Sunday, June 30, 2013

Special (2006)

Special (2006):

Les: “I’m important and I keep this city running.”

Boss: “Good. Now, repeat.”

Les: “I’m important. I’m important. I’m important…”

Don’t we all wish we could be a superhero? A bored meter maid named Les wants to be able to make a difference in people’s lives. He’s tired of reciting his boss’s mantra “I’m important and I keep  this city running.” without really believing in it. So, he takes an experimental pill called “Special”, and now finds that he can walk through walls, fly, and is telepathic.

    But, his friends all think he’s crazy. And that’s because he is. See, the drug only reduced his capacity for self-doubt. Thus, critical thinking as well. In reality, he’s just running into walls, but he thinks he’s going through them. One time, he stops a robbery at a convience store, and his behavior starts to get more bizarre, and psychotic.
 When he reveals his powers to his friends (who own a comic book store.) they both laugh and play along, so he thinks they witnessed his powers, too. Soon, he jumps off a gas station rooftop and saves a lady’s purse from getting snatched; the friends start to realize that Les is psychotic.

     Meanwhile, Les’s delusions of grandeur only become bigger. He is confronted by men led by “Jonas Exiler” in suits who want to hunt him and use his DNA to clone an army of super soldiers. He successfully battles them off, and rushes to his friends to tell them they are in danger. But, as his friends become more disturbed by Les’s mania, they try to tell him it’s not real. He pulls a gun on them and accuses them of being brainwashed by “The Suits”. And what started out as a very comedic underdog tale becomes insanely darker as Les’s is tortured by his delusions and continues to lash out at the real world. He holds up his doctor at gunpoint, and in another scene is beaten by his delusions with a 2x4 though it’s apparent Les is only beating himself up.

    Having seen elements of psychosis before in others, I’m not entirely sure how accurate the film is, but it seemed to me to be that way. The delusion starts off as innocent, almost like a game (maybe I AM a superhero.) and then before you know it, he’s dressing in costume and beating up “Suits”. The recent influx of superhero movies kind of made me believe it’s a superhero story; so it makes you suspend disbelief for a minute. But, it’s not. It’s a “disability movie” about the nature of schizophrenia.

 I never once thought Les was a bad guy. On the contrary, his delusions reveal him to be a man of a sweet and good nature who only wants to make the world a better place. Before he’s beaten (first) by the Suits, he yells at Jonas Exiler “Who do you think would care if you disappeared, huh? You think you’re so much better than everyone else! Well, you’re not!” (I wonder if he was merely talking to his self-doubt. He wants to doubt himself again, almost.)

I have probably given away too much already, but this is a deeply touching character study about a man tortured both by his everyday life, and then his escape of it. It’s an emotional roller coaster that will keep you rooting for Les all the way through, even in his more psychotic moments, which reveal themselves to be manifestations of his humane motives. But, people don’t have superpowers. To believe otherwise is crazy, right?  


  1. As a psychologist and social worker, one thing about people with schizophrenia is that they tend to isolate themselves due to the intensity of fear pf their delusions and hallucinations. Which isnt to say that this couldnt happen, but during a psychotic break, behavior like a superhero would be unlikely. More likely, theyd be pacing alone in their home locked away and terrified. Another point of contention is that a drug cant make you have schizophrenia. The genesis of the disorder is a combination of genetics and unknown environmental effects. Lastly, I would just like to point out that people with schizophrenia have insecurities like anyone else, but it is most absolutely not the insecurities that drive the disorder. The truth is more of a simple imbalance of chemicals in the brain. For this reason, by correcting this imbalance with medication, we could expect that Les would have a good prognosis, assuming he takes his medication.

  2. In any case, the sci-fi drug in the movie produces psychosis. Though I suppose I did use schizophrenia and psychosis interchangably when I should not have. That's what this blog is about. Encouraging dialogue about disability and sci-fi! Thanks, Aaron!