Editorial: Asylum criticism simply too farfetched

The AsylumThe recent criticism of Thorpe Park’s Halloween scare maze The Asylum, is a jump to a farfetched conclusion.

Now in its eighth year of operation, the attraction has recently been the target of mental health campaigners, who have become aware of its existence.

The problem with the criticism, is that it itself makes a giant generalisation of mental health issues.

The actors that feature in the scare maze all feature depictions of both physical and mental ailments, and they are all playing the parts of the dangerously insane.

We are speaking about very specific depictions of highly dangerous psychopaths – a subject which has fascinated and terrified people throughout history.

Criticism that has been aimed at Thorpe Park is inadvertently based on the very stigma it is trying to end – that all suffering from mental health would act in this way.

The park has made no generalisation of those suffering from mental illness, but that is what has been assumed by a number of critics who have not visited the attraction themselves.

There are no characters that act afraid, secluded, hallucinatory or any of the other numerous symptoms of concern that can accompany mental illness.

Ultimately, it is insanely dangerous people that are depicted in The Asylum, and the same is true of the other scare mazes at the park, novels, video games and horror films for the past century.

With the latter two having infinitesimally larger influence than a season scare attraction at a Surrey theme park, the question of where criticism – if any is due – should be aimed first, raises itself.

3 comments

  1. Simon says:

    Lianne is correct to say that this is an extension of wider mythical depictions of mental illness in film and video games. The existence of a small, rather badly acted temporary horror attraction is certainly the tip of the iceberg. The question is whether it is an iceberg that should be tackled.

    The editor suggests that the maze depicts only violent psychopaths rather than the full spectrum of mental illness. If this is the case (and it is a big if as on visits guests have described actors giggling maniacally and cradling a child toy, which doesn’t suggest psychopathy) I don’t know if that is ok. The myth of the violent psychopath also needs to be challenged. The fact is, there are violent people with mental illness but there are many more violent people without mental illness. Most acts of violence are not perpetrated in the midst of mental illness. People with mental illness are, however, much more likely to be victims of violence, victims of crime in general and discriminated against.

    There are some excellent portrayals of mental illness in film including many that explore the darker side of the mind. The best do not portray people with mental illness as violent.

    The perception is one that needs to be confronted. It would not be acceptable to link homosexuality or colour of race to a violent stereotype , and its about time to move on from this one too.

  2. Jonny Jenkin says:

    Hi,

    It’s nice to read a piece which I agree with much of. We seem to be a minority ourselves in all this. Trying to tackle the middle ground of being fully aware it might add to stigma. Although also aware this doesn’t mean the visitors are intending or even know they are adding to any stigma when entering the maze or paying for a ticket. My blog posts echo this comment but this struck me as similar!

    There’s a lot of misinformation from both sides to be fair. Many news sources are claiming Asylum is based on a film. It’s not and this is evident by two things. 1)It’s not on any of the promotional material which is headed with “Lionsgate Presents”. The studio which do own the films the other mazes are each based on. 2) There isn’t a film called Asylum about such an event occurring. There are many films which spring to mind with similar themes and I’m sure as I’ve only seen a few hundred THERE IS a film which is similar but that’s okay?

    For instance – The Hannibal series. Doesn’t that (if we’re basing our opinions of mental patients off single fictional instances) suggest that every mental patient is, incredibly intelligent but also an often charming and deceptive cannibal?

    Or is that deemed okay because that is EXACTLY what Lecter is within the context of the story? So that’s just like the patients in the context of the maze? If we take them acceptable as fiction it presents an opportunity I’ll come to…

    Your point on generalising mental illness hits home. Mental illness is massively varied, person to person, and day to day. I’ve seen others suffer and suffered myself so definitely know this. I wonder if my opinion and position on the fence stems from these experiences. I know mental illness is nothing like depicted in the maze. Many know this and many don’t. That’s not ignorance, it’s simply being fortunate enough to not having been exposed to it. Which leads me to wonder if this criticism of the maze is better used as a massive opportunity to educate/inform the hundreds of visitors* rather than take away or alter their fun. Let them make their own minds up after informing them of the realities of mental illness.

    *I’m not suggesting everybody who uses the maze needs educating as there must be many who know the realities but it’s definitely a good option!

    Sorry that’s such a long post and a little all over the place in content!

    Jonny
    http://jonnyjenkin.blogspot.co.uk/

  3. Lianne says:

    If these “keyboard warriors” are really seeing similarities between the actors in this Maze and themselves I think we should start a petition to have them sectioned.
    I suffered with a mental illness for years and I don’t get offended by Halloween Costumes, Theme Park Rides etc. I assume that these people also avoid the films Psycho, The Jacket, Patch Adams etc because it’s over dramatized for entertainment value? They should probably stay off of Twitter and Facebook because someone might use the term “Mental” in a jovial fashion when ribbing their mates. I would hate to see them get offended.
    OR (here’s an idea), how about they don’t visit the theme park that offends them, and let others do whatever the hell they like?! I am so sick of people trying to force others (companies and people) to do what they want them to do by crying “discrimination”. Pathetic.

    Oh & before the hate mail starts, I say they should be sectioned because if you see someone running around covered in blood and carrying weapons & think “oh, that represents me”, you are probably a bit dangerous. Can’t believe I am explaining myself on that point, how sad. Sadder still that I know I have to these days. Urgh.