By Ashley Huggins
In one of my previous blog posts, I talked about the similarities between the television show Dexter and Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This week, I would like to revisit the idea of a good versus evil split personality in the context of the new TV show (and newly cancelled) Do No Harm. The show centers around neurosurgeon Jason Cole who, at exactly 8:25pm every night, turns into evil personality named Ian Price for twelve hours. Although he had previously been able to suppress his dark side with medication, his body has grown immune to the drug, and Ian returns, angrier than ever.
In contrast to the Jekyll and Hyde comparison in Dexter, Do No Harm is more of a direct adaptation of the story, but more modern. For example, in the show, Cole is completely out of control of his evil personality; Dexter’s serial killer tendencies, though perhaps inspired by uncontrolled desires, are the result of conscious calculation and thought. Additionally, Cole uses medication to suppress his inner demon; in Stevenson’s story, Dr. Jekyll was forced to take a drug to reverse his transformations into the evil Mr. Hyde.
As a psychology major, I have always found Hollywood’s fascination with split personalities to be curious. Naturally, the topic is highly compelling, as the idea of multiple personalities in one physical body is quite intriguing. Yet the idea of split personalities, formally known as dissociative identity disorder (DID), in the mental health field has been extremely controversial. There is no clear consensus about what causes DID; some psychologists argue that multiple personalities are brought about in reactance to trauma, others assert that DID is the result of inappropriate and suggestive psychotherapeutic practices, and some claim the disorder does not exist at all. This lack of scientific clarity, however, has not stopped film, television, novels, and media from sensationalizing the disorder and providing exaggerated, dramatic interpretations of it. Given the frequency of DID’s appearance in pop culture, it is not hard to believe that it is far more common than it really is.
With Do No Harm, NBC has given us yet another ridiculous, erroneous interpretation of split personalities. After all, asking the viewer to accept the fact that Cole’s evil personality comes out at exactly 8:25pm is preposterous. The show takes itself too seriously for that aspect to be funny, and, in my opinion, it’s no wonder the show has been cancelled after only airing two episodes.