Marvel Studios Has to Be Very Careful in Portraying Mental Illness in 'Moon Knight'
When it comes to placing comic heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Moon Knight is easily one of the most ambitious inclusions to the franchise this side of Hell's Kitchen. As one of Marvel's darkest heroes, Marc Spector and his internal struggle with an Egyptian moon god takes the night-faring vigilante to some scary places. But one of Moon Knight's most notable characteristics is being diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, and its depiction in the show could cause controversy.
Moon Knight follows Marc Spector (Oscar Issac), a U.S. mercenary who has multiple personalities. After becoming the conduit for an ancient Egyptian deity, he becomes imbued with supernatural powers. He quickly comes into contact with a religious leader named Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) who views Moon Knight as an obstacle to his wild ambitions. With such a sensitive topic in the spotlight, the production took steps to make sure that mental health was depicted positively.
Moon Knight has always struggled with dissociate identity disorder.
Aside from his striking white cloak and brutal vigilantism, one of Moon Knight's major characteristics is being diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, or DID. This is traditionally defined as a state in which a person has two or more distinct personalities. These alternate personalities can affect a person's behavior and even create memory gaps between each personality.
For Moon Knight, his powers often manifest through his mental illness, granting him new forms and appearances. Moon Knight's identity issues are further exacerbated by his powers and the overbearing presence of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu residing in his psyche. As if Marc didn't have a hard enough time trying to keep his multiple personalities in order, there's a god who now shares his body trying to tell him what to do.
Mental health is a serious subject, and those who live with mental health issues deserve to be treated fairly. When it comes to representation in media, a production would do well to make sure that mental illness isn't being sensationalized or aggrandized to a degree of ridicule. Given that the Moon Knight character was developed in the 1980s, his depiction in a 2022 series is in dire need of updating. Luckily, the Moon Knight team reportedly went to great lengths to make those updates.
In an interview with GameSpot, Moon Knight executive producer Grant Curtis spoke about how the team wanted to make sure that Marc's DID was depicted authentically and with respect to those who actually live with the disorder.
"From day one, we took the mental illness aspect of this story very seriously and we wanted to approach it very reverential and very respectful," Grant told the outlet.
To that end, the film crew consulted with mental health consultants to provide notes on the portrayal.
According to Grant, Oscar Issac himself took the aspect of positive mental health portrayals very seriously on set. In an interview with USA Today, Moon Knight series writer Jeremy Slater further emphasized the show's focus on positive mental health portrayal.
"Whatever we're putting out there in the universe has to be ultimately good and uplifting and have a positive message about mental health," Jeremy told the publication.
Moon Knight premieres on Disney Plus on March 30.