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How “Modern Love,” a New Amazon TV Show, Is Normalizing Bipolar Disorder

The third episode of "Modern Love," a New York Times column and now TV show, elucidates the stigma behind bipolar disorder in a fun and emotional retelling.

James Devaney / Getty Images
James Devaney / Getty Images

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Described as a collection of bite-size rom-coms, Amazon Prime’s latest show, “Modern Love,” is touching hearts and touching on important issues of mental health. The show primarily illuminates the “joys and tribulations” of love, but in its raw retellings of personal essays, it also covers big topics such as mental health. The raw portrayal of mental illness has become increasingly popular in television today, revealing that society is finally acknowledging this issue and is ready to publicly vocalize it in all its various forms of media. 

“Modern Love” originated as a weekly New York Times column but has since been adapted as a book, podcast, and television show. The first season, consisting of eight episodes, first aired on online on October 18, 2019 and has already been renewed for Season 2. Each episode contains a unique premise that follows the relationships between lovers, co-workers, a daughter and her father-figure, or a resident and her door-man. The show also features an all-star cast including Tiny Fey, Dev Patel, Ed Sheeran, Andrew Scott, and more. However, it is Anne Hathaway’s ground-breaking portrayal of Terri Cheney, a real-life entertainment lawyer who struggled with bipolar disorder, that makes this show worth watching.

In 2008, Cheney wrote “Take Me as I Am, Whoever I Am,” a funny, sad, and emotional article about her journey in discovering her bipolar disorder. Cheney writes that she first felt the mysterious effects of the disease in high school when she went 21 days without getting out of bed. However, her academic and professional achievements made it impossible for others to detect it, revealing the complexities and difficulties in diagnosing the disorder. At one especially powerful point in her story, she writes, “My body felt as if I had been dipped in slow-drying concrete. It was all I could do to draw a breath in and push it back out, over and over. I would have cried from the sheer monotony of it, but tears were too much effort.” 

Cheney’s story is relatable and inspiring, provoking the creation of a television episode dedicated to her account, just as she wrote it. The screen adaptation starring Hathaway has only shed more light on the common mental illness, and both the actress and John Carney, the episode writer and director, sought to depict it as it truly occurs, and not just the stereotype. In the scene in which the character of Cheney is applying makeup and getting dressed for her second date with Jeff, Hathaway gives a particularly poignant performance of the onset of a depressive episode. Her re-enactment is especially powerful and eye-opening for viewers who have never had any education or exposure to the illness.

“Modern Love” airs at a time of great change in the direction of the film industry, one of honesty and accuracy in portraying mental health. Today, media is an extremely pervasive and impressive force in people’s daily lives, especially that of younger generations’, so television shows that increase awareness of people’s “imperfections” and real struggles is extremely valuable to not only watch but to understand and empathize with. This shift in media culture is creating inclusivity in an area that is widely known as solely glamorous, and the destigmatizing efforts are making movies and TV shows a more inclusive and relatable outlet to enjoy.

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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