Photo by erin walker on Unsplash

The Movie-goer’s Guide to Glass

Plural with Dissociative Identity Disorder’s take on the new powered-people film by M. Night Shyamalan

We Crisses went to the movies alone last night, sneaking in a stuffie (mainly for Shawn and Lissie), with a hankie in our purse (Telré of Crisses can cry at anything — we can’t take him to any films without a hanky).  There were 3 people in the showing before the one we saw, about 4 total in the theater at the 5:30pm viewing we were in. The poor cinema was running the movie in 2 theatres — taking up all that screen real estate for what is probably going to be a monumental flop this weekend.  We feel bad. We like supporting our local discount theater.

Amusingly, across the aisle from us there was a pair of people, one apparently adult person, the other adult-bodied but seemingly juvenile — we weren’t able to determine whether the person was a little fronting in a plural system or someone who was developmentally disabled, but this made us feel like we had come with friends, and helped tremendously. They hid their face during the preview for Pet Sematary, which indeed was spooky as heck, and there were times they were almost out of their chair during suspense moments in Glass, leaning forward with their heels under them on the chair. We should have asked them what they thought of the film before they fled the theater.

There was one other lone film viewer in the theater.  It was so tempting to ask the person (who appeared to be female) whether they were looking forward to the show or watching with trepidation.

Regardless, we were much relieved not to be surrounded by a hundred avid comic hero fans rooting and gasping and clapping and cheering the violence on in solidarity over toxic masculinity. *phew*  We’ve got a bunch of comic hero geeks/fans in our collective, and this is not how we like our heroes served up on film.

We jotted 6 pages of notes in the dark on the film.  This is a long article, we’re still processing what we saw and frequently adding new snippets to this page.  We may be processing this film for a while yet.

Note: To listen/download/read our 1hr 20 min lecture Beyond the Movies: Debunking myths about DID & plural systems please see the recording page on our coaching website. (no email required to listen)

Impressions and Review — No Spoilers

Glass… is at best a B-rated film in spite of the amazing cast.

Glass is a disappointment in part because it throws a new light on prior films and thereby diminishes them.  We agree with the film critics: this is at best a B-rated film in spite of the amazing cast. This film is not lifted by the vision of writer & director Shyamalan.  Instead, Shyamalan is not humbled by this work; he’s bragging throughout it about his own brilliance.  He’s so excited about how clever he is that, rather than allowing the audience to digest the film and have layers of realizations of how clever the plot is in the aftermath of viewing it, he throws how brilliant it is in their face repeatedly.

Without spoiling the film, Shyamalan left potentially good footage on the cutting room floor in favor of keeping in poorly acted scenes and footage that do not advance the plot (his own cameo in the movie had too many lines — Shyamalan you are not even a passable actor so please don’t speak if you have to put your face in the film), the awful clips of characters mentioning (but not even discussing) comic tropes and comic story arcs make the film pacing lag,  and nauseating choices of camera angles leads to disappointing fight scenes (if you’re into superpeople/comic/action-movie violence).

In a very cheesy way that makes the film surreal, various actors will break character to make asides — not quite breaking the 4th wall, but that might have at least made the cheesiness more obviously campy — about elements of comic tropes.  It’s not even done gracefully.  The actors deliver their out-of-character lines about these comic tropes in a way that makes it apparent that they think it’s awkward and undermines the film as well.  If it only happened a couple times, one could brush it off and get back to trying to enjoy (!?) the film.  Instead it happens much too frequently for anyone’s comfort — the actors, or the viewers.

Overall the film is a waste of acting talent.  Not that the actors don’t earn their paycheck. The amount of screen time spent on giving James McAvoy, in the fronting-carousel role of plural Kevin Wendell Crumb, his new acting portfolio reel overshadows the sublime and subdued acting of Bruce Willis — character David Dunn is a quiet, brooding and thoughtful character who doesn’t waste words — and the antics of Kevin& distract from Samuel L. Jackson, playing the too-smart-for-anyone’s-good Elijah Price/Mr. Glass; he was in a drugged stupor for a good portion of the film.

Shyamalan missed a chance to go back to his roots and really think this movie through.

If Shyamalan is trying to re-create the success of a film like Sixth Sense or the lasting fan-base of Unbreakable, then he lost his own plot.  In both Split and Glass there are no hints of the twists being dropped like breadcrumbs throughout the films regarding the final plot twist, nothing that requires rewatching the entire film to check for consistency and to study every scene to see whether or not it all holds together. This is a huge failing of this post-success Shyamalan. He perfected a method of dropping quiet hints in Sixth Sense — or was that film a brilliant accident? — that require re-watching the film to check for continuity, meaning much of the film’s outstanding earnings could have come from repeat moviegoers, and made for amazing DVD sales.  Repeated watchings check out in Sixth Sense, and even in the subtleties of Unbreakable, making the films extremely rewatchable and reveal layer on layer of their own integrity when being evaluated or eminently enjoyable when watched for one’s own pleasure rather than as a film study.  It’s possible that Shyamalan has gotten impatient and wants people to understand his brilliance in full on opening night.  He’s hurting his own career by rushing, guaranteeing that people won’t fork out money for additional viewings with friends who haven’t seen it yet, and wrecking future sales.

Shyamalan missed a chance to go back to his roots and really think this movie through.  It feels shallow and contrived rather than orchestrated and consistent.  Very much like other franchises where sequels were tacked on and not well thought-out. It’s a case of doing because you should, because the actors aren’t getting any younger, or because you need the money, not because you have inspiration.

The camera work breaks immersion in the story with awkward viewing angles and bringing you back to the room or your body to escape vertigo or nausea.

…some research into disorders does not make their depictions on screen accurate.

Once we’re past the meta of the film as a whole, we get to the ableism, stereotyping, stigmatizing, tormenting the viewer with various triggers (flashes of light being one very very well-known trigger that film directors should know to avoid), promoting toxic masculinity/subservient femininity, and the list goes on (please read the next section for content warnings).  In this way the film is a shit-show of blatant disregard for its audience and taking advantage of people.  Not only in terms of not casting disabled or recovered actors in disabled roles, but in promoting stereotypes and putting oneself in harm’s way, and potentially hurting audience members with unnecessary triggers and misinformation.

If you still feel a need to go to see the movie, remember it’s entirely fiction, that some research into disorders does not make their depictions on screen accurate.  If McAvoy spent a hundred hours researching and practicing to pretend to have dissociative identity disorder, it doesn’t by any means accurately represent the millions of people on the planet who spend hundreds of thousands of hours dealing with the disorder.  It’s a surface resemblance to DID — and all the underpinnings of what constitutes DID are missing.

The problems with the Kevin& group entity are manifold: where they go kinda right is that they seem to have some tenuous internal relationships, the differences of posture, phrasing, accents, expression, etc. are plausible, but the actual cast of characters have no basis in the reality of the storyline.  It’s an ensemble of unrelated cause and effect.  It’s more “ok, McAvoy, come up with a bunch of characters” rather than looking at Kevin&’s past and getting wildly creative about what entities Kevin& would need to survive their childhood adversity, and then how those individuals within their multiple system would develop throughout the remainder of their life until the movie.  Basically, their backstory is vacant.  There’s a past, and there’s a present, but no cause-and-effect chains connecting the two.

Minimal Spoiler Section

Content Warnings

We’re interested in making sure that you aren’t surprised or triggered or annoyed at the film.  Here’s the high-level content warnings, with attempts not to spoil the plot and in no particular order (as we’re still processing and picking up CWs from memory):

  • Acts of random physical violence on innocent people.
  • Woman pressured to mollify a violent man because only true love and physical affection can stop him from hurting people.
  • Footage resembling torture (water-boarding).
  • Depictions of an adult threatening a child with physical harm, including yelling.
  • Bright flashes of light in succession: epilepsy warning.
  • Disorienting spinning of the cameras and scenery: vertigo warning.
  • Institutional abuse from staff on patients: threatening, implied abuse.
  • Inaccurate depiction of DID — oversimplifications, no logic to plot devices related to DID, and stigmatization, more below.
  • Deliberately manipulating people with DID into switching.
  • Emotional manipulation. Gaslighting.
  • Inaccurate and unrealistic depiction of what may be Stockholm Syndrome (sympathizing with one’s jailor/abuser).
  • Non-consensual surgical procedure.
  • Violence and fighting as suited to a superhero movie (but not up to Avengers standards, don’t get your hopes up)
  • Betrayal of a friend.
  • Language that may stigmatize disabled people.
  • Within a plural system: bullying, coercion, emotional manipulation & gaslighting.
  • Undermining people’s subjective reality by a so-called “expert” (so aside from other gaslighting, also reality manipulation from a therapist) that resembles conditioning.
  • Child getting badly hurt at an amusement park.
  • Blatant depictions of a very physically hurt child.
  • Flashbacks to disturbing content from Split and Unbreakable.
  • Images of scars from self-harm, scars from gunshots.
  • A female character using sex appeal to deliberately manipulate a man.
  • Ageism — you have grey hair, you should do less! Slow down!
  • Suffering — people who are in pain and dying but take a long time (relative to their injuries) to go.
  • Prescription abuse of an inpatient.
  • Depictions of a person with DID abusing a child.

For reviews and minor spoilers to help you determine whether to see the film, see the run-down at Enter Glass — Roundup — January 2019.

Spoiler Section

Proceed with caution. The spoilage gets worse as you go…

The IDEA is clever. The execution atrocious.

Almost Promising Moments

  • Mr. Glass to Patricia of Kevin&: “Call a board meeting or whatever…”  It’s a flash-in-the-pan moment of “being seen” as a real group entity.  Thankfully the film doesn’t make a big deal of “parts” vs. “people” throughout — but there are some moments where it’s made to seem that Kevin is the most important alter of Kevin&.
  • For a hot second it looks like characters might be teaming up to fight against the Establishment and Psychology in general.
  • Casey put her abusive Uncle in jail.  That’s fabulous. Why is she not making sure the guy who eats people is in jail?
  • The IDEA is clever. The execution atrocious. (Will spoil more below.)
  • We like Patricia’s subdued femininity and the choice of tops/outfits for Patricia, or the way that Jade tied the shirt they had on when she was out. That was “thoughtful feminizing” for the characters without having to paste on false eyelashes, wear makeup, put on a dress, etc. as seen in cartoons and other depictions of feminizing characters. Throughout both Split and Glass they never lampooned femininity.  It’s a subtle gender-fluidity that’s refreshing on the screen. We felt seen here too.
  • In the scene where Dr. Staple is addressing the 3 patients, which is also shown in the trailers, Dr. Staple starts to question the reality of David Dunn and the Kevin& ensemble. This in itself is awful.  The clever layer of this scene — had it not been set in a psych hospital etc. — is that questioning the other 2 also meant the eavesdropping Mr. Glass/Elijah Price was also being questioned by proxy.  If these other 2 superheroes are not all they’re cracked up to be, then Elijah is “nothing” — not a supervillain mastermind after all — just a somewhat smart disabled criminal.

Blatant Inaccuracies

  • Plot devices — literally. Creating an actual device to force a plural to switch personalities — so that McAvoy gets to show off his acting skills.
  • McAvoy “lost” Dennis.  Dennis was very distinct and zipped up in Split but is not the same character in Glass.  Facial expressions/tension, posture, mannerisms, even voice, are pretty much wrong.  An alter in a DID system is not just lines.  McAvoy knows this, too, and did well portraying differences for nearly everyone else, just since Dennis had so much attention in Split it’s notable that it’s wrong in Glass.
  • Everyone in Kevin& removes their tops just before switching to Beast. It should probably be the other way around: the switching happens, then the Beast removes or tears off the clothes because he’s uncomfortable in them.  Patricia wouldn’t remove her top — Beast would remove it.  Unless removing their top is a trigger that helps call Beast out. Still.
  • Only Kevin and the cinema lover seem to have amnesia, everyone else appears to be co-conscious.
  • Dr. Staple tries to dissuade Casey from her Stockholm Syndrome quest to see Kevin& but then is suddenly in their room.  When did the argument or debate over this turn into an agreement to do it?
  • McAvoy is a good actor.  Kevin Wendel Crumb is not a good multiple.  There’s a difference between an assemblage of characters to portray and people who developed from an array of abusive acts as a child.  One character amongst many with some nervousness does not a group entity full of members with C-PTSD make.
  • Once again, people with DID are not murderous and inclined towards cannibalism.
  • Someone revealing their intimate ideas, vulnerabilities, and thoughts in the room with their enemies that they don’t trust.  This adds to the surrealism of the film.
  • The film repeats that the Beast is there to protect Kevin&.  Kevin in himself does not want to front.  Being front in a world that was painful for him in the past is painful (yeah redundant, right?). So then why is the litany of using his full name “Kevin Wendell Crumb” a trigger for Kevin to front?  If anything that trigger should drive Kevin deeper or make him catatonic (flight, freeze, etc.).  Saying his full name like his mother used to just before physically tormenting Kevin should be a trigger for the Beast (fight) to front and protect Kevin.  This premise is inaccurate in the ways that panic reactions and system protectors work.
  • Still see absolutely no connection from Kevin&’s past to why the Beast would be a cannibal.  Senseless and unnecessary violence on the screen — shock filming at its best — and stigmatization of all plurals by extension.
  • In most real plural systems, the protector is there to protect them all, not just the host.  So the Beast should be protecting the lot of them, not just Kevin.  It’s not implausible, it’s just unlikely.
  • In most real plural systems, if Kevin weren’t fronting and hiding from front for many years due to having been abused, he’d be a little, not an adult.
  • Having DID does not make someone a bad or abusive parent. The hints of this are subtle in the film, but those who catch on will now think that people with DID are not capable of being loving caring parents.  It’s not easy to be a parent in the first place and no one needs to make it harder by burdening disabled or diagnosed parents with that type of stigma.

 Just a Bad Film

  • Horrifyingly bad camera angles especially during fight scenes.
  • Blatant “plotitis” — plot reveals in mini soliloquies explaining the supposed brilliance of the movie plot in ways characters would never have spoken naturally.
  • Shyamalan cut good footage from the film to keep lousy footage in that does not further the plot.  Including his own scene, which has no place being in the movie, and where he gets to prove he’s a bad actor.
  • Casey’s quest to save Kevin& is against modern law. A plural system is held accountable and not forgiven for doing something wrong because of switching.  This perpetuates the stigmatizing myth of people with DID “getting away with” anything (i.e. really getting the insanity defense, which is not the same as getting away with anything) because they switched. We do not, not since 1979 and Billie Milligan.
  • People take too long to die, because someone has to deliver their lines!  You’d think the act of dying would be distracting them from their well-rehearsed lines.  But the power of words is apparently stronger than death itself.
  • Headmates abuse and control Hedwig (age 9) of Kevin& in order to get him to use his power of controlling front (“the Light”) in the film.
  • At some point during filming there was an issue with actual current events and the original ending of the film. They changed the ending of the film during production.  Now there’s a “twist” ending that is so contrived and tacked-on it makes what was already a bad film even worse.
  • The lack of emotional intelligence in this film is appalling.
  • The whole meta-idea that your trauma is your super-power.  Or that trauma creates super-powers.  We will argue that survival is humanity’s superpower somewhere else.  We are all just people, doing our absolute best to survive adversity.  We aren’t super-people because we succeeded.
  • Joseph Dunn exhibits ageism by pushing his father to take it easy way too much for our tastes. David Dunn is an adult and able to live independently and make his own decisions on where to expend his energy and spend his time.  A simple reminder like “Hey, remember to take it easy occasionally.” without the pressing and repetition would be enough to show he cares about his father and that he’s perhaps a little concerned.  And this wasn’t a foreshadowing or plot-driving dialogue.  There’s no relevant point in the film except when his kryptonite-like weakness is involved where David is weak or exhausted.  In fact, even though David is expending energy when he walks through crowds of people and touches people, it never comes up as something that disables him or drains him at any point of the film, making the reveal of it taking energy just a distracting burden that sucks up minutes of screen time.
  • Ableism — torment and abuse of a person in a wheelchair, etc. Also the reason that Glass/Elijah is in the wheelchair in the first place is not because he cannot stand or walk, but because any slip or fall will result in breaking bones.  So he should be doing very careful physical therapy and keeping his muscle tone, because muscles can have protective qualities for his bones.  Deterioration doesn’t support his disability. He had to have stood up to do some of the things he did in the film, like putting pictures back up on the wall.
  • Glass/Elijah is drugged and in a stupor (or apparently so) throughout most of the film in the hopes of keeping him from hurting the staff or attempting a break-out. This shouldn’t be accurate, but is unfortunately probably an accurate level of depiction of institutional abuse.  The problem is that it’s still taking advantage of people at a disadvantage in the making of a film without bettering the situation for those who actually experience this form of abuse.
  • An orderly is checking the med cart to see whether Mr. Glass messed with it, but only looks at the medication list on paper, does not actually open drawers or check pill counts in bottles to say that everything’s ok and that Mr. Glass didn’t mess around with his medications.
  • Why does Glass have a hidden compartment to hide pills in on his wheelchair?  They would provide the cheapest non-luxury wheelchair ever.  No amenities, I’m sure.  Maybe Mrs. Price convinced them to give him a slightly more comfortable model?  Or bought one herself?  Is Mrs. Price Mr. Glass’ Albert?

With a Really Bad Ending

Shyamalan…made a bad film.

Having watched Unbreakable dozens of times, pulled Split apart in a scene-by-scene debunk, reading and watching LOADS of info on Glass, spoilers, behind the scenes crap….

I have very very mixed feelings about this one. And the franchise as a whole.

Shyamalan screwed the pooch, got too clever, and in a purely movie-sense made a bad film.

The IDEA is clever. The execution atrocious.

Let’s up the ante on stigmatizing DID

So to start to get the idea, understand that Kevin& was in Unbreakable. He was a child with his mother.  Early on when David Dunn was testing his “new” abilities, he brushed up against Mrs. Crumb and saw some flashes and got an impression he didn’t follow up on.  Mrs. Crumb was a widow of a man on Eastrail 177 — the train that Elijah Price sabotaged to try to find his nemesis (who turned out to be David Dunn).

Let’s up the ante: Mr. Crumb — Clarence Wendell Crumb — was on Eastrail 177 to go see someone about his wife, because he either suspected or knew she had dissociative identity disorder (DID).  How do we know?  In Glass there is footage of Clarence taking a seat on the train, and he sits down with a brochure on treating DID in his hand.  He was taking a trip to look into hospitalization for his wife’s treatment.

So when Clarence dies, Mrs. Crumb is still taking care of Kevin& but she is abusive.  His trauma from dealing with his DID mother “created” his own DID.  This is not 100% far-fetched, it can happen, and dissociation can run in families.  It’s also possible by the time Eastrail 177 crashed that Kevin& had already been exposed to sufficient abuse to become DID, although being left alone with his abuser may well have amplified the trauma and his condition may have further deteriorated assuming his father was a caring and loving safe refuge.  But the child in the train station was probably towards the old end for developing DID.  The world may never know.

The problem is there are real people with dissociative identity disorder raising children without abusing them. We learned from our parents’ mistakes.And why not something else, something difficult to treat and known to be problematic for children, something not as stigmatized in the media already? Narcissistic personality disorder, opiate abuse or alcoholism, etc. Not trying to throw anyone else under the bus; why double down on DID? Probably because traumatized people have such a hard time defending themselves.

In any case, Joseph Dunn and Mr. Glass both know this fact at the start of the Showdown (the big climax scene of the film), and Joseph tells The Beast who is responsible for his father’s death — then The Beast attacks Mr. Glass.

Everyone should be equally held back to be just “3-leaf clovers.”

Dr. Staple is revealed as a part of a larger conspiracy (with no former hints in any of the films) suppressing emergent superheroes/villains in humanity without taking sides. Basically — eugenics. Ensuring that humanity doesn’t evolve (though it’s not framed that way, that would have been an improvement). Or the opposite of eugenics. Homo sapiens ensuring that there’s no mutants.  Humanity as a whole, oppressed.

They bear a small 3-leaf clover temporary tattoo on the wrist as “a mark of the conspiracy” but it isn’t shown until the “Showdown” scene so it’s not woven into the story at all.  (It’s possibly we missed it and would have to rewatch [PLEASE don’t make us rewatch it!] but it didn’t catch our eye at all before the “showdown” scene). The 3-leaf clover is probably saying that there should be no 4-leaf clover “mutants” — all the mutants should be weeded out.  Everyone should be equally held back to be just “3-leaf clovers.”

The evil cabal is planted in all layers of society with mysterious 3-leaf clover tattoos and they’re in the swat team that shows up in response to the big fight, etc.

How does this unfold?

Mr. Glass conspired to get all our potential superpowereds out of the institution to orchestrate the big battle to be on the lawn because he knows there’s hundreds of cameras on the premises (or because Shyamalan wants to keep the budget and special effects bill low). An unanswered question remains as to how Mr. Glass figures out that there is this conspiracy before they reveal it to the camera.  How he could have figured it out is not revealed — he’s just that “good” — since it was tacked on at the end, there are no clever hints dropped that he (or the audience) could pick up on all along.

After killing an orderly, Glass is messing around in the security booth, he programs a virus for the security system to stream video to a private off-site server — then email Dunn’s son, Casey from Split, and Mrs. Price (Glass’s mom) the footage.

Thus proving that superheroes are real.

So Glass knows he’s on a suicide mission to reveal their powers and thus prove his life justified (although we have no way to know how he knew), so he has proof  (fight between Dunn and Beast).

We’re all here to prove my warped son right.

In the final scene, the non-powered survivors (Dunn’s son, Casey from Split, and Mrs. Price) reveal it to the world suddenly while they’re sitting in the train station.

Essentially the conversation goes: “Did you send it out?” “Yes about 2 hrs ago” “Do you think anyone will see it?”

Then suddenly people walking around the station are all looking at their devices, gobsmacked about Beast & Dunn fighting, proving that superheroes are real.

Oh and the news on the screens in the station is showing the footage too. Like ALL at the same time. 2hrs after it’s uploaded. Right.

Same problem as the spider-man movie: cross-spoiler. Someone has died, but everyone who is closest to them is dry-eyed, hours after it happened. This is what we meant by an extreme lack of emotional intelligence. Trauma. PTSD. Mourning. Nervous breakdown. Exhaustion. Insomnia. Shock. ANYTHING?

Not to mention in the case of Dunn Jr., Mrs Price, & Casey — they were all on-site right there when the big fight happened and watched them die. Like hullo? So they’re all now co-conspirators in revealing this conspiracy to hide super-people.

Oh — and no resentment from Mrs. price about Kevin& killing her son. Or anything like that.

We’re all here to prove my warped son right.

This film footage of our buddies/dad/son dying is going to make it all better.

Let’s back it up a bit…

Casey’s role as Kevin&’s “friend” in this film can be summed up as “Put yourself at risk of grave harm to give physical affection and touch to this person who could have and almost killed you because we ALL know from domestic violence situations how mollifying angry people works!” with a side of, “Oh, yeah, and don’t forget to betray their trust.”

Kevin& dying is one of those B-movie-bad deaths that takes way too long as they cycle through characters (won’t grace it with alters or headmates etc.) that have something left on their mind and need to have minutes of dialogue (or it feels like minutes — they change clothes much faster than this!) to clear the air and make sure they make the audience at least THINK about crying.

Content warning: torture. David Dunn’s death resembles waterboarding. It’s an unnecessary deliberate kill by the conspirators on the swat team to erase him for having superpowers. Later the doctor says (when she goes back to her fellow conspirators) that they don’t kill people — but she’s obviously lying or deluded herself. She didn’t finish Glass off, she decided to give him something resembling peace by confirming that superheroes/villains DO exist and it’s her job to erase them. The swat folk shot Kevin& — not sure whether it was a clover-leaf person or not who did that.

Mega Spoiler

Basically just to confirm in case it was unclear that, yes, you read the long-form spoilers correctly.

All 3 superpowered folk supposedly die in this film, and Dr. Staple confirms this at the conspirator’s meeting at the end of the film.  Shyamalan took the writerly advice “kill your darlings” to the extreme.  I think he didn’t want to have another sequel.  Or he wants to lampoon the fact that superhero deaths are never permanent.  In theory, Cole could be in this universe (from Sixth Sense) and attempt to give the ghosts of Glass, Beast and Overseer (David Dunn) a final rest.  But then he might think that Dunn looks awful familiar (tip: Bruce Willis plays both David Dunn and Cole’s psychiatrist in Sixth Sense).

In any case, hopefully he finds projects far far from this material to work on in the future, and if you want an award-winning good — if spooky and definitely content-warning-worthy — film by Shyamalan where Bruce Willis has a chance to really act, see Sixth Sense.

Photo by erin walker on Unsplash

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