Why Are Psychiatrists Always the Villains?

October 30, 2020
Kamran Ahmed, MD

Negative portrayals of psychiatrists suffuse popular culture, and it is time for psychiatrists to do something about it.

It does not matter whether you are watching a TV show or a movie, reading a comic book or a novel. If one of the characters is a psychiatrist, they are probably evil. In the Batman universe, Dr Jonathan Crane (“Scarecrow”) and Dr Harley Quinn terrorize Gotham. Dr Hannibal Lecter eats his victims, with a side of fava beans and a nice Amarone.

Why are psychiatrists always the villains? Or perhaps a better question would be: what is it about psychiatry that is so scary? In his Mental Health Minute, Kamran Ahmed, MD discusses negative portrayals of psychiatrists in popular culture. Psychiatrists can treat individuals against their will, they learn individuals’ secrets, and they treat mental illness, which is mysterious and often stigmatized. In other words, they hold power, which is open to abuse. Of course, the vast majority of psychiatrists are nothing like their horrible fictional colleagues. Dr Ahmed recommends that psychiatrists fight these stereotypes by telling their own stories.

Dr. Ahmed is a psychiatrist, writer, filmmaker and entrepreneur. In addition to his clinical and academic work, Kamran regularly writes for newspapers on mental health, including The Guardian. Kamran has made several films related to psychiatry and started the international medical film festival ‘Medfest’ now in its 10th year. Through his music startup Rave Reviewz, he also launched the ‘Music on my Mind’ initiative to support mental health in the music industry.