A complaint turned a Halloween event into a controversy; and although the complaint was understandable — the Haunted Asylum presented by this college’s On Stage Drama Club was offensive to the mentally ill — maybe it’s a case of political correctness gone too far.
The word “asylum” is outdated, and the harsh treatment administered to the mentally ill who were locked in those asylums is no more.
This generation of college students is familiar with mental hospitals, not asylums.
In fact, when we hear the word “asylum,” we picture straight jackets, padded rooms and shock treatment. Horror movies come to mind, with psychopaths and killers, not your average mentally disabled individuals.
Pioneering journalist Nellie Bly had herself committed to a turn-of-the-century asylum for 10 days to expose the brutality perpetrated on the mentally ill.
Crude depictions of people and situations are part of the Halloween culture. With all the dead versions of different costumes — soldiers, priests, nurses, etc. — one has to try to be less sensitive to these depictions.
However, the On Stage Drama Club could have, and probably should have, been a little bit more sensitive to the situation. As thespians, their main objective should be to provide accurate and thought-provoking portrayals of the characters and scenes they are depicting.
They should know that mocking people for fun does not necessarily constitute an artistic endeavor.
Had the club president not told members to select specific illnesses to portray, the situation would not seem so disturbing. What specific mental illness is portrayed by eating someone’s intestines?
Perhaps they could have avoided criticism by calling their event the Haunted Asylum for the Criminally Insane, eliminating the vast majority of people suffering from mental illness.
Still, in the Halloween spirit, most people would not find such activity offensive.