Rewriting the Soul

One of the things I found most interesting in the discussion of multiples throughout Rewriting the Soul and in lecture was how the disorder in reality is most commonly found in women, whereas in fiction men tend to be the ones who have alternate personalities. The examples mentioned were Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Bruce Banner/The Hulk and Smeagol/Gollum. I found this interesting for (as said in lecture) most of the examples are men and they seldom have more than one alternate personality. I found it interesting that the popular fictitious characters run exactly opposite to the trends in reality, where as I’ve said women tend to be the ones who have multiple personalities and the average number of alters held by them in roughly 16. Perhaps these facts are ignored in fiction because for the public, multiple personality in its reality is too alarming. In the popularized fictional examples, the disorder remains a hindrance to the character’s societal integration but it (in at least the first two cases mentioned above) provides strength that the original host personality lacked. In the original story of Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde was more an evil counterpart then the modern depiction as more Hulk-esque (as seen in Van Helsing). This might go to show that a story depicting the alter as an evil, deformed person without any redeeming or marketable qualities is not as popular as say one that has the potential to become a superhero. Smeagol/Gollum, though physically frail act as a sort of villain, though one acting for his own benefit. He still serves as a sort of antagonist to both Bilbo and Frodo in turn and even then he is more aesthetically monstrous than human (hobbit). The fact that today we tend to make the alters of these characters into monsters rather than people, perhaps serves as a way of integrating it into the public eye while removing the severity of the disorder? Perhaps it is a sign of rejection of those with the disorder? Perhaps it is too upsetting for the public to see a regular person with multiple personalities so we turn them into monstrous superheroes or just plain monsters?  Who knows! Maybe this ties in with the fact that the characters with the disorder are men, for maybe it is more acceptable for men to have a monstrous alter-ego than it is for a woman to have one.

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  1. Really interesting reflections here! I like that you took a question raised in lecture and ran with it. Your last point about how it may be more acceptable for men to have a monstrous alter-ego than women makes sense to me; also, if that alter-ego is a superhero, at least in the past (when Dr. Jekyll and the Hulk were written) it may have just seemed more realistic to have a male superhero. Still, now that I think about it, there have been plenty of monstrous women (even if not superhero women), such as wicked witches, in the past.

    Regardless, I wonder if it has been more common to see fictional representations as just two and one of those being monstrous or a superhero because that makes sense to us–turning such a person into a non-human or a super-human makes more sense, perhaps, than trying to see this as a real thing that happens to real people when it goes so much against many accepted ideas of identity. And, to make a kind of Hacking-esque point, until we got the category of multiple personality being more understood in the medical, scientific and popular world, depictions of people with more than two personalities, and who weren’t somehow beyond human, couldn’t be something we could really understand at all. We wouldn’t have the conceptual categories. So the audience wouldn’t “get it” before we had a clearer sense of the category of MP at all. I’m basically agreeing with you here and maybe carrying the point a bit further!

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