When I Became A Werewolf

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The Ohio State University

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Film scholars have connected werewolves to everything from urban violence to sexual maturation but, while they have touched on the idea of lycanthropy, these monsters bear another under-analyzed dimension related to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder and depression. My thesis investigates the parallels between depictions of the werewolf and that of bipolar disorder and depression and asks to what extent the werewolf can be used to reflect or even change attitudes toward mental illness. Using close textual analysis, I track these portraits from classical and medieval mythology to modern horror films, paying particular attention to the differences in how these texts portray female and male werewolves. Additionally, a survey on human fear of monsters was also conducted, which revealed patterns of people’s attitudes toward mental illness and werewolves. Historically, women with mental illness have been demonized more thoroughly even than their male counterparts, and this tendency can be seen throughout older literature and folklore, as well as permeating into werewolf films. However, more recent films have transformed the male werewolf from monster into sympathetic hero, seemingly coinciding with a positive shift in attitudes toward mental illness. Yet depictions of female werewolves remain almost exclusively demonic, hyper-sexualized, or pathetic, with a minority of more sympathetic portrayals that may indicate some progress. My results agree with my original theory that the film industry has the potential to positively alter the ideas about mental illness through werewolf and other monster films, but in order to do so, must change the outdated formulas of gender stereotypes and mental illness that are continuously displayed to better represent the advancements in today’s mental health field.


Honorable Mention in Humanities at The Denman Undergraduate Research Forum 2015


werewolves, mental illness, bipolar disorder, depression, horror film, gender studies