Blame for Mental Illness Exploitation: Where Do We Draw the Line?
Last Saturday, London’s Soho Theatre wrapped up another running of Kim Noble’s “Kim Noble Will Die” (the first of which aired back in April 2009, to my understanding) and the show seems to have gotten as many glowing reviews as scathing criticism.
Kim Noble has manic depression, and if you’re wondering why the reactions to his show are so extreme (and, unless you’re British or keep up with the various comedians around the world, it’s likely you are), it seems to be because “Kim Noble Will Die” is a piece of performance art that – whether intentionally or unintentionally – includes something for everyone in the “This Is Gonna Infuriate, Disgust, or Otherwise Offend You” category.
Back in April, Times writer Dominic Maxwell, who overall seemed to enjoy the performance or at least Noble’s creativity and talent, called it a “multimedia suicide note” and claimed that “even for a show about going too far, [Noble] goes too far,” and really, it’s not hard to imagine that the show that includes masturbation, vials of semen for the female viewers, questionable acts with feminine hygiene products, footage from Noble’s own arrest for stalking, and has even been reported to the police may very well go too far for most folks.
Yet, as interesting as all of that is, the real reason I’m writing about it is because, in a way, it relates to yesterday’s post about Dr. Drew and whether doctors should discourage their patients from such public displays of mental health problems. In his article “Has Comedian Kim Noble Exploited His Mental Illness to Create One of the Most Shocking Stand-Up Shows Ever?”, Independent writer Brian Logan quotes Noble as saying – nay, bragging (he was thrilled he “got away with it”) – that one of the many complaints received about the show was from a psychiatrist who claimed the Soho Theatre was “irresponsible” for allowing Noble to do the show.
So, here, instead of pointing a finger at the doctor as McDonough did regarding Dr. Drew and his maybe/maybe not exploitation of patients for “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew”, we have a situation in which the doctor is pointing a finger at the venue making the exploitation possible. If, indeed, it’s an exploitation.
I’m on the fence with Dr. Drew – he is a doctor, but, like I said yesterday, I don’t know that we really know what goes on behind the scenes before the celebrities are allowed to be on the show. It might not really be a case of the celebrities not being healthy enough to avoid exploiting themselves. For some, that very well could be the case; for others, it might not be.
But in this situation…I’m not so sure. Can we really blame the venue? Is that really fair? Because the psychiatrist felt Soho Theatre was being irresponsible for allowing Noble to do the show, it’s probably safe to assume he believes Noble wasn’t in a healthy enough state of mind to really grasp what he was doing and that what he was doing was indeed exploitation and that Soho Theatre was right there along for the ride rather than “protecting” him, or others (on some level).
However, Noble doesn’t seem to regret the show. In Logan’s article, he’s quoted as saying he’s more comfortable doing the show when he’s depressed than when he’s not – that when he’s not depressed, the show feels like a “lie” – but also that by exposing himself something “might ring true for other people.”
What do you think? Is it fair to expect a venue (or television station or film production company or what have you) to assume the responsibility of preventing what may or may not be exploitation of mental illness? If your answer is “No,” would you change your mind if Noble actually did express regrets for creating the show?
Sparks, A. (2010). Blame for Mental Illness Exploitation: Where Do We Draw the Line?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 14, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/celebrity/2010/01/blame-for-mental-illness-exploitation-where-do-we-draw-the-line/