Titicut Follies is an observational documentary that was intentionally directed to gain the attention of state representatives and mental health professionals in the mid 1900’s. The need for immediate funding and directional aid is seen within the strenuous conditions portrayed at Bridgewater State Hospital. Wiseman, along with his crew and the hospital superintendent unveil the graphic horrors lived by those in a criminally insane institution before ethic codes and mental health awareness.
While the intentions of this film were to gain the audiences’ captivation and support, Wiseman received criticism for invading and exploiting patient privacy. Patients faces and nude bodies were viewed on film, without their consent. However, the superintendent of Bridgewater signed patient privacy wavers (as he was their legal guardian) bypassing the need for patient consent.
The patients observed within Titicut Follies were criminally charged with insanity and placed at Bridgewater for the well being of themselves and those around them. These patients often times did not have active families and were hidden away from the rest of society. Ethically, the film should not have taken place, as these patients were not in the correct state of mind to understand and sign a privacy waiver. However, many believe the film portrayed a side of the mental health field that was desperately needing change.
This film is now used for educational purposes, such as classroom discussion and history of mental health. Titicut Follies portrays human behavior in two different ways: those of the criminally insane and those in authority positions. This is a blatant divide of interaction which results in many of the horrific scenes viewed throughout this film.
Often times, guards and nurses both mentally and physically abuse their patients by hitting, name-calling, spitting, etc. While this is an accurate portrayal of life inside an asylum for the criminally insane, it also provokes human emotion among the audience of the film. This human emotion is what Wiseman hoped to promote a movement for funding mental health hospitals. Although his plan took a different turn, the intentions of Titicut Follies was to help the patients inside.
As we have learned throughout the history of psychology, the task of observation proves to be a valuable tool in learning and categorizing human behavior. Wiseman used observation as method of film to gain emotion and attention among his audience. The exploitation of the conditions at Bridgewater and the criminally insane patients started a discussion amongst families of patients, mental health professionals, and state representatives of the lack of funding and health treatments available. This film is a stepping stone to the mental health awareness era we are currently experiencing. Titicut Follies provides an educational supplement to the first-hand experiences of patients and subjects experiencing mental health issues. #blog