Posts Tagged ‘slender chance’

Beware the Double Standard

Beware the double standardBeware the double standard by recognizing the ways in which it has failed our society. SlenderChance focuses on the notorious Slender Man stabbing, and Morgan Geyser. This now infamous case has been widely covered both locally and nationally, and is featured in HBO’s newest documentary release by Irene Taylor BrodskyBeware the Slenderman“. Much can be ascertained from delving into the SlenderChance blog, as well as the Journal Sentinel of Wisconsin, yet while the specifics of this case are of vast personal importance to those directly involved, the deeper seated issues have reverberations that touch us all!

Why do we as a society require a person to be 18 years old to purchase and consume tobacco? This law exists because we have deemed those under 18 incapable of Wisconsin's Barbaric Justice Systemmaking a well informed decision concerning their health. The same can be said about voting: we have deemed those under 18 incapable of making responsible decisions concerning who governs our country. We refer to the aforementioned people as “children”, and those 18 and older as “adults”, and this designation has far reaching legal ramifications. Rolling it back even farther, we have laws in place ensuring that anyone under the age of 16 cannot operate a motor vehicle alone, for similar reasons. So we must wonder why Wisconsin law allows a barely 12 year old child to be tried as an adult for a non-fatal stabbing. On its own this seems clearly inconsistent, but when paired with a child suffering from early onset paranoid Schizophrenia, it seems preposterous. We have determined that she is a child and cannot be responsible for driving, smoking or voting, but she CAN be held responsible, as an adult, for a mental illness induced stabbing? Should we then allow Morgan Geyser to drive a car, buy cigarettes, and vote for the president too?

Beware the Double StandardNumerous motions have been filed, and many letters written in an attempt to convince Judge Michael Bohren that Morgan Geyser should be tried as a child and remanded to juvenile custody, but he has held fast. Tod Haller of Fox 9 (KMSP) in neighboring Minnesota explains, “In Minnesota, this only happens when someone is at least 16 years old and they’re charged with first-degree murder. But in Wisconsin, they only have to be 10 years old — it applies to a few types of murder charges including attempted first-degree murder, which the girls are charged with in the “slender man” case.” Nevertheless Morgan Geyser’s lawyer Anthony Cotton soldiers on, and recently won a motion to have Morgan and Anissa Weier’s cases tried separately. Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel explains, “In their long statements to investigators, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier have each implicated the other as more culpable for certain aspects of the incident or made statements inconsistent with the other girl, such that it would be difficult to handle evidence prejudicial to one of the defendants if both were on trial together.” (Separate Trials Ordered…) Both girls have entered pleas of “not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect”.

Matt Geyser and Morgan GeyserMost importantly, motions have been filed to suppress the potentially incriminating statements that were made by the mentally ill Morgan subsequent to her arrest, during a period of questionable interrogation by Detective Thomas Casey. Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel explains, “The motion suggests that Waukesha police Detective Thomas Casey began his nearly five-hour interrogation with “grooming questions intended to make (Geyser) feel more comfortable and open,” then continually minimizes the gravity and import of the conversation.” (Slender Man defense seeks to block confession) Again we encounter a strange double standard: it is legal for a child to be interrogated by police without their parents present, and questioning only stops when the child requests a lawyer, yet only an adult would know that they CAN request a lawyer. Vielmetti explains, “In a recent motion to suppress her statements, Geyser’s attorney, Anthony Cotton, characterized the questions of whether a defendant understands, then knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently waives her rights to remain silent as legitimate inquiries in most circumstances. But he argues “they sound like a parody” when you replace “defendant” with “12-year-old girl with untreated early-onset schizophrenia.”‘ (Slender Man defense seeks to block confession) A decision from Judge Michael Bohren is expected sometime in early spring.

Beware the Double StandardIt strikes us odd at SlenderChance that as a society we are perfectly comfortable housing criminals, paying for their food, health care and education, and yet we are NOT comfortable as a society providing that up front. Similarly, we are ready to try a 10 year old as an adult in the name of vengeance and sensationalism, yet we aren’t willing to properly fund mental illness research in order to proactively address the epidemic of mental illness. Yet another double standard with far reaching ramifications. The easy route is clear: lock her up, throw away the key – out of sight, out of mind. But we believe that Morgan Geyser is the canary in the mine. The crime at the center of this case is merely the symptom; the problem is untreated mental illness. This problem does not exist in a vacuum, rather it is a problem that touches most of us. Whether we have a family member, friend, coworker, or we ourselves suffer from some form of mental illness, we recognize that it is in fact an illness. In an undiagnosed, untreated state, Morgan could not control her delusions any more than a person with cancer can control tumor growth. In an increasingly chaotic world with dwindling resources, where overcrowding is the rule not the exception, we can expect to see more and more mental illness. It is easy to dismiss until it touches down in your life, but the devastation it can create is terrifying. As a society we need to take responsibility for our own!

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.” 
― Noam Chomsky



Wisconsin’s Barbaric Justice System

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 5.38.30 PMWisconsin’s barbaric justice system strikes again! Morgan Geyser, 12 at the time of the incident known nationally as the Slender Man Stabbing, has been officially charged as an adult. The Court of Appeals, composed of Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer, and Judges Paul Reilly and Brian Hagedorn, affirmed County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren’s decision from August 10th, 2015. Their decision cited the following conclusion, “The circuit court properly “examined the relevant facts, applied a proper standard of law, and [used] a demonstrated rational process” to reach a reasonable discretionary decision to retain adult jurisdiction of Geyser.”

This conclusion is based on the following Wisconsin's Barbaric Justice System legal criteria, discussed by Bruce Vielmetti in his recent Court of Appeals article: “1) That the girls could not get needed treatment in the adult system; 2) That prosecuting them as adults is not the only way to deter others from similar crimes; 3) That the transfer would “not depreciate the seriousness of the offense.”” According to Bohren these criteria were not met, similarly the Court of Appeals stated, “We will not overturn a circuit court’s discretionary determination if the record reflects that discretion was exercised; instead, we will seek out reasons to sustain the decision.”

Interestingly and sadly, the Court of Appeals Decision was based on misinformation. Under “WIS. STAT. § 970.032(2)(c): Deterrence” the following misinformation was cited, “Geyser does not believe that she is mentally ill, and she refuses to take medication.” Morgan’s mother, Angie Geyser, explains, “Morgan has never refused medication. This has been reported inaccurately so often that the media seems to have managed to skew the opinions of the courts. She has been 100% compliant with medication and treatment. The media needs to stop spreading this untruth.” Morgan has been fighting the media all along. The media has demonized Morgan in its endless effort to turn a buck from the misery of the world. Unfortunately they have succeeded in infiltrating the minds’ of Wisconsin Judges.

Wisconsin's Barbaric Justice System Despite resistance from Prosecutors and Judges, Morgan started taking medication after successfully achieving civil commitment to a state mental hospital, approximately seven months ago. We use the word “achieve” because she fought to be committed, and fought to have medication, not vice versa. Angie Geyser explains further, “She has developed insight into her illness, and wants to continue on the path to recovery, keeping her in the adult system, with the possibility of eventually ending up incarcerated in an adult prison, will do nothing but ensure that this does not happen.” (Court of Appeals article, Vielmetti)

Wisconsin's Barbaric Justice System What of the law itself? Wisconsin tries 10 year olds as adults? Tod Haller of Fox 9 (KMSP) in neighboring Minnesota explains, “In Minnesota, this only happens when someone is at least 16 years old and they’re charged with first-degree murder. But in Wisconsin, they only have to be 10 years old — it applies to a few types of murder charges including attempted first-degree murder, which the girls are charged with in the “slender man” case.” So if we look beyond the Slender Man Stabbing media sensationalism, and misinformed Judges poised to “seek out reasons to sustain the decision”, the state of Wisconsin is comfortable charging 10 year olds as adults: Barbaric! We are calling out to all of those who would be Morgan Geyser’s voice – please comment, share on social media, and/or donate for a free sticker promoting Morgan’s cause. Get involved locally and lobby for the causes that speak to you!

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
Mother Teresa

Angie Geyser Speaks

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 3.03.49 PMAngie Geyser speaks out about her daughter, Morgan Geyser‘s situation, both past and present. We at are so proud of Angie, and impressed by how her story has been received. Angie Geyser’s story has surfaced in numerous local and national news headlines, as a result of Bruce Vielmetti‘s story in the Journal Sentinel: Mother of girl charged in Slender man stabbing struggles with daughter’s fate. Her story has since appeared in People, NY Daily News, CBS News, and most recently on Good Morning America! We are encouraged to see the mainstream news approaching the situation from a more objective perspective. Historically we have seen mainstream media sensationalizing the Slender Man case. This sensationalism resulted in a fearful and angry public, lacking the ability to perceive the situation from multiple angles. Now bruce-vielmettithat the dust has settled, and Angie Geyser has chosen to go on camera with her story (Watch Angie Geyser Video Here), we are seeing much greater understanding and empathy.

We all recognize that a terrible tragedy occurred, but many do not realize that the tragedy continued long after the initial incident. The tragedy continued in the justice system, where Morgan Geyser (12 at the time) was held as an adult, with no mental health treatment. Many court battles were waged and ultimately Morgan was finally able to secure a diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately the now teenage Morgan is struggling to have her case heard in juvenile court. She is charged as an adult, with first degree attempted homicide, and if found guilty faces 60+ years in prison. We are rallying people to get involved in the case: join the Letter Writing Pool, Support and receive a Sticker to spread awareness, comment on posts, and most importantly share on social media! Together we can be both Morgan and Angie Geyser’s slender chance!

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

~Mahatma Gandhi

Playing Blame Game

finger_pointing_forwardPlaying the blame game is the easy choice, and we find that stance quite common throughout the USA. It is easy to stand back and point a finger, but much more difficult to empathize. In many ways empathy is a dying trait amongst the masses, and it is no wonder. We are surrounded by a barrage of inflammatory media propaganda, and represented by power hungry, self-entitled “leaders”. You do not have to look farther than your local news to see lawsuits abound. A person spills hot coffee on themselves, sues the restaurant. A woman crashes a camper because she thought “cruise control” meant she didn’t have to stay at the wheel, sues the manufacturer. Yet it is more insidious than that, and likely affects each of us in subtle and unperceived ways. The key that starts the engine of blame is judgement, and we are all judgmental. Our survival requires that we judge our environment, and the people and objects around us. It is necessary to judge where threats exist, as well as rewards. We live in a modern world where the threat to our livelihood rarely rests upon being eaten by a wild animal while we sleep fireside. In our modern world the threat is our credit score. The threat is the co-worker who wants our job. The threat is the price of gasoline and food. The threat could be also be those around us who live their lives differently than we do.

We all do it. Driving in traffic, we shrug when we cut someone else off, but when they cut us off we are enraged. We “needed” to cut them off because we were late, heading to an important place. They didn’t “need” to cut us off, where they are headed can’t be that important. Watch the faces of those in a slow line at the grocery store and you are likely to see much impatience. We see that a child is killed at a zoo by a gorilla, or eaten by an alligator, and we point the finger at the parents. Where were they? They should have been watching closer! We come up with reasons and explanations to make ourselves feel comfortable and safe. That could NEVER happen to me! That could only happen to a “bad” parent. The truth is much more horrifying, and only the strong recognize that it could happen to anyone. Accidents can happen to anyone. No matter the level of vigilance a parent employs. No matter how much they helicopter. No matter the snap-clip-leashes. No matter the cell phones. No matter the training. It is scary to admit this to ourselves, and so most do not. Instead they play the blame game.

1541558We are less likely, on the other hand, to blame a parent for a child suffering from drug addiction or alcoholism. It is commonly understood that no matter how “good” a parent is, their child could become addicted to alcohol or drugs. Perhaps the reason many are so quick to blame the parent of the child killed by the gorilla, is because the situation is atypical. Drug addiction is common. Being killed by a gorilla at a zoo is rare. Or maybe the blame game results from the level of fear invoked at the thought of a child being killed so near, yet beyond the parents’ control. It is a horrifying thought, but perhaps one we should all entertain. There is comfort in simply writing it off, saying that it couldn’t happen to us. Maybe the stronger route would be to think about that very thing happening to us.

iWe must also wonder why people are so quick to blame the parents of a child suffering from undiagnosed mental illness. Mental illness, much like drug addiction or alcoholism, is commonly understood to affect children no matter how “good” a parent is. Again, maybe the level of fear invoked at the thought is too much for many to handle. Think for a moment what it would be like if – no matter how closely you watched your child, involved yourself in their life, and loved them – your child suffered from schizophrenia, without your knowledge, and they hurt someone as a result of it. What a terrifying thought, right? This is a thought that many cannot handle, and so they cannot empathize if they cannot visualize themselves in those shoes, and instead they judge. What we also see, time and time again, are those who once believed something horrible could never happen to them, until it did. We are not suggesting that you spend a great deal of time focusing on the negative outcomes that could befall you, or your loved ones. Rather, that those potentialities be explored as realistic possibilities, and as such lend to a greater level of understanding. The key to the engine of understanding is empathy. Take a moment today and empathize for a few minutes.

“It is difficult for a fool’s habits to change to selflessness…Because we do most things relying only on our own sagacity we become self-interested, turn our backs on reason,

and things do not turn out well.”

~ Yamamoto Tsunetomo


Proactive or Reactive


We can be proactive or reactive. We have that choice. To be proactive though, we need to overhaul both the system, and the stigma surrounding mental illness. This is a tall order, which may contribute to much of the resistance. We must remember that these changes begin with individuals, and spread to the larger populace. At the heart of this issue is the perception of mental illness, because the system was founded upon these often negative and derogatory beliefs. If we expect to change the way in which we address our mentally ill constituents, then we must first change out thinking.

It is easy to think of mental illness as someone else’s problem, that is until it touches down in your life. Morgan Geyser‘s mother knows this best: Two years ago I was getting ready for bed as the laughter of three preteen girls echoed through our home. In the morning we would all have breakfast – Krispy Kreme donuts and strawberries – and then the girls would head off to the park. That was the last time our lives were normal and happy. Hug your children if you can. My daughter has been in a jail cell for two years. It is so common that the National Alliance on Mental Health now says that over 10 million adults are afflicted with a serious mental illness, nationwide. They also say that 1 in 5 adults in America will experience mental illness; that is 20% of the population!

Unfortunately the system is not prepared to deal with mental illness of this magnitude. The alternative to hospitals are prisons (although a poor one), and even our prisons cannot handle the influx. In Wisconsin, where Morgan Geyser is currently in a cell, there is an extensive waiting list for treatment. Stevens Point Journal explains, “With the surge in referrals, both facilities filled quickly, causing delays for anyone who still needs a bed. The only alternative for many in the state waiting to get in…is spending weeks in a jail cell” (Full article: Mentally ill inmates left waiting in jail). We must remember that this waiting list is for alleged criminals awaiting trial, many of whom must first prove to a judge that they are in fact mentally ill. During the interim they are left undiagnosed and untreated. Many of these individuals are awaiting trial for a crime, or crimes, committed as a result of being undiagnosed and untreated to begin with.

11295715_1439291249706260_7107241912246102352_nAccording to The Intercept, “The United States is the only country in the world that routinely sentences children to life in prison without parole, and, according to estimates from nonprofits and advocacy groups, there are between 2,300 and 2,500 people serving life without parole for crimes committed when they were minors” (Full Article: The U.S. is the only Country That…). Morgan Geyser (12 years old at the time) is currently facing a charge of 1st Degree Attempted Homicide, and is being tried as an adult, which comes with a sentence of 60+ years in prison. In Morgan’s case, she was suffering from undiagnosed and untreated, early onset childhood schizophrenia when the crime occurred, so she falls into both categories: a child and mentally ill.

We at are looking for people to get involved! Engage by commenting on blog posts. Share this page on your social media sites. Tell the people you know, and ask them to tell the people they know. Donate with the button on the Support page – funds which cover legal fees for Morgan Geyser – and receive a complementary sticker to help promote Morgan’s cause. In an increasingly chaotic world with dwindling resources, where overcrowding is the rule not the exception, we can expect to see more and more mental illness. It is easy to dismiss until it touches down in your life, but the devastation it can create is terrifying. As a society we need to take responsibility for our own!



Slender Chance Slender Win

11826007_1465859523716099_3759901489993067336_nHer slender chance has become her slender win, or so it seems after recent news places Morgan Geyser in a treatment facility since January 2016. Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel explains, “One of the two girls charged in the 2014 Slender Man stabbing case has been getting psychiatric treatment at a state mental hospital after a judge committed her there in mid-January.” According to Anthony Cotton, Morgan’s attorney, “She’s made substantial progress…The voices are disappearing…More recently, Morgan began expressing remorse; she’s starting to feel regular and normal emotions now,” and all as a result of medication and treatment. According to Vielmetti the decision to commit Morgan for treatment was a civil judgment, and is being handled seperately from her criminal case.

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 10.50.24 AMThis is not the only positive development though. As many of you know, last August Judge Michael Bohren ruled that Morgan’s case would not be remanded to juvenile court. Rather she would be tried as an adult for attempted first-degree intentional homicide. If tried and convicted as an adult, the now 13 year old (11 at the time of the crime) would face a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison. Morgan’s attorney subsequently petitioned the Court of Appeals, and that decision is scheduled to be forthcoming. During the lengthy interim, while the Wisconsin state Department of Justice requested three extensions to its deadline, has been coordinating supporters. Our Letter Writing efforts have been on petitioning Judges Paul Reilly, Lisa Stark, and Lisa Neubauer (Court of Appeals), and it has become evident that it is making a difference. A recent local WISN report stated, “People from across the country are pleading for leniency for two young girls suspected in what’s become known as the Slenderman stabbing.” (Nick Bohr, WISN) Bohr continued, “Dozens of letters from all over the U.S. are being sent to the court, asking for leniency for the pair.” According to WISN many of these letters are form written, which are likely those created YOU! We are so pleased that individuals like you have chosen to take the precious time to be Morgan Geyser’s voice. It is equally assuring to know that there are people who are willing to see beyond retribution. Our efforts are focused on taking a very tragic situation, and arresting its course. We cannot undo what has already transpired, but we can take responsibility and inhibit further harm from occurring.

beware-the-slendermanIn other news, “Beware the Slenderman”, an HBO Documentary Film directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky recently made waves at the SXSW Film Festival. According to Vielmetti, Brodsky commented on the participation of Morgan’s parents, saying “she was astonished at the parents’ honesty and called them brave to be part of the film, which she showed each family separately. She said it was emotional because the parents saw their girls have now become their own Internet memes.” (Bruce Vielmetti, Journal Sentinel) While we at have not seen the documentary, we understand that it provides a more objective perception for audiences, concerning the sensationalized case. All of this together may just provide what we have been seeking all along for Morgan Geyser – her slender chance for justice!

Court of Appeals Letters

WisconsinmapCourt of Appeals Letters are on the front burner, as we hope that by writing letters to Judges Paul Reilly, Lisa Stark, and Lisa Neubauer (Court of Appeals) we can provide them with a different perspective concerning Morgan Geyser’s case. We would like to remind them that Morgan is a 13 year old child (barely 12 at the time of the incident) with untreated schizophrenia.

11826007_1465859523716099_3759901489993067336_nWe need to remind them that scientific studies have shown that children are not developmentally capable of understanding the cause/effect of their actions in the same manner as adults, which is precisely why the juvenile court system exists. If the severity of the crime dictates whether a child should be tried in adult court, then we have truly lost track of what “a concern for justice, peace, and genuine respect for people” means.

We must remind them that Morgan needs and deserves treatment, care, compassion, and understanding. Morgan is a mentally ill child, and like any child suffering from illness she needs support and help, not exile!

Please write respectfully to Judges Paul Reilly, Lisa Stark, and Lisa Neubauer asking them to move Morgan’s case to juvenile court. Letters should be sent to the following address:

Judges Paul Reilly, Lisa Stark, and Lisa Neubauer
Court of Appeals – District II
2727 N. Grandview Blvd Ste 300
Waukesha, WI 53188-1671

You may download the attached file, print, sign and send. It will cost you a sheet of paper, an envelope and a stamp, but the impact will be tremendous!

Download Here: Morgan-CourtofAppeals

“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the wrong. Sometime in life you will have been all of these.” ~ Lloyd Shearer

Slender Man vs Laughing Jack

laughing_jack_by_shadowkisses91-d5yfa02Slender Man vs Laughing Jack seems straight out of a Street Fighter game, but these Creepypasta characters take center stage in two nearly identical criminal cases. The Slender Man stabbing in Waukesha, Wisconsin concerns Morgan Geyser, and is being handed quite differently than the Laughing Jack stabbing in Elkhart, Indiana, despite many striking similarities. One difference in the handling is the ability to name Morgan, who is being charged as an adult with first degree attempted homicide, and whose image was released to the media. The Elkhart girl whom fatally stabbed her stepmother, like Morgan, was 12 at the time of the incident, and is being charged with a juvenile delinquency petition for murder, which allows her to remain anonymous; her name and picture have not been released.

myra6Also like Morgan, the Elkhart girl was suffering from untreated mental illness at the time of the incident, but has since begun receiving treatment, “The court order requires the girl to be committed to the Division of Mental Health for confinement and treatment in a psychiatric institution until her competency is restored, or until a more appropriate treatment facility that accepts the girl is found and approved by the state Department of Child Services.” (South Bend Tribune) Morgan on the other hand is being denied treatment for her now diagnosed schizophrenia, and is facing a much harsher punishment for the non-lethal incident. Both children became violent as a result of delusional communications from fictitious internet characters. While the Slender Man and Laughing Jack characters were the impetus behind their actions, the media has little interest in Laughing Jack. Notwithstanding, Slender Man did and continues to get significant coverage.

mapThose privy to the laws of various states and jurisdictions may argue that Wisconsin has harsher laws, which is true, but does that make it right? When comparing these two cases it is clear that Indiana legally cares more than Wisconsin about protecting children, “‘Juveniles who are treated as adults, they’re more likely to commit suicide. They’re more likely to be victimized in institutions,’ Freiburger said.” (Fox 6 Now) Tina Freiburger, UW-Milwaukee professor of criminal justice, primarily researches disparities between juvenile and adult court systems. Freiburger covered the Slender Man case for Huffington Post, positing some of her conclusions, “Some research suggests that juveniles who come into adult prisons are more likely to be targeted for abuse by the prison population.”, she goes on to explain, “Most research has found that juveniles who are treated as adults have higher rates of recidivism than those treated as juveniles. These findings may be due to the decreased amount of treatment services juveniles receive in the adult system versus the juvenile system.” (Huffington Post) Morgan’s mother, Angie Geyser, recently attested to what Freiburger refers to as a “decreased amount of treatment services” in Waukesha, “Morgan ‘has yet to receive treatment for her schizophrenia,’ and that she has ‘no outdoor access’ — not even a window.” (Fox 6 Now)

11186379_392078917650487_166879242_nWhat is most salient is that Indiana is giving a child suffering from mental illness another chance, while Wisconsin is not, “Angie Geyser says ‘when all is said and done, she will still have a chance at a future. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my little girl.'” (Fox 6 Now) Awareness is the name of the game! By sharing this information we seek to be Morgan’s Slender Chance for help. You can help by sharing this website on social media, and with friends, family and colleagues. You can also join our Letter Writing Pool, which will soon be updated for the purpose of petitioning the court of appeals to remand Morgan’s case to juvenile court. We are positing the notion that Morgan needs and deserves treatment! There is no way to undo the harm that has already transpired, but we can certainly prohibit any more from occurring.

Extra Cinematic Code

1413929154608An extra cinematic code is a device used in media to cause audiences to draw subtle, often unconscious conclusions about people, places and things. As an avid film fan I digest a daily dose of media, often films and television shows on Netflix. The now popular Gotham is a series I have been enjoying, and yet I cannot see past the many extra cinematic codes. Some are quite obvious and clearly not subtle, for instance the corruption of city officials in Gotham. This behavior is prevalent throughout the series, and as an audience we realize that the producers are saying something larger about our society as a whole. I illustrate this use of extra cinematic code first in order to further elucidate one that is perhaps not so readily perceived.

1441121628007Once Arkham is introduced and we begin to see inside its dark depths, we are immediately surrounded by extreme and aberrant criminals. We find no sympathetic characters here, rather a motley crew of trumped up stereotypes. Now this is not to say that I disapprove of the series, or that I am shaming them. I am merely pointing out how regularly we as a society reiterate some very negative, and often untrue stereotypes about the mentally ill. While it is popular and certainly tantalizing to portray the mentally ill as disheveled and violent deviants, who scream at illusory “friends” and worry their hands frantically, this image is quite outlandish and most often fabricated. Perhaps as a society it is easier to accept the idea of our mentally ill counterparts, if we are able to tell ourselves that we could easily spot a “crazy” person. Or maybe it brings some solace knowing that the “lunatics” are locked up, regardless of the circumstances, and cannot infect the rest of us. It is curious though, given that most people have at least one person in their family who suffers from some form of mental illness.

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 7.53.08 PMThis dual use of extra cinematic code creates a climate in which the audience becomes complicit in the latter by agreeing to the terms of the former. In the case of Gotham it is likely that this climate is unintentional, but such has not always been the case. D.W. Griffith‘s Birth of a Nation is the most likely subject for discussion, and is used to teach extra cinematic code in film history courses. In the case of Griffith the intention of making the film was to portray blacks as evil and white KKK clan members as heroes. What we typically experience in contemporary film is slightly more subtle, yet it exists.

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 7.48.22 PMI enjoy a good film or television series, including Gotham, yet I feel that as co-creators in society we need to make an effort to portray the mentally ill as humans struggling with disease. Mental illness doesn’t happen somewhere else, to someone else; it happens right at home. I encourage you to turn on the extra cinematic code filter next time you sit down to watch a film or television series, and simply pay attention to what is happening between the notes, and between the words. Become a slightly more critical viewer and perhaps you will see the many ways in which our perceptions of the world are shaped for us. For more information on extra-cinematic code: White Screens, Black Images: Hollywood from the Dark Side

Inhumane Conditions and Poor Decisions

b99553843z.1_20150810232459_000_gmoc5e79.1-0Inhumane conditions and poor decisions continue to mar the trajectory of Morgan Geyser’s life, as Judge Michael Bohren rules against the reverse waiver plea on August 10th, 2015. While Bohren acknowledges that Morgan Geyser will not receive adequate mental health treatment if she ends up at Taycheedah Women’s Prison when she turns 18, he maintains that moving the case to juvenile court will “unduly depreciate the seriousness of the offense” (Journal Sentinel). In defense of his ruling, Bohren further stated, “There has to be assurance to the public — and to these defendants as well — that a serious offense has to be dealt with on a serious basis that offers protection to everyone” (Journal Sentinel). For my more adept readers, there seems to be an inherent contradiction here: Bohren recognizes that Geyser will not receive adequate mental health treatment if tried as an adult, yet maintains that his ruling “offers protection to everyone”.

This is not the first incidence of hypocrisy in the Slender Man case. Both in and outside the court the facts have continually been obscured, and in some instances entirely misrepresented! For instance, during the August 10th ruling, Bohren stated that Morgan is refusing medication. In fact Morgan has not been offered medication over the ensuing 15 month period of incarceration. Morgan has maintained that she does not want her “friends” to go away, so does this mean that she is refusing medication? It would seem that is Bohren’s interpretation, and his conclusion follows: why offer her medication at all, she has implied that she would refuse. By this logic one could surmise that if a person is fasting and starving, then why even offer them a meal? Morgan is in fact starving, albeit mentally! She is being held in isolation and has very limited contact with humans. She has no access to the outdoors, no windows, no physical contact with her family. She is also being denied medical treatment. She is cold and hungry. If a parent treated their child in such a way they would be arrested for abuse.

11826007_1465859523716099_3759901489993067336_nAgain Bohren recognized and stated that these conditions are unacceptable, which is why he ordered “visits and recreation” at the Waukesha Juvenile Center. On the surface this sounds good, but as in the case of statements concerning Morgan’s “refusal” to accept medication, the reality is much different. These “visits” occur every two weeks, and last only two hours. “Recreation” seems to just be a word, as she is not allowed any recreation during this time, and is not allowed to spend ANY time outdoors. As we begin to see the bigger picture, we should not be surprised that this child is desperately lonely, and can turn only to her “friends” for company. Which brings us to the elephant in the room: paranoid schizophrenia.

Bohren’s willingness to acknowledge that Morgan is suffering from a severe illness — childhood onset paranoid schizophrenia — while simultaneously refusing to treat it as the mitigating element that it is, leads us to draw questionable conclusions about his character. He is either more interested in retribution and public opinion, or he lacks a full understanding of the disease that Morgan Geyser suffers from. In his oral ruling he “kept coming back to the disturbing, premeditated nature of the crime, an offense he described as, ‘frankly, vicious'” (Journal Sentinel). For those who posses a greater knowledge of paranoid schizophrenia, this defense is thin. A person suffering from paranoid schizophrenia is quite capable of premeditation, as discussed in the National Institutes of Health Library of Medicine, “Violence due to a mental condition such as schizophrenia is considered medical, but even aggression motivated by delusions or hallucinations can also be characterized as impulsive, premeditated, or compulsive.” It is further suggested, “Assessment of a violent act committed by an offender with schizophrenia typically focuses on whether the act was due to distortions in thought or perception, i.e., delusions or hallucination”. And yet, the now 13 year old Morgan Geyser, who suffers from debilitating delusions which provoked the non-lethal yet tragic event, faces inhumane conditions.

EP-312189479.jpg&q=80&MaxW=550&MaxH=400&RCRadius=5We must ask ourselves if Judge Michael Bohren is truly interested in a decision that “offers protection to everyone”? Deeper still we must wonder if his goal is actual justice? In fact his ruling has grave consequences for Morgan Geyser, “The teens face dramatically different treatment because of the judge’s decision. Children tried as adults face longer sentences and fewer resources while incarcerated, and they’re more likely to be assaulted in adult prisons than juvenile facilities” (Huggington Post). In an increasingly chaotic world with dwindling resources, where overcrowding is the rule not the exception, we can expect to see more and more mental illness. It is easy to dismiss until it touches down in your life, but the devastation it can create is terrifying. As a society we need to take responsibility for our own, and learn to look past our emotional reactions, or what people will think of us (Judges included). We must learn to do the right thing!