‘Smile’ Writer and Director State’s Film’s Interpretation Of Mental Illness Was Intentionally Complicated 

New horror movie ‘Smile’ is becoming a hit at the box office this month. Parker Finn, the film’s writer and director, recently was interviewed by Polygon magazine at Fantastic Fest to discuss how he thinks the movie’s connected to so many audience members due to its representation of anxiety, trauma, and mental illness in general. 

“I think it’s so relatable. Everybody walks around carrying these things inside of themselves that are deeply rooted in them at their core, that are based on their histories and traumas.”

Finn continued to discuss how he wanted to use that feeling that so many can relate to, “and also explore what it might be like to have your mind turning against you. For me, that’s one of my greatest fears.”

Finn suggests that “due to events around the COVID-19 quarantines, feelings of stress and anxiety have become their own parallel epidemic.”

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“I developed and wrote and ended up shooting this movie all during the pandemic, when I think we were all traumatized and feeling a sense of isolation and a fear of transmission. The idea that trauma could beget trauma was really present in my brain, and I think it just crept its way into the script,” he explained. 

Finn also broke down how society has become much more open when it comes to talking about mental health and the many different ways it impacts humanity. 

“I think it’s something that as a society, we’ve all started to confront more. I think it’s in the air. It’s something we’re all aware of: Everybody’s got trauma of some sort in their life, whether it’s great or small, things they carry around with them that they don’t talk about.”

“We all put these masks on to hide our trauma, which was very much a motif in the film, with the smile being a metaphor, a mask,” he says, referring to the common feeling of “hiding behind a smile” that many individuals who suffer from mental pain can relate to. 

The movie itself follows protagonis Rose, played by Sosie Bacon, as she navigates her own deep traumas from her childhood in relation to her mother’s death. Rose herself is a therapist, so while she’s used to helping others navigate their own mental health journeys, she’s not used to feeling her own internal struggle and confrontation with her past. 

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“I wanted to do something that felt like what it would be like to be to experience [a breakdown], to put yourself in someone’s shoes and maybe look at [other people’s experiences and traumas] in a way we haven’t considered before,” Finn says. 

“I think it’s a universal theme for everyone, this idea that we’re all afraid of not being believed, especially by the people closest to us. That’s terrifying.”

Finn explained how he worked with psychologists throughout the production of the film to get the most accurate representation of when others don’t believe someone when they discuss their personal struggles, as well as convey the pain that one feels when they feel like they’re not being heard. 

“I think it’s always a balance, but I wanted to trust the audience and respect their intelligence and their emotions. And I love messy movies. I want people to feel different things. And sometimes you want to provoke them. Sometimes you want them to feel a ton of sympathy or empathy, but you always want to make it complicated for the audience. That’s when a movie is doing its job, right?” he expressed. 

Finn’s hope regarding ‘Smile’ is to “add to the conversation” surrounding mental illness in a horror context so that the movie is not only scary on the surface, but in its deeper meaning as well. 

“I think as a society, we’ve started to speak better about mental health and therapy and trauma, things like that. But we’re still not really there. It’s not something people understand. So I wanted to use this as a parallel and a device to explore something that hopefully would get people to think a little differently about what it might be like to be actually experiencing those sorts of things,” Finn concluded. 

Bob Saget’s Death A Tragic Reminder Of The Importance Of Seeking Medical Attention When It Comes To Head Injury

This past Wednesday Bob Saget’s family released a statement which described how authorities discovered that Saget passed away from head trauma. 

“They have concluded that he accidentally hit the back of his head on something, thought nothing of it, and went to sleep. No drugs or alcohol were involved.” 

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Saget was 65 and had been embarking on his comedy tour at the time of his untimely death. He was found unresponsive in his hotel room in Orlando, Florida after performing. The statement didn’t detail what or how Saget may have hit his head. 

CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta said it sounded like a “possible bleed on top of the brain”which may have resulted in a subdural hematoma.”

“There is a blood collection in this scenario that’s on top of the brain pushing on the brain. The thing about the brain, unlike any other organ in the body, it’s obviously encased in a hard skull so it has nowhere to go if it has this kind of pressure on it.”

If pressure is placed on the brain and brainstem, it can result in a person losing consciousness and their ability to breath on their own. 

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“It may have been a pretty significant blow to the head. Maybe a fall in the bathroom, or on the headboard of your bed, you don’t think anything of it. Small veins can tear as a result of that blow and blood can start to leak,” Gupta explained. 

Saget’s passing reminded many fans of Natasha Richardson, the late actress who passed away after hitting her head during a skiing lesson after initially declining medical treatment after the fall. Mark Shaud, the younger brother of Duchess of Cornwall Camilla also passed away after falling and hitting his head on the sidewalk. 

Gupta explained how subdural hematomas are “far more common than people realize, they can develop over hours, or even weeks.” 

Gupta explained how typically one will experience a headache, slurred speech, confusion, nausea, and vomiting when a subdural hematoma is occurring. It’s vital that the individual seeks medical treatment as quickly as possible when a potential head injury has occured. 

“I don’t want to suggest that everyone who hits their head needs to go get a [computed tomography also known as a CT or CAT)] scan. Most do not need that obviously. But if it’s a significant blow, you’re on blood thinners …and again those symptoms: worsening headaches, confusion, nausea, vomiting, slurring of speech, things like that are unusual. You should definitely go get that checked out,” Gupta said.


How Open Monitoring Meditation Can Help You Recognize Mistakes

Meditation has long been a practice associated not with science, but with spirituality and mysticism. However, the field of psychology has over the past several years taken a closer look at the effects of meditation on the human mind, and scientists’ findings have shown that a regular meditation practice can have positive effects on mental health, even in people who otherwise have no mental health difficulties. Meditation practices need not have a supernatural or spiritual component, as when they are a purely secular exercise they maintain their beneficial effects on mental health and subjective wellbeing. That being said, there are a number of different techniques for meditation, and different practices incur different psychological effects. While the most popular meditative practice is called mindfulness, which has benefits in focus, attention and memory, the lesser-known practice of open monitoring meditation can help train the brain to recognize mistakes, according to a study recently conducted at Michigan State University and published in Brain Sciences.

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According to the study, open monitoring meditation is a practice that consists of focusing attention on feelings, thoughts, and sensations as they arise in the space of one’s awareness. A form of mindfulness, open monitoring meditation differs from other types of meditation by encouraging practitioners to place their focus on whatever phenomena arises in the mind, rather than focusing on a fixed object or sensation such as the breath. As such, open monitoring meditation leads to different neurological activity, as revealed by the research conducted at Michigan State University. According to the researchers, the neurological activity caused by open monitoring meditation involves regions of the brain associated with error detection, suggesting the potential for this practice to improve people’s ability to spot their mistakes. 

One of the benefits of open monitoring meditation is that it can be practiced while doing other things, such as driving, as the practice simply asks you to devote your full attention to whatever is going on at the moment.

The participants in the study were people who were not regular meditators, having little to no experience in the practice, who were asked to participate in a 20-minute guided open monitoring meditation session while their brain activity was monitored via EEG. The study involved 212 participants, and builds on previous research finding a connection between mindfulness and error detection, and aimed to discover the link between these elements. The largest study of its kind as-of-yet, it analyzed activity in different reasons in the brain during meditation and had participants complete a computerized test of distraction. 

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While the researchers did not find that meditating improved participants’ scores in the distraction test, they did find that activity in the brain changed during the test for people who had meditated before taking it compared to people who had not. As EEGs are capable of detecting signals in the brain within milliseconds of their occuring, the researchers were able to detect brain activity in connection with mistakes made during the distraction test. They found that these signals were stronger in people who had meditated, suggesting that the meditation practice had a positive effect on participants’ ability to recognize mistakes. The researchers stress that further research is needed to understand how these neurological effects can manifest in one’s performance in tasks involving focus and decision-making.

One of the benefits of open monitoring meditation is that it can be practiced while doing other things, such as driving, as the practice simply asks you to devote your full attention to whatever is going on at the moment. As such, you don’t need to sit on a cushion or maintain a certain posture for extended periods of time, but instead can easily incorporate open monitoring meditation into your ordinary daily life. If you’re interested in getting involved with open monitoring meditation, which is also thought to incur benefits in creativity and overall subjective sense of wellbeing, a good place to start is by following along with guided meditation exercises on Youtube or elsewhere on the internet, such as in the video linked here.