A Social Psychiatric Perspective on a Winner and a Loser at the Oscars


What positivity emerged from the Oscars?

red carpet



With the last column, I thought I was done discussing “Dune: Part Two.” But the Oscars show on Sunday evening gave me a bit of a pause. Yes, I know that “Dune: Part Two” will not be eligible until next year. Yet, there is at least 2 connections to this year’s selections that seem both connected to Dune and quite relevant to our world today. Since my movie attendance only included seeing “Oppenheimer,” this perspective is a social psychiatric one from what I have learned.

As expected, “Oppenheimer” won the most awards. Given the focus on his leadership in the development and employment of nuclear bombs against the Japanese at the end of World War II, as well as the ensuing ambivalence about it by Oppenheimer, we know much about the mortality and morbidity—including extensive posttraumatic stress disorder, grief, and anxiety—of a nuclear war of even much more devastating weapons. Russia has posed that threat in its invasion and war with Ukraine. There is widespread concern about Iran obtaining that capability, too. Yet, most all our global attention seems to go nowadays to climate instability and artificial intelligence, as important as these are. Physicians for Social Responsibility, which has had a strong psychiatrist presence, was crucial for addressing nuclear proliferation, exemplified by its Nobel Peace Prize. We need such a strong presence against nuclear risks once again.

Atomic weapons still had in presence in Dune. Each “house” has a store of “atomics” that can be used for local protection.

Also expected to win something was “Killers of the Flower Moon.” In particular, expectations seemed to be that Lily Gladstone had the best likelihood to win for best actress in a brutal film about Native American exploitation. However, she did not win, perhaps triggering memories of so many past traumas in the United States. A positive spin is that her “win” was being the first Native American to ever be nominated for best actress, but that seems not enough in our time when Native Americans still seem to have the highest prevalence of mental disorders of any cultural group, especially on their undesired reservations. Even so, whatever positive role model emerges in the public and psychiatry’s attention for the indigenous is most welcome.

In “Dune: Part Two,” the indigenous Fremen have been still preparing for a Messiah and revolt against the colonial powers. They possess crucial knowledge about environmental sustainability on their hot and dry planet. Yet, around the world today, the indigenous potential contribution to solving various social problems is yet to flourish once again.

The time is now, not only for nuclear control by our global powers, but the environmental sustainability that the indigenous can help solve. Perhaps unwittingly, the Oscars award disparity highlights that the indigenous are needed for a global win.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry and is now in retirement and retirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.

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