The Mania of "Maniac"


My obsession with psychological tv shows and movies didn’t start after I watched the Netflix Original show Maniac, but it has become my favorite. For starters, it stars Emma Stone and Jonah Hill as Annie and Owen, the two main characters whose mental illnesses take us on the roller coaster of emotions that is the Neberdine Pharmaceutical and Biotech trials of the ULP drug. These trials are an unorthodox way that Dr. Mantleray created to understand the human mind. Maniac was an eye opening ten episodes where I could clearly see the presence of schizophrenia, depression, multiple personality disorder and anxiety through Owen and Annie’s pill trials and family history.


When Annie’s family story about the abandonment from her mother and death of her sister is shared, it’s depicted as the source of her depression. Additionally, her poor relationship with her mother manifested itself in multiple personality disorder, something only seen when Annie gets a trial evaluation back. The pharmaceutical drug testing that she goes through forces her to confront her past trauma and accept she’s the reason her sister died. This process of accessing the issue, figuring out defense mechanisms and then finally confronting the issue is something that I have struggled with my own depression. This grief she is going through is a profound experience. I found that it opened myself up to my own experiences with depression and accepting it’s time to moving on.

Aside from the representation of depression in Annie’s story, schizophrenia was present throughout Owen’s. We repeatedly hear the phrase “Compos Mentis”, which basically means sane or stable in the mind. It came up related to Owen as others sought to validate his sanity and as he grappled to keep a hold on his own reality.To have this control over one’s mind relates heavily to the fact that he’s diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, but needs to be ‘compos mentis’ to follow his father’s orders of lying in court about his rapist brother. Due to having a first hand experience with this mental disorder in my mother and seeing its portrayal on Maniac, there are many similarities with Owen’s case; I appreciated seeing an honest depiction. In Owen’s case, he believes his imaginary brother sent him on a mission to save the world.


The show is riddled with the idea of truth and reality and trying to establish both. Owen’s family uses him to lie in court and then just blames it on his disorder. Using his mental illness for their own benefit and hiring someone to lie about being his girlfriend pushed Owen over the edge, leading to his blip. In the show, a blip refers to a mental break or lapse in reality. This blip or break down he had is also something we get to see Annie go through after she illegally abuses the first of the trial drugs and becomes addicted.


All of these aspects of this very real representation of many mental disorders makes any viewer appreciative of Emma Stone’s and Jonah Hill’s portrayal. There are very few shows I am able to watch twice in a week; Maniac is one of them, in part because of the story of fantasy world and real life helping beat your inner demons with three little pills and a supercomputer. This fantasy world where you have the ability to look inside yourself, find and confront your reasons for hurting is something I envy. The real world is not quite that simple. This show had humor, love, suffering, and battling with themselves, the people in their lives, and their psychosis. I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys shows with futuristic technology and accurate demonstrations of mental illnesses, but still separates the real from the fairytale.