How Moon Knight Succeeds in Its Portrayal of Mental Illness

Editor’s note: The below article contains spoilers for Episode 6 of Moon Knight.The season finale of Moon Knight gave us just about everything we wanted. Action, adventure, plot twists, and revelations were all there, but this new Marvel show is already one of the most important works of the MCU — not because of the adventure itself, or the implications it has for the shared universe its main character exists in. By now, it’s a well-known fact that Marc Spector (oscar isaac) is a person who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), and shares his body with other personalities, the most active being gift shop vendor Steven “with a V” Grant. While in reality, mental illness may not be as simple to deal with as in the show — none of us have an Egyptian deity to argue with — Moon Knight does bring a positive approach to such an important issue.


Marvel’s new content strategy has their universe — or better yet, their multiverse — flowing simultaneously both in movie theaters and on streaming via Disney+, and that has allowed them a little more room to tackle some key issues our world currently faces. shows like WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier were successful in dealing with spiky stuff such as grief and racism in our current society, respectively, and Moon Knight carried on this tradition by tackling mental health. Of course, we are talking about a TV show, so there are bound to be some inaccuracies and differences in how mental health is seen and dealt with, but, in general, Moon Knight does a great job.

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After suffering a childhood trauma, the circumstances of which are revealed over Moon Knight‘s first season, Marc Spector develops a case of DID, and now shares his body with a range of different personalities. Each of them has their own traits, as well as strengths and weaknesses. The Steven Grant alter has been created as a way to deal with his grief from him after losing his younger brother Randall, whereas Jake Lockley may have originated to serve the more gross aspects of Marc’s professional life from him as a mercenary, and so on. In the beginning, whoever the dominant alter is suffers from memory loss when another of the personalities takes control of the body.

Marc and Steven are the personalities we get to see most of in the season, and, initially, they have trouble sharing the body they inhabit. When one of them takes over, the other one tries to wrest control back, they resist each other to the point of attempting sabotage, and so on. Things start to get better for them, ironically, in one of their most desperate hours. In the third episode, “The Friendly Type,” Marc and his Egyptian deity frenemy Khonshu (F.Murray Abraham) have to address the Ennead, the ancient council of Egyptian gods. When the meeting goes south and Marc’s sanity is contested, he declares that he is, in fact, unwell. Despite the problems the gathering causes for them later on, the positive effect is that the relationship between Marc and Steven starts to improve significantly, showing us what the first step in dealing with mental illness is: accepting it.

In time, Marc and Steven learn to accept and welcome who they are, as well as what their strengths and weaknesses, but, most of all, they learn to work together within the same body. When they have to track the tomb of the evil goddess Ammit, they are only able to accomplish their mission by recognizing that the other might be better at specific situations. Again, during “The Friendly Type”, Steven admits Marc is the better fighter, and Marc relies on Steven’s knowledge of Egyptian mythology to track down the tomb. Even Khonshu starts treating Steven with respect after being very dismissive of him at the start of the show. These occasions are the perfect analogy for how embracing one’s condition makes it easier for us to live our lives. Not easy, but easier.

This leads us to another very important thing about living with a mental illness: opening up. It’s not readily done, and not everyone feels comfortable enough to do so, but having a trusting circle of people who are aware of your condition is definitely helpful. It’s remarkable that Khonshu changes his approach from him to Steven after Marc admits that he is n’t doing well, mental health-wise, in the meeting with the Ennead, but when it’s all said and done, Khonshu is someone none of them trust . In the show’s second episode, “Summon the Suit”, though, their condition is revealed to Layla El-Faoully (May Calamawy), Marc’s estranged wife. She is uncertain at first and thinks it’s all a ruse by Marc to keep her at a distance — although the inclination to keep people in the dark about the condition and to push others away is one of the most common symptoms of most mental illnesses. In moments like these, backing off is what most people would do, and for a myriad of reasons — feeling insecure about how to help, being scared, etc. But Layla is sensitive enough to embrace Marc and Steven both, with all that the gesture might bring. When a loved one opens up about their condition, it takes a lot of courage not only from them, but also for whom they open up to — and Layla is among the bravest characters in the series.

With the right people by your side and seeking the appropriate treatment prescribed by a specialist, living with a mental condition is possible (unfortunately, though, Marc and Steven don’t have a therapist, only one another and a pestering giant bird skull). Everything may seem frightening and, let’s face it, it kind of is — but there are ways of living a full life despite whatever condition we may have. That’s what Marc and Steve discover by the end of the season when they acknowledge the fact that they are not so different, after all, and one is a vital part of the other. How they deal with the emergence of Jake Lockley, later on, is a matter yet to be seen in the future, whenever Marvel gets around to revealing what happens next.

While most of us would rather have what is considered to be a “normal” mind, there are ways of helping ourselves to coexist with our mental conditions. The key to that is threefold: accepting that we have said condition, whatever it may be; embracing what it brings to our lives, both the good and the bad; and, finally, learning to live with it. It’s not easy, and, for many of us, it’s the work of a lifetime — but it is possible, and seeing this portrayed in such a sensitive and positive light in a show as big as Moon Knight is rewarding and refreshing.


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