Netflix’s release of its highly anticipated horror-thriller Bird Box has broken records. It quickly became the most streamed movie in the first seven days of its release. As to be expected, the internet has exploded into a frenzy of speculations and theories as to the deeper meaning of the film. There are many theories that circulate whether the movie is trying to discuss mental illness and its relationship with society as a whole. Some say that the film villainizes those who struggle with mental illnesses such as other films have like Split. Others have commented that it is raising awareness for the prevalence of mental health in our society and the blindness of most people to it.
**Potential Spoilers of Bird Box**
The crux of the film centers around the immediate presence of demonic-like creatures who, once looked at, cause the person to commit suicide. You are never shown what these creatures are or how exactly they affect those who look at them, but the results are dire. Many of their victims begin to hear voices or see a great fear that drives them to suicide.
Some speculations are that these monsters represent depression, something that is equally as difficult to identify in another person. They could represent the struggles that people around us face and we so often blind ourselves to because we don’t understand.
There is another theory that they represent external fears and dangers that are present when you are raising children. Strong themes of the struggle of motherhood can be felt throughout the entire film, and these monsters could represent the conflict and loneliness of motherhood.
Many theories, including ones that have been corroborated by the director and actors of the film, point to Bird Box depicting the journey of motherhood. Malorie, the main character in the movie, shows that a mother, despite a difficulty connecting with her child, will do anything for her child. Some say that there are ties to antepartum and postpartum depression in the film and how that affects a mother.
Different characters throughout the film are theorized to show different reactions to mental illnesses than others in a commentary of sorts on the society’s handling of mental illnesses. Olympia, for example, talks about how she grew up in a “soft” household and is not as tough a Malorie. Malorie exclaims in the beginning that her sister is not someone who gets sad or would commit suicide. This is a common response to suicide in our society. Even the ambassadors for the creatures could be seen as people who have lived with demons before and can understand it. On the flip side, their treatment of people who previously had mental illnesses could be seen as distasteful and villainizing.
Regardless of the actual commentary that the film is expressing, whether positive or negative, there are some things that we can learn from Bird Box. One of which is the ever-present need for trigger warnings to be displayed on films that depict acts that are unsettling to some. Another would be a call to filmmakers to consider the implications their film will have on its viewers who may be struggling with depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses.
Herrick Lipton is the CEO of New Horizon Counseling Center in New York and is also an advocate for mental health. For more information about Herrick or to get in touch with New Horizon Counseling Center for resources, please visit nhcc.us or call 718-845-2620.