Moon Knight Promises a Renewed Focus on Mental Health Issues
Audiences got a first look at the long-awaited Moon Knight series as part of Disney+ Day. The teaser trailer showed Oscar Isaac in the lead role of Marc Spector/Moon Knight for the first time as he takes down baddies in the iconic white suit, but the voiceover alluded to the comic version of the character’s mental health issues. In a hopefully refreshing step forward for the franchise, Marvel Studios will be framing the show and Spector himself around his Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) instead of erasing or glossing over it -- making him and his series one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s darkest.
In the Moon Knight comics, Spector famously suffers from DID, a disorder that manifests after extreme trauma as multiple identities or personality states and gaps in memory about past events and the present. The comics honed in on the aspect of DID that creates the multiple identities, known in the DID community as alters, as a story-telling prosthesis to help Spector gather information to fight crime. These alters include billionaire Steven Grant, cab driver Mr. Lockley and Mr. Knight. The first-look trailer teased some of these alters through the voiceover, with Isaac’s Spector saying, “I can’t tell the difference between my waking life and dreams,” and later shown blinking out of an alter episode, covered in blood and surrounded by bodies.
If the Moon Knight series handles Spector’s DID respectfully, it will show him both using it to fight crime and learning how to navigate his personal life and the world with it. The teaser trailer has already gone out of its way to confirm that the show will be focusing on Spector’s mental health issues by introducing his alters, showing artsy shots of his reflection remaining static in a mirror while he walks away, and having him express doubt about his perception of reality. The trailer's dark tone implies that his struggles with DID, on top of being the acolyte of an Egyptian god, are going to be the focus of this series.
While other MCU characters like Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and Thor have struggled with PTSD, suicidal tendencies or depression at some point in their character arcs, the severity of Spector’s mental health problems and the way they manifest make him one of the darkest characters in the franchise. His lack of control, anxiety over reality and multiple identities significantly alter the way he moves through the world and his perception of being a hero, all of which will contribute to the series being one of the MCU's more serious outings. The franchise, though, has historically mishandled the way they treat their characters’ mental health issues; Thor’s depression in Endgame was the butt of the joke while Bruce Banner’s suicide attempts were relegated to a single off-hand comment.
The portrayal of Wanda Maximoff’s grief and depression in WandaVision is a sign that the MCU is moving away from these harmful depictions and towards mental health issues as a fact of life. Spector’s DID is something unlike the other mental health issues in the MCU, and has the possibility of being shown in a sensational manner like other pop culture depictions of DID. Conversely, Moon Knight can move the needle in the opposite direction by embracing it as a necessary part of Spector’s identity while keeping its dark tone.