Mental Disorders in the Lars and the Real Girl Movie

Introduction

Lars and the Real Girl is a movie about a man who suffered a childhood trauma that severely affected his perception of the world and forced him to develop a relationship with a silicone doll which he considered to be his girlfriend. The plot provides the audience with numerous hints at the process of a treatment since Lars’ character builds up dynamically throughout the story and changes his attitudes toward the surroundings while subsequently overcoming his personality disorder. Considering the information one may learn from the movie, it may be hypothesized that Lars battles with schizoid personality disorder caused by his mother’s untimely death and spoiled relationships with the father. Other important characters interacting with Lars who move the plot forward are Gus (Lars’ brother), Karin (Gus’ wife), and Margo (Lars’ coworker and potential love interest). The complex story told in Lars and the Real Girl is a double entendre aimed at proving how important it is to pay closer attention to mental disorders and strive to help those who need professional assistance.

Constructivism in Lars and the Real Girl

An essential idea that has to be mentioned when discussing Lars’ obsession with Bianca, a silicone doll that he considers to be his girlfriend, is that his delusional thinking does not bother him in any way. While Lars’ behaviors do not display a correct representation of a Delusional Disorder from DSM-5, it may be safe to say still that his schizoid fantasies are a source of horrific realizations for Gus during the brother’s first meeting with Bianca.1 The pride that Lars experiences when showing off his new girlfriend is countered by Gus’ terror while also being reinforced by Karin’s thoughts about how Lars’ willingness to leave the house and interact with other people could be a small but rather meaningful personal victory. The constructivist thesis that can be associated with this scene is that the form of communication does not actually matter when it comes to battling a mental disorder without knowing or realizing it.

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Lars is heavily insecure because of his inability to interact with the world how an adult actually should, and it bothers him somewhere deep inside since there were no parents that could confirm the authentic selfhood possessed by Lars. The lack of emotional connection makes him rather fragile in terms of sensitivity and makes it harder for him to see the world for what it actually is. Lars simply cannot stop protecting his personality from the discomfort similar to the one Gus and Karin experienced during their first dinner with Bianca.2 Therefore, Lars’ ability to construct a safe environment around him is what makes him feel safer. Even though the movie does not present any specific information regarding Lars’ schizoid personality disorder, there is no need for a diagnosis to see how his behavior transformed as soon as he started his relationship with Bianca. It may be safe to say that Lars was rather likely to construct a theory about himself and engage Bianca in all of his encounters with other people in order to make her a part of the coping strategy.

Bianca as a Transitional Object and the Role of Child Development Theories

Speaking of Bianca, it should also be noted that this silicone doll cannot be considered as anything else rather than a pure transitional object utilized by Lars to restore the feeling of connection to a primary caregiver. Irrespective of whether Bianca is a “wounded child or a mother restored to life,”3 she is a means of overcoming the inherent vulnerabilities for Lars. He recurrently runs back to his association with the silicone doll because he feels, at first, that she is his only source of affection and understanding. Being deprived of proper motherly love, Lars tends to display behaviors that resemble attachment. These manifestations of attachment cannot be considered healthy, though, because Lars becomes skeptical about human interactions and sees them as worth avoiding. Since the very moment of his mother’s death, Lars needed a transitional object that would guide him through the trauma.

The process of transition, in turn, is supported by Lars’ increased awareness of his willingness to remain separated from other individuals and live a peaceful life with his newly found partner, Bianca. Interestingly, Lars never tends to perceive the doll as a sexual object, as he loves her, which is best shown during the lake scene, when Lars opens up to Bianca.4 As a transitional object, Bianca served as an assistant in terms of developing relationships with real people for Lars, as he recurrently struggled with real-life interactions throughout his whole life. Irrespective of whether it is a baby blanket or a sex doll, the effect of a transitional object cannot be underestimated, and the movie outlines the role of such objects perfectly.

The Role of Family Ties in Lars and the Real Girl

Delusional narratives developed by Lars are also supported by his own anxiety that has become a reality for him after the mother died after giving birth to him. This made Lars feel as if he was not welcomed in the real world, so he decided to set himself apart and create a safe distance between other people and himself. Owing to the efforts exerted by Karin and Gus, Lars and Bianca begin visiting the doctor and start making significant progress in terms of helping Lars overcome his anxiety. While Karin is extremely concerned with Lars, she does not realize that, most likely, it was her pregnancy that caused Lars’ psychosis at the end of the day.5 Lars, on the other hand, does not want to develop any meaningful relationships with real people, as his interactive capability is blocked by childhood trauma. Even though Margo, the new coworker, sparks interest in Lars, he still remains reluctant to interacting with real people.

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Another important scene that has to be covered when discussing Lars’ mental health is one of his visits to the doctor, where he finally learns that he and Bianca have a lot in common.6 The family history plays an important role in Lars’ personal development, as Bianca’s mother also died when giving birth and numerous other points that have made her synonymous with Lars. Even though Gus is terrified by his brother’s behavior, he manages to remain calm and help his brother overcome the psychological crisis. Despite the evident issues in family functioning (e.g., the mother’s death and the father’s distant relations with the brothers), all of them are still able to experience love and understanding, which ultimately helps Lars to set Bianca free – and, evidently, grow past the childhood trauma.

Lars’ Mental Transcendence

Since most locals realize that it might be beneficial to play along and help Lars overcome his childhood trauma, the movie represents an important rendition of the idea that community efforts pay off and establish a positive example for future generations. Even though some of them are skeptical at first, they “establish an empathic, supportive, and at times, even an appropriately confiding relationship”7 closer to the end of the story. Despite Lars and the Real Girl being evidently surrealistic imagery of the real world, the audience is exposed to the most common scenarios that are characteristic of interpersonal relationships, even though Lars’ relations only include one real person. When Lars mimics romantic relationships, he strives toward achieving peace of mind and establishing a proper conversation with the inner self in order to escape the vicious circle of his childhood trauma.

The director of Lars and the Real Girl does not shy away from including numerous instances of double entendre in Lars’ conversations with others. While the primary reason for this is Lars’ inability to take a head-on approach to most of his conversations, it may also be noted that the first encounters with Bianca in church and the workplace were all filled with conflict and misunderstanding.8 In a sense, the majority of conflict situations caused Lars to look at his surroundings without paying attention to the background of his communication or the possible double meanings behind what other people tell him. Not only is this a clever way to highlight Lars’ mental disorder, but it is also an instrument intended to help the director to transfer Lars’ experiences to the audience.

Deceptive Reality in Lars and the Real Girl

Another crucial subject that has to be covered when discussing mental wellbeing on the basis of Lars from Lars and the Real Girl is that there are both artificial and realistic concepts included in the movie that cannot be left out when analyzing the main character’s struggles. According to Yan, for example, there could be a definite association between the reality test competency and subjective omnipotence9, making it safe to say that Lars ultimately became the person that contributed to his own therapeutic process. The psychologist’s and the brother family’s efforts were crucial as well, but they did not encapsulate the role of Bianca in Lars’ life as much as Lars did. When Lars sings to Bianca closer to the end of the movie, it liberates him and finally assists in seeing the bigger picture.

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The reality in Lars and the Real Girl may only be considered deceptive as long as Lars chooses to hinder his psychological exploration and limit it to the relationship with Bianca, where he practically experiments with everything he is afraid to try in real life. All the ups and downs experienced by Lars can be associated with how he projects his own trauma10 and tries to overcome the evident discomfort with the help of supporting delusions. No one laughs when interacting with Lars, including the audience, because many people are aware of such affectionate restraints from personal experience and would not want anyone to feel anything similar. Optimism displayed by the supporting characters is a depiction of how people should address mental disorders in real life and stay away from victimizing behaviors.

The Therapeutic Background of Lars’ Break-Up with Bianca

The most significant idea that has to be addressed when reviewing the therapeutic background of Lars’ relationship with Bianca is the fact that he finally agreed to move out from his controlled environment for the sake of the real world. Lars and the Real Girl depicts these attitudes best during multiple instances of local people interacting with Bianca without showing any sign of disbelief or laughing at Lars’ mental disorder belligerently. Everything that happens to Bianca seems to concern a lot of citizens, as they have united in a conscious attempt to help Lars to restore human contact.11 The process of exploration means the world to Lars, as he creates the ground for his own liberation by interacting with the transitional object that is physically encased in a sex doll. The familiarity of such personal issues averts locals from laughing at Lars as well.

At the end of the day, the therapeutic result for both Lars and the audience is the sense of catharsis that has to be achieved in order to move on with one’s life and pursue positive outcomes without looking back at past trauma and its consequences. Even though the movie itself is not pretentious enough in terms of portraying itself as a story from the real world, it becomes evident early throughout the movie that the emotions lived by Lars could be experienced by any given member of the audience. The two scenes that signify the changes occurring to Lars are him caring for Margo’s teddy bear and Karin and her baby. Lars successfully transitions to adulthood and no longer needs a fictional figure to support his cause.

Conclusion

The movie Lars and the Real Girl took a rather unorthodox approach to depict a mental disorder. Throughout the movie, the audience witnesses how Lars, the main character of the story, overcomes childhood trauma by developing a close relationship with an inanimate object, which is a sex doll. Schizoid personality disorder display is rather accurate, and the ultimate idea of paying closer attention to mental illnesses is successfully reinforced, as almost every character in the movie tends to comfort Lars and show their concern with Bianca throughout all of the stages of her development. Lars’ psychosis was overcome with the help of empathy and understanding that were mildly forwarded to Lars every time when he wanted everyone to interact with Bianca. Lars and the Real Girl does not serve as a recommendation for therapeutic practices, but it rather shows that mental disorders tend to stem from early childhood, causing serious damage even during one’s adulthood.

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Reference List

Gillespie N, Lacan and the Posthuman, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Hughes-death T, ‘Psychoanalysis and the Scene of Love: Lars and the Real Girl, In the Mood for Love, and Mulholland Drive (2013), Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 17-33.

Markotić N, ‘Punching Up the Story: Disability and Film’ (2008), Canadian Journal of Film Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 2-10.

Remington T, ‘Lars and the Real Girl: Lifelike Positive Transcendence’ (2011), SAGE Open, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-10.

Weisel-Barth J, ‘Loneliness and the Creation of Realness in Lars and the Real Girl‘ (2008), International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 111-118.

Yan W, ‘Trauma of Object Loss and Repair of Object Relationship: Psychoanalysis of the Film “Lars and the Real Girl“‘ (2019), Psychological Communications, vol. 2, no. 3, p. 233.

Footnotes

  • 1 Hughes-d’Aeth T, ‘Psychoanalysis and the Scene of Love: Lars and the Real Girl, In the Mood for Love, and Mulholland Drive‘ (2013), Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 43, no. 2, p. 18.
  • 2 Hughes-d’Aeth, Psychoanalysis and the Scene of Love, p. 18.
  • 3 Weisel-Barth J, ‘Loneliness and the Creation of Realness in Lars and the Real Girl‘ (2008), International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, vol. 4, no. 1, p. 116.
  • 4 Weisel-Barth, Loneliness, p. 117.
  • 5 Gillespie N, Lacan and the Posthuman, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, p. 165.
  • 6 Gillespie, Lacan, p. 166.
  • 7 Remington T, ‘Lars and the Real Girl: Lifelike Positive Transcendence’ (2011), SAGE Open, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 7.
  • 8 Remington, Transcendence, p. 7.
  • 9 Yan W, ‘Trauma of Object Loss and Repair of Object Relationship: Psychoanalysis of the Film “Lars and the Real Girl”’ (2019), Psychological Communications, vol. 2, no. 3, p. 233.
  • 10 Yan, Trauma, p. 233.
  • 11 Markotić N, ‘Punching Up the Story: Disability and Film’ (2008), Canadian Journal of Film Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 2.

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