What Ezra Miller’s case says about the problematics of using mental health to frame abuse as “wild behaviour.”
Across the last few weeks, Ezra Miller’s name has been plastered across major journalistic platforms. The last 3 years Miller has accumulated quite a graphic rap sheet of disturbing allegations. In between this period, The Independent wrote a story on how the actor was said to have disappeared, (conveniently timed) just moments after their 2022 grooming allegations came to light. Ezra Miller is a 29-year-old, non-binary actor. Some of their most acclaimed work spreads across their roles in The Flash, Fantastic Beasts and the psychologically daunting 2011 movie, We Need to Talk about Kevin. Across the last 3 years the media has kept a close eye on Miller, documenting each allegation along the way. However, across the last two weeks the narrative has dramatically changed, as Miller recently approached journalists with a response to the accusations. Stating:
“Having recently gone through a time of intense crisis, I now understand that I am suffering complex mental health issues and have begun ongoing treatment. I want to apologise to everyone that I have alarmed and upset with my past behaviour. I am committed to doing the necessary work to get back to a healthy, safe, and productive stage in my life.”
Realistically, it was only a matter of time before Miller addressed their allegations, especially with the amount they have accumulated. But it’s deeply concerning to see “mental health issues” deployed as the sole explanation for their previous actions. Miller emphasises that they’re sorry for their “behaviour”, but their litany of allegations, represents more than just “wild behaviour.”Despite the huge controversies circulating Miller, they were recently prosecuted for their attempted burglary in Vermont. Variety writes: “After collecting statements and looking at surveillance videos, police found probable cause to charge Miller with felony burglary into an unoccupied dwelling.” A slow, but hopefully steady start on investigating Miller’s stream of alleged violent behaviour. If, like me, you’ve been keeping a close eye on their case, and praying for culpability, you will have noticed the recent shift in tone from the media. In recent weeks, headlines have referred to Miller’s action as “wild behaviour.” Box Office uploaded a video just over a minute long, titled: ‘Ezra Miller Breaks Silence for Recent Bad Behaviour.’ The medias downplay of these serious accusations as mere moments of mischief is deeply concerning. Miller has had plenty of time to speak up about their actions, so why now? The majority of Miller’s cases currently stand as allegations, but what’s next? How many allegations will it take for Miller to be prosecuted for their “wild behaviour”? Whilst their alleged victims stand feeling uneasy, hopeless, and not heard, Miller still has a career waiting on the other end of this ‘confusion.’ With their role in The Flash seemingly not affected by these allegations, Miller is now comfortably at a place where the media is at their beck and call to discuss the state of their mental health. We understand that mental health can be a tormenting thing, and can destroy any of us, however, I don’t condone Miller’s use of mental health as a get out opportunity to ignore these allegations.
The entertainment industry and mass media’s role in protecting abusers has been well documented. In the U.K. a prime example of this happening is the Tim Westwood case, whom in April this year faced an upsurgence of multiple sexual assault allegations dating between 1992 – 2017. But why in 2022 are we only now reading about this via huge publications? Seemingly, the media is willing to keep celebs, and those in powerful positions safe until they finally decide they don’t need them for clout anymore. We saw the same ignorance with Savile, and Epstein, and whilst those cases are a lot more intense than Miller’s, the fundamentals still stand. How many more allegations will it take? How much more evidence do you need for these people to actually be held accountable? We mustn’t wait until the entertainment industry has extracted all the profits it can, before holding people accountable for their actions. Miller’s case is frightening and another textbook example of just how little the government and the media care for justice when it comes to domestic and sexual violence. One of the largest concerns surrounding Miller’s case is that it’s suggestive that inflicting mental and physical pain on others around you are just mere side effects to ill managed mental health. It is a disservice to mental illness sufferers that are already stigmatised. Miller continues to pull the wool over the media’s eyes with a convenient cry for help, but in no way accepts the impact their actions have on others. Everyone knows that there is nowhere near enough money or resources available to help thoroughly combat bad mental health, and so for Miller to use their mental health as a redemptive excuse is not only a cheap shot, but incredibly offensive. In May 2022, The National Library of Medicine posted an essay elaborating the connection between psychiatric illness and criminality, stating that:
“The popular belief is that people with mental illness are more prone to commit acts of violence and aggression. The public perception of psychiatric patients as dangerous individuals is often rooted in the portrayal of criminals in the media as "crazy" individuals. A large body of data suggests otherwise. People with mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator.”
“This bias extends all the way to the criminal justice system, where persons with mental illness get treated as criminals, arrested, charged, and jailed for a longer time in jail compared to the general population.”
Miller’s case has become an additional stamp for the history books, where brutal crimes / allegations are conflated with mental instability. Other examples of this can be seen across the Plymouth shooting in August 2021, where 22-year-old Jake Davison went on a shooting purge, killing 5 innocent people and wounding 2. Several media outlets published articles with headlines correlating the shooter to ill mental health including the Independent, Evening Standard and Daily Mail. A BBC headline wrote: “Plymouth shooting: Gunman had mental health support in lockdown.” Shocking? Yes, surprising, no? Time and time again, acts of violence perpetrated by white people are justified by mental health disorders, whilst the wider community of mental illness sufferers bear the consequence through further stigmatisation. Conflating abuse and mental illness has proven to be counterproductive time and time again, right now, more than ever, there is a crucial need to see the government step up. The current support for those with mental health disorders needs to change, we need to see a change in resource and accountability from those in power. We can’t continue to allow privileged people to abuse ill mental health at the expense of a wider community of sufferers. Miller’s case is currently a prime example of why we drastically need to see a change in the handling of domestic and sexually violent allegations. Most crucially; we need visible discourse combatting flawed ideas surrounding mental health and its connection with violence.
Article by Laviea Thomas
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