“The Tick”: An Unexpected Triumph In Schizophrenia Advocacy

A review of how the goofy superhero show takes on psychosis in its 2017 reboot

Photo credit: David Giesbrecht/Amazon Prime Video/PILOT EPISODE

Growing up, my absolute favorite cartoon was The Tick: The zany adventures of The Tick, a huge blue superhero with a heart of gold, a seriously low IQ, no origin story whatsoever, and a penchant for disastrously mixed metaphors. By accident he encounters a mild mannered and nervous accountant named Arthur, and Arthur reluctantly becomes his sidekick at The Tick’s insistence that Sweet Lady Destiny wills it. Arthur dons a moth suit which is so goofy looking most people assume it’s a bunny costume. Arthur has no skills but accounting and no desire to fight crime, but Tick has enough enthusiasm for the both of them, and soon they become a wonderful team and fight zany, outrageous super-villains with names worthy of the most groan-inducing punster.

I know it might just sound silly, but this show was super important to me. It was light hearted and sweet and witty and hilarious, and – the best part – it made my dad laugh more than I ever heard no matter what was going on in life.

Safe to say, I didn’t have the easiest childhood. Yes, I was cared for and educated and loved, and that is incredible. But my development of schizoaffective disorder (a sort of combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) at the age of seven, and my subsequent development of severe depression, constant nightmares, and near-crippling insomnia didn’t make anything easy. My brain, shocked at such an amount of trauma during its development, began to dissociate. Anything too disturbing my brain would black out of my memory and forget. And since schizophrenia is chronic, constant, and degenerative, I can remember barely any of my childhood. And maybe that is for the best. But the happy memories – most of those remain. There are barely any left untainted by disease and terror, but there are some. Enough.

Watching The Tick with my dad is one of those memories. I remember every episode, and I remember the ability I had, even as a child who had not mastered humor, to simply quote the show and send my father into a giggle fit. Since then, there have been remakes, but none of them captured the spirit of the show, and were ultimately disappointing.

The new live action remake of The Tick is released. And it’s absolutely wonderful.

There was no way on this sweet blue-green drunken ballerina hurtle-twirling through space I was not going to watch it and give it a chance. So my dad and I sat down to watch it, and, I have to admit, I felt genuinely nervous they were going to screw with my childhood again. But soon, my dad was guffawing and giggling just like I remember, and as the mixed metaphors and awkward amiability came pouring readily from our big blue friend, I felt that I finally had the show I’ve always wanted. And then, halfway through the first episode, the weirdest thing happened.

Arthur, our accountant/conspiracy-nut protagonist, has been on the trail of The Terror (“AAAUUUGH!!”), a supervillain mastermind presumed dead for many years. But Arthur, convinced The Terror (“AAAUUUGH!!”) is not only alive but also still running all major crime in the city, is arrested trespassing on private property in an attempt to gather more information. This is distressing not only to him, but also to his sister Dot who repeatedly reminds him to “keep it real.” It is also distressing to the police, with whom he has a “history.” The officer he speaks with begins to consider a 72 hour court-mandated psychiatric hold.

And my ears perk up.

The officer asks him sternly if he is still taking his medication, which Arthur uncomfortably insists he is. The officer lists amisulpride and celecoxib as Arthur nods quickly and sheepishly, and I can barely keep from hyperventilating with excitement.

Schizophrenics may know from the dozens of medication cocktails we must try that amisulpride is an antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia. Pretty much exclusively. Celecoxib, like many meds used to treat psychosis, is not actually an antipsychotic, but what we call a “booster” or an “add-on.” Though it does not technically have antipsychotic properties on its own, it is often paired with an antipsychotic to make it stronger or more stable.

So Arthur has schizophrenia. Or maybe psychosis NOS at least. But the fact remains: we now have the sweet, goofy, disarming psychotic hero of a comedy show we’ve been waiting for.

And the show goes far beyond using his illness as merely a plot point. His illness is just a quality about him, not his defining trait. We also see Arthur deal with the awkward social issues that come with having a severe brain disorder – he goes to a family party and has to endure endless uncomfortable and inappropriate questions about his most recent “relapse,” which he navigates with sheepish and hilarious lack-of-charm. He is even accompanied by the perfect (comedy-wise) companion to a person with schizophrenia – a good-natured, supernatural, nigh-invulnerable hug-machine who naturally speaks in word salad. Nothing is more humanizing to a character or a health-problem than sympathetic comedy, and we have it. We finally have one.

And he’s the hero of the high quality reboot of my favorite show from my childhood.

I don’t know how this came to be, what is going on in the universe, or if Sweet Lady Destiny has anything to do with it, but I am over the Chair-Face-Chippendale-monogrammed moon. I watched all six released episodes in one day and they did not disappoint. The Tick (2017) is charming, goofy, zany, light-hearted, adorable, and completely true to the spirit of the original. I intend to re-watch it many, many times and watch every new episode as soon as it comes out. I don’t know if they’ll continue to get the schizophrenic part of it right and I really hope they do, but honestly, I’m so, so happy with what I have of it. It’s perfect, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This goofy show means so, so much to me and I am ridiculously happy. I would issue a plea to the writers of this beloved show: please do your research. Treat us with respect. Handle this carefully. You are pioneers in this niche of entertainment. Name his disease plainly and do not shy away from it. Give us this wonderful, squeamish little man as the hero we’ve dreamed about.

And to anyone reading this, do yourself a favor and watch this show. You will not regret it.

Emmett Biffle is a Communication Sciences and Disorders major at the University of Houston. In 2016, he published his first sci-fi novel, Reboot, and later he received the Mark Korenek Consumer Quality of Life Award from NAMI Texas for his advocacy on behalf of those with brain disorders. When he isn’t speaking around the country for his advocacy, you can find him playing Dungeons and Dragons and watching movies with his friends. View all posts by admin

Originally published at schizophrentertainer.com

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