Watched by over 45 million Netflix users, Bird Box is well on its way to becoming the best performing film in Netflix history. While the film broke Netflix’s record for most viewers in a single week, the film did receive some backlash for what some are calling a “negative depiction of mental health.”
More recently, people are challenging that concern by asking viewers to take a second look at the underlying message of the film and the stigma surrounding mental health.
Bird Box takes place in a post-apocalyptic environment, with the synopsis reading:
“When a mysterious force decimates the world’s population, only one thing is certain: if you see it, you take your life. Facing the unknown, Malorie finds love, hope and a new beginning only for it to unravel. Now she must flee with her two children down a treacherous river to the one place left that may offer sanctuary. But to survive, they’ll have to undertake the perilous two-day journey blindfolded. Academy Award® winner Sandra Bullock leads an all-star cast that includes Trevante Rhodes, with Sarah Paulson, and John Malkovich in BIRD BOX, a compelling new thriller from Academy Award® winner Susanne Bier.”
The film has received a mixture of reactions with some praising the film while others were left wondering what the hype was all about
***WARNING: BIRD BOX SPOILERS BELOW!***
It didn’t take long for the film to fall under scrutiny, with publications such as Mashable stating, “Bird Box is evidently trying to say something about mental illness through its ill-defined monsters, brought forth as biblical judges for our moral punishment. Exactly what they mean as a metaphor, however, remains frustratingly unclear.”
Some Twitter users believe the film needed a trigger warning due to the way it “demonizes” people with mental illnesses.
More recently, some viewers of the Netflix movie are asking people to take a second look at the film and watch it from a different perspective.
“The monster makes you commit suicide and hear voices,” explains Twitter user Benny James. “Notice that people labeled as ‘mentally ill’ are immune to the monster and they want everyone else to see it. They want everyone else to see what it’s like to want to take your own life and hear voices in your head.
The monster is suicide and mental illness personified. Throughout the film you slowly watch people unravel and fall victim to their own fear, paranoia and violent behavior, all symptoms of mental illness. This forces the audience to ask ‘Now who’s crazy?’.
Without any in depth information about the “monster”, all the characters are figuratively and literally left blind.
Why can no one see the “monster”? Because suicide and mental illness don’t have a face. It can affect anybody. In the scene in the kitchen with Sandra Bullock (Malorie), and Trevante Rhodes (Tom), Malorie says something to the effect of ‘My sister would have never killed herself. She wasn’t like that.’
Today we have those instances of people who were clearly exemplifying suicidal tendencies before they took their own lives, but the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness often causes people to hide those feelings rather [than] talk about them; we’ve all seen those new[s] stories and interviews [where] people who were close to a suicide victim say things like ‘She never seemed like she’d do something like that’ or ‘everything seemed fine’.”
James goes on to point out that almost all of the characters have their own demons they’re dealing with throughout the film.
“Almost all of the characters are dealing with grief to some degree, especially Malorie and John Malcovich’s character (Douglas). They both watch their loved ones commit suicide. This shows that suicide doesn’t just affect the victim, but also the people around them.
In the end we see that the only way for Malorie and her kids to survive is by using their voices.
Now go rewatch the movie and stop looking at things at face value. That kind of observation is what the film is trying to get you to stop doing. It’s much deeper than that.”
🚨 WARNING (Bird Box Spoiler) 🚨 pic.twitter.com/2f4TdnDSkh
— Benny James (@Beno_ldn) January 6, 2019
A lot of Twitter users agreed with this interpretation of the film, adding on their own thoughts as to how the movie could be depicted.
What I loved about bird box was that how those who were mentally ill weren’t affected. A telling message that they daily face their worst fears and are able to continue living. This film is interpreted so differently to those who watch it, that’s a powerful message
— Keeley Gaye Monaghan (@KeeleyGaye) January 6, 2019
This is legit how I interpreted it when I watched it for the first time and it took everything out of me not to cry. I catch up on symbolism like that really quick and it gave me a strange feeling of comfort to see it used creatively like that even if not originally planned.
— Amanda (TØP-167+168/SIO-73) (@ImageFighter13) January 6, 2019
Sandra Bullock touched on the subject in an interview with the TODAY show stating, “It’s a metaphor for motherhood, what’s going on socially in the world, and I think we’re kind of getting to that place where we’re not looking at people anymore. We’re all very isolated.”
What did you take away from Netflix’s Bird Box? Would you consider watching it again from this different perspective? Sound off in the comments below!
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, there is help to be found. Please consider these online resources and talk to your regular doctor about your symptoms:
MentalHealth.gov – Get Immediate Help
ImAlive – Online Crisis Network
International Association For Suicide Prevention – Resources
The Anxiety And Depression Association Of America
The National Alliance On Mental Illness
American Psychiatric Association – Finding Help
National Institute Of Mental Health
American Psychological Association – Psychologist locator