Special offer for our client! Click to order with 5% discount: Click to order with 5% discount: FIRST5

Published: 03-10-2019

121 writers online

Important: This essay is not a finished work, it is only an outline that needs refinement and formatting.
If you want to pay for essay for unique writing How Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Is Depicted In Martin Scorsese's Film The Aviator, just click Order button. We will write a custom essay on How Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Is Depicted In Martin Scorsese's Film The Aviator specifically for you!

How Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Is Depicted In Martin Scorsese's Film The Aviator

Even though mental illness has a higher prevalence rate, the prevalence price of obsessive-compulsive and associated disorders is comparatively low. Due to the fact media, such as films and television shows, is the greatest informer of the public nowadays, characterizations of the mentally ill, such as those suffering from obsessive-compulsive or a related disorder, can create or negate stigma and stereotypes. In an try to lessen stigma around mental issues and encourage the mentally ill to seek aid, visual media’s portrayals of the mentally ill must be evaluated for accurate depictions. The Aviator is 1 such film that characterizes a mental illness, obsessive-compulsive disorder in distinct. The principal character, Howard Hughes, is analyzed to establish if he meets the criteria for obsessive-compulsive disorder and if his portrayal de-stigmatizes or additional stigmatizes mental illness.

Though the lifetime prevalence of any mental disorder is 50%, and the one particular-year prevalence is 25%, the prevalence of various mental illness varies within these statistics (Sue, Sue, Sue, Sue, 2013). For example, Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD), which is characterized by anxiety-creating obsessions and anxiety-decreasing compulsions, has a one-year prevalence of 1% in American adults, an estimated number of 2.two million people (“Facts & statistics”). About 50.six% of these cases are labeled as serious, with the average age of symptom onset getting 19 years (“Obsessive compulsive disorder among adults”). According to the Anxiousness and Depression Association of America, the classification of problems to which Obsessive-compulsive disorder belongs, anxiety issues, is the most typical mental disorder in America. Those who have an anxiousness disorder are 6 times much more likely to be hospitalized for a psychiatric illness as effectively. Anxiety issues can be comorbid with bipolar disorder, eating disorders, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep problems, substance abuse, adult attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, chronic discomfort, and fibromyalgia (“Facts & statistics”). Although Obsessive-compulsive disorder has a low prevalence price, the term “OCD” can be heard in typical conversation. Nevertheless, the increasing recognition of this mental illness may not completely be due to the large number of individuals impacted by this disorder, but rather by way of its introduction by different media types. Even though mental disorders as a entire have a higher prevalence rate, OCD’s comparatively low prevalence price (1.6% lifetime prevalence) implies that many men and women receive information from media, particularly films and tv shows. Nonetheless, digital media consumers not only obtain whatever information about mental issues is presented, but the stigma and positive or damaging associations connected to the disorder as nicely. Due to the fact a community’s perceptions of a mental disorder can influence an affected individual’s pursuit of remedy, in order to lessen stigma of a variety of mental issues, the accuracy in depicting a mental disorder in media portrayals of persons with mental illnesses need to be evaluated in in order to correctly inform public perception of mental illness in a de-stigmatizing manner.

Film Introduction


An example of media portrayal of mental illnesses is the depiction of obsessive-compulsive disorder in The Aviator. This film was directed by Martin Scorsese and was released in the United States on December 24, 2004. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Howard Hughes, Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn, John C. Reilly as Noah Dietrich, and Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner (“The Aviator (2004)”).

This film is a biographical film of the life of director and aviator Howard Hughes from the late 1920’s to mid-1940’s. The Aviator relates Howard Hughes’s fantastic achievements, such as the production of the movie, Hell’s Angels, breaking aviation records, flying about the world in record time, the flight of Hercules, and the creation Trans World Airlines, amidst his rising anxiety, fears, and compulsions. The movie depicts both Hughes’s public life, such as public perception of him, and his private life, containing his relationships with Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner. The film had an estimated $110,000,000 price range, but only produced $858,021 in the United States in the course of its opening weekend. Nevertheless, The Aviator has won five Oscar awards, three Golden Globes, 4 BAFTA awards, 1 Screen Actors Guild Award, and 1 Film of the Year AFI award (“The Aviator (2004)”).

Influence on Critics and Audiences and Public Reception

The Aviator at present has 7.five out of 10 stars on the Web Movie Database and four out of five stars on Amazon. Despite the fact that critiques on the Internet Movie Database praised the cinematic artistry of the film and the actors’ performance, a frequent criticism of the film is summarized in a assessment titled “Falling Quick of Greatness…Again,” which was published close to the movie’s 2004 release date. According to this reviewer, whose evaluation is ranked as the most helpful, The Aviator does not completely satisfy the audience since the film appears to have no unifying theme. The author emphasizes the absence of a accurate emotional journey. The only reference to obsessive-compulsive disorder is Hughes’ indulgence of “personal obsessions” (“The Aviator (2004)”). Similarly, Amazon evaluations pointedly praise the art direction and acting, marveling over the depiction of Howard Hughes himself, rather than obsessive-compulsive disorder. The a single clear evaluation that addresses the portrayal of a mental illness was a 2-star Amazon review entitled “A wonderful life – a mediocre movie.” This particular assessment described Howard Hughes as a Jekyll and Hyde character, “paralyzed by madness a single moment…and in another moment fighting for his organization.” This review highlighted some of the discrepancies in the portrayal of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the film and referred to as for explanations for Hughes’ paranoia about disease. Nonetheless, the overview nevertheless states the movie is worth watching despite his or her 2-star rating (Ujnat).

Manohla Dargis’s article in The New York Instances describes The Aviator as a “disappointingly hollow account of Hughes’s early life,” (Dargis). Though the evaluation does not mention the depiction of obsessive-compulsive disorder, it praises the film’s use of camera movements and scene cuts to portray characters’ thoughts. Roger Ebert’s review, which gave the film four out of 5 stars, also has no mention of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but commends the use of special effects and cinematography.

Because The Aviator is a biographical film whose director is identified for the superb use of editing, art direction, and narration, the testimonials largely focused on the historical accuracy and cinematography, rather than the portrayal of obsessive-compulsive disorder, in the film.

Film Evaluation


Just as the majority of reviews praise Martin Scorsese’s cinematography, any individual, with or with out a fundamental knowledge of filming, can appreciate the crafting of The Aviator. Despite the fact that there is a general consensus on the cinematographic success of the film, the main concern is the depiction of obsessive-compulsive disorder: how the editing attempts to clarify the causes and effects of the disorder in a real and de-stigmatizing manner, devoid of stereotypes. In that respect, reviewers, such as Carlo Cavagna, state that Scorsese “has as soon as once more created a film about man versus himself,” implying that the film successfully captured the internal struggle associated to mental issues (Cavagna).

All through the film, cause-effect editing is distinctly utilized in an try to illustrate achievable explanations for Howard Hughes’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. The opening scene of the film attempts to present an etiological view of the disorder by illustrating social, psychological, and biological variables that might have contributed to Hughes’ expression of OCD symptoms. The film starts with Howard Hughes’ mother bathing him as a young boy, with the initial image becoming her use of soap, a typical and extensively recognized association with OCD (1:50). She demonstrates elements of social and psychological factors, such as cognitive distortions, controlling parenting, and modeling, which impact the improvement of obsessive-compulsive disorder. For example, Hughes’ mother verbalizes her worry of diseases, such as cholera and typhus. She instills worry by asking questions, such as, “Do you know what they can do to you?” and stating, “You’re not protected,” (2:10). She models coping with these obsessive thoughts by bathing, washing, and spelling words, such as “quarantine.” The effects of these early experiences are displayed later in the film, by way of parallel shots that demonstrate the increasing severity of Howard Hughes’ hand washing and spelling of words such as “quarantine” and verbal repetition of phrases. The audience is capable to gain a cursory etiological view of obsessive-compulsive disorder by visualizing the pairing among early teachings and later obsessive-compulsive responses to stress, hopefully decreasing the stereotype that a mental illness is controlled option of an individual.

The shot reverse shot editing sequence is utilized later in the film to contrast the interactions of Howard Hughes and his competitor, Juan Trippe. A door separates the two men in every single shot to demonstrate how Howard has isolated himself from the globe due to his growing distress (135:05). This editing sequence illustrates how impactful Hughes’ symptoms have turn into on his life. The contrast between Trippe and Hughes also serves in providing a sense of the degree to which Hughes’ life has changed: in the prime of his life, Hughes was Tripp, effectively dressed, confident, and a significant competitor. His mental disorder has contributed to his isolation and impairment in the social and company elements of his life. These scenes support illustrate how pervasive a mental disorder can be. Audiences know that they would not pick to live the life style Hughes does, unclothed, urinating in bottles, and unclean. This combats the stereotype of mental illness as a “choice.” Despite the fact that this depiction of obsessive-compulsive disorder combats stereotypes, it could not completely de-stigmatize this distinct mental illness simply because of the viewers’ inability to relate to the main character, Howard Hughes.

Art Direction

Two elements of art path, light and sound, have been utilized in the chronicling of Howard Hughes’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. During the opening of the film, when Howard Hughes’s mother is modeling obsessive-compulsive behaviors, the light is soft, low, and an amber color. This could represent Hughes’ immersive beginnings in obsessive-compulsive behaviors. The soft, warm light reflects the motherly comfort and anxiety-relief connected in performing compulsions. All through the film, light intensity and color will symbolize the pervasiveness of Howard’s OCD symptoms. For the duration of this initial scene, the obsessions and compulsions do not influence Howard to the extent that they influence his mother. The obsessions and compulsions are external at this point.

All through the middle of the film, during Hughes’s achievement as a director, the light becomes hard, glaring, and vibrant white. When walking the red carpet after his release of Hell’s Angels, the vibrant, white light bulb flashes of cameras and reporters represent Hughes’ distress (23:00). Hughes’ escalating discomfort on the red carpet is paralleled all through the film to highlight the progression of his obsessive-compulsive disorder (54:22). During these scenes, Howard Hughes’s inappropriate responses in conversations and hand washing rituals are magnified. The harsh, white light is not only paired with red carpet scenes, nonetheless when prompted to make choices regarding airplane designs, Hughes should retreat to his vehicle exactly where he repeated spells the word “quarantine,” (one hundred:37). A searing, white light, indicating the intensity of his disorder, illuminates his face.

Towards the finish of the film, as soon as Hughes has isolated himself, his obsessive-compulsive disorder is represented by a red light that is not very soft, but almost. This light represents how encompassing Hughes’ mental illness has turn into. Rather of flashes of light, each and every scene is lit with red. His obsessive-compulsive disorder affects each and every aspect of his life, just as the brown light represented the impact of OCD on his mother. The red color represents his feeling the need to have to perform his compulsions and the disorder’s comprehensive hold on his life.

As a result, The Aviator makes use of light to record Howard Hughes’ struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Soft, brown light accompanies maladaptive learning in childhood. Harsh, white light in an growing frequency documents his struggle with OCD symptoms, whilst remaining largely functional. The continuous, red light depicts Hughes’ full capitulation to obsessive-compulsive disorder, to the point exactly where he is unable to function in all regions of his life.


The Aviator has several perspectives, a single for each character and how she or he views and is impacted by Hughes’ mental illness. Although these points of view inform the viewers’ own take on mental illness, an intriguing kind of narration employed by the film are the voice-overs of newscasters. The voice of a newscaster overlies scenes and offers public perception of Howard. Audiences will have a tendency to adopt the very same point of view of the newscaster despite the fact that the newscaster does not comment on Hughes’ expression of obsessive-compulsive behaviors, the public and audience’s feelings towards Hughes could generalize to their feelings toward the disorder he represents. When the media is against him continuing to spend cash on his film after the stock market crash and the death of three pilots, the audience is against him as effectively (22:00). Nevertheless, when the media supports his release of Hell’s Angels, saying, “It expense four million dollars and has 4 million thrills,” the audience is somewhat swayed towards his character (26:20). Nevertheless, the most impactful point of view is that of Hughes’ two lovers, Kate Hepburn and Ava Gardner. Kate Hepburn’s initial help and upkeep of a partnership with Hughes, illustrated by her reassurance that she will “take the wheel,” contends with the stereotype that the mentally ill can not have healthy, working relationships (51:18). However, this stereotype is later reinforced when both Hepburn and Gardner leave Hughes, and Gardner’s statement of, “You’re as well crazy for me,” (141:30). The points of view in The Aviator encompass and portray many elements of mental illness even so, the film attempts to use various point of view to combat stereotypes and stigma of mental illness and is effective in some instances, while failing in others.

Analysis of DSM-5 Criteria

DSM-five Criteria

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition) categorizes obsessive-compulsive and connected issues closely to anxiety disorders. Disorders related to obsessive-compulsive disorder include physique dysmorphic disorder, hoarding disorder, trichotillomania (also recognized as hair-pulling disorder), excoriation (skin-selecting) disorder, substance or medication induced obsessive-compulsive and connected disorders, and other specified and unspecified obsessive-compulsive and related disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, 235).

The diagnostic criteria for obsessive-compulsive Disorder consist of the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are thoughts that take place repeatedly and continually which the individual views as undesired and disruptive and are combatted via other thoughts and actions that lead to anxiousness and distress. Compulsions are the repeated actions or mental steps the person feels compelled to execute in response to obsessions. Repeated behaviors consist of washing of the hands, checking, and ordering, or mental acts, such as praying, counting, repeating words silently. Compulsions are intended to combat anxiousness and distress, though they are not realistically related to the obsessions. Even though obsessions and compulsions differ amongst individuals, the most typical symptoms include cleaning (obsession with contamination and compulsions of cleaning), symmetry (obsession with symmetry ad compulsively repeating, ordering, and counting), banned or socially undesirable thoughts (obsessions with aggression, sexual actions, or religion and complimentary compulsions), and harm (obsessions with fears of harming oneself or other folks and linked checking compulsions) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, 235-236).

The next criterion for obsessive-compulsive disorder is for the obsessions and/or compulsions to be time-consuming (taking an hour or a lot more of each and every day) or causing distress or dysfunction in social, occupational, or other regions of function. The symptoms cannot be the physiological effect of a substance or some other medical situation. Ultimately, the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder can't be greater explained by some other disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, 237).

Analysis of Fulfillment of DSM-five Criteria

The first criterion of an obsessive-compulsive disorder is the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions. Though repeated, distressing thoughts can be tough to convey in visual media, The Aviator is productive in communicating Hughes’s stressful thoughts to the audience. These obsessions are relayed by Hughes’s mother’s verbalization of her worry of cholera and typhus and her refusal to go to certain places due to the fact of the prospective of contracting a illness (four:ten), Leonardo DiCaprio’s furrowed brow and stressed facial reactions all through the film (31:00), Hughes’ statements about cleanliness, such as the statement “She’s got to be clean,” when regarding his planes (30:40), his explanation of avoiding the “crap on people’s hands” for the cellophane on the steering wheel (37:50), his expression that he perceives factors that may not be there and he fears he is losing his mind (51:18), his indication of his inability to pass a towel in the bathroom (56:00), and his declarations of paranoia (89:35, 98:07, 114:20). The presence of Howard Hughes’ repetitive and distressing thoughts enable him to meet the 1st criterion of obsessive-compulsive disorder, the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions.

However, Hughes also demonstrates compulsions, repetitive physical actions and mental processes, in response to his obsessions. His compulsions include his rigid separation of peas and meat on his plate and his refusal to eat when his meals is disturbed (35:42), his repeated tracing of plane rivets (42:15), his rigorous hand washing, to the point which his hand cuts and bleeds (56:00, 87:00), his burning of clothes (79:21), his repetition of phrases, such as “Show me all the blueprints,” (99:41) and “I want to sleep,” (124:50), his spelling of the words “quarantine” and “llama” (119:40, 130:50), his distress at investigators touching his issues (117:07) and a fingerprint on his glass, (120:35), his dictation of his actions (125:30), his counting on his fingers (130:20), and his germ-cost-free zone and use of tissues to open doorknobs (138:15, 139:09). These repeated behaviors in response to anxiety also fulfill the very first criteria of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The second criteria for obsessive-compulsive disorder is for the obsessions and/or compulsions to be time-consuming, at least 1 hour of each day, or result in substantial impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of life. Howard Hughes fulfills this criterion as properly. His compulsions are so time consuming that his media comments on the quantity of time required to finish Hell’s Angels, his inability to create planes on time, and the quantity of screen time dedicated to the manifestation of his obsessions and compulsions. All through the film, and particularly towards the end, Hughes is unable to function socially, occupationally, and in a lot of other elements of his life. His relationships are disrupted by his obsessive-compulsive disorder, he clasps his hand over his mouth repeatedly to quit his repetition of phrases, and the culmination of life impairment is when he isolates himself in his room, not even leaving to relieve himself in a bathroom.

The analysis of Howard Hughes’s character leads to the conclusion that he can be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder simply because he fulfills all the criteria for the disorder, such as the presence of obsessions and compulsions, their time-consuming nature, and their impairment in all areas of his life, and his symptoms do not seem to be a physiological effect of a substance or some other healthcare condition.


Despite the fact that The Aviator’s Howard Hughes clearly meets the criteria of the DSM-5’s classification of obsessive-compulsive disorder, there were still aspects of his personality and his behavior that can not be explained by his diagnosis. One may well conclude that he has a social anxiousness disorder or is agoraphobic by his awkward responses in conversations and his discomfort on the red carpet (23:45, 34:45, 58:40, 122:20). He could possibly have Asperger’s because of his fixation on his interests, such as aviation, and his distress at deviance from norms, such as when the investigators are going through his issues (61:01, 62:20). There are also unexplained character traits, such his obsession with milk, which does not appear to be a compulsion in response to an obsessive believed (38:53), and his worry of uncommon meat (60:30). Due to the fact obsessive-compulsive disorder can be comorbid with other mental illnesses, Howard Hughes’s character could not solely depict obsessive-compulsive disorder. The audience may not know about comorbid illnesses and may possibly attribute all symptoms to obsessive-compulsive disorder, the mental illness listed in the summary. Despite the fact that characters ought to not be defined only by their mental problems, the inclusion of symptoms of other issues can lead to confusion and misperception in the public if no clear explanation of indication of a character’s mental well being is offered.

The Aviator includes both stigmatizing and de-stigmatizing portrayal of mental illness. A couple of stereotypes were reinforced. For instance, the stereotype of a mentally ill person’s inability to have healthier relationships was reinforced by means of Hughes’s failed relationships with Ava and Kate, even though he maintains his relationship with Kate for a significant quantity of time. The stereotype that a particular person with a mental disorder chooses to be mentally ill was reinforced by Hughes’ purposeful drinking from the very same bottle as Kate (40:ten) and his success at his trial, even right after showing severe impairment (155:). Nevertheless, the film also had a de-stigmatizing impact as nicely. A extremely influential example was Hughes’ inability to pass a towel to a man on crutches in the bathroom (56:00). Although this scene can be observed as either stigmatizing, wherein the man on crutches as a “real” illness that prevents him from reaching the towels, this scene can also be viewed as mental illness and physical illness on the identical playing field. Both illnesses equally prevented every single man from reaching the towel for that reason, every single illness is valid. In addition, though Hughes does have a mental illness, he is still very profitable in aviation, breaking records and producing airlines. This shows that a person can be productive in spite of a mental disorder. For that reason, this film contains each stigmatizing and de-stigmatizing characterizations of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder was depicted in a somewhat frightening manner. Though this could be due the director’s try to adhere to Howard Hughes’s true life, audiences each at the time of the movie’s release and now were somewhat disappointment by the lack of a cohesive storyline. This portrayal of mental illness might have been an advancement in 2004, but enhanced access to details on mental illness and obsessive-compulsive disorder would necessitate a much more de-stigmatizing and optimistic characterization right now.
Calculate your price

What are you waiting for?

No matter what type of essay you need, we’ll get it written, so let’s get started.


This material is not unique

Our experts help you to write plagiarism-free paper

Get plagiarism-free paper

Get plagiarism-free paper

Would you like to get an example of this paper?

Please write down your email to receive it right away

Receive paper

Thanks for subscribing!