STIGMABUSTERS ALERT: March 2004
Cracking Up: One of the Worst
On Tuesday, March 9, the FOX TV network premiered a new situation comedy: "Cracking Up," in which a wealthy dysfunctional family invites a psychology graduate student to live in their Beverly Hills mansion to treat their young son as part of his work toward his degree.
What the therapist in training discovers is that the son is fine; it's the rest of the family that gets to him. The mother has bipolar disorder exacerbated by alcoholism. The father is a business executive and latent sociopath. The oldest son exhibits obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Their Latino maid is an offensively stereotyped immigrant who wants to flee the "crazy" household, but can't because the family has hidden her immigration papers. The blonde cheerleader daughter? Well, never mind. You can imagine.
It's a lot like "The Addams Family" or "The Munsters" from the 1960s, except that the stereotypes and butts of jokes involve mental illnesses and substance abuse.
The premiere episode ranks as one of the worst examples of stigma in television history.
The second episode on Wednesday, March 10 was tamer and less directly offensive.
The third episode will air in what will be the show's regular slot on Monday, March 15 at 8:30 PM EST (Check local listings).
Please Take Action at Two Levels
- Contact FOX-TV and the show (below) by phone or regular mail to express outrage over the show's premise and stereotypes. They have ignored the Surgeon General's call on the television industry to help eliminate stigma as part of national efforts to address a public health crisis.
Contact the station managers of your local FOX-TV affiliate by telephone with the same protest. NAMI state organizations or affiliates that have "In Our Own Voice: Living With Mental Illness" programs should formally request an opportunity to make an IOOV presentation at the station for its employees (news and programming) to educate them about the real face of mental illness.
Key Message Points
- The first episode should not be broadcast again or ever syndicated. All future episodes should be cleaned up or dropped.
- The show represents stigma: stereotypes based on ignorance, prejudice and discrimination. Use of terms like "crazies" and "wackos" is offensive and cruel. In the case of the Latino maid, the character represents a racist, ethnic stereotype that is equally offensive.
- The show depicts severe, disabling illnesses as jokes. Would the producers ever do the same for HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes or Parkinson's disease?
- One out of five Americans experiences mental illness. FOX TV and every one of its stations airing the show are ignoring the call of President Bush, the Surgeon General, and federal agencies to stop spreading stigma. It's not just the Super Bowl half time show that has people angry.
- Please show the truth and educate people! Look closely at the work of the President's New Freedom Commission and the federally sponsored Center Against Discrimination & Stigma (ADS Center) and NAMI's Campaign for the Mind of America. The following Web sites are important references: www.mentalhealthcommission.gov, www.adscenter.org and www.nami.org/campaign.
Vice President for Broadcast Standards
FOX Broadcasting Company
10302 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90035
Phone: (310) 369-3445.
FOX Broadcasting Company
10302 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phone: (310) 369-1000
Thank you for your help!
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With more than 220,000 members and 1200 state and local affiliates, NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with severe mental illnesses.
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