“How is her character borderline? I don't get it and honestly don't see the resemblance. She seems very normal to me. She doesn't have black and white thinking. She doesn't have extreme abandonment issues.”

It’s important to note that people display borderline personality disorder in a myriad of ways, displaying a selection or all of the symptoms stated.

Regardless of the authenticity of Annie’s portrayal. It’s good to see the variation of characters, remembering that people with mental health conditions are people existing in an infinitely wide variety.

A better and more nuanced portrayal of this and other conditions in the media would lead to less of a stigma for mental illnesses in day-to-day life.

In real life, where we don't have the super advanced pill to cure mental illness like they do in the series, the best treatment for BPD is DBT - Dialectic Behavioural Therapy.