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“Frankie & Alice” Motion Picture: Race and Mental Care

Frankie & Alice is a Canadian motion picture by Berry, Cirrincione, DeKaric, Zaidi, and Sax (2010). It is based on a real story of an Afro-American woman with a Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Frankie is the protagonist, a go-go dancer who begins to experience violent episodes and blackouts. However, it takes her some time to search for professional help, and this fact can be related to discrimination issues.

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Barriers and Access to Care

The topic of the dynamics between people of different races is very extensively explored in Frankie & Alice; in fact, Frankie’s DID forces her to assume the roles of black Frankie and white Alice from time to time (Lehman, 2014). Nowadays, racial disparities are still present in modern healthcare (Cook et al., 2013). At the period that is presented in Frankie & Alice, the issues must have been more severe, which is also demonstrated through the extensive exploration of the topic of racism throughout the picture (Lehman, 2014). In fact, the onset of Frankie’s illness must have been triggered by her mother supposedly murdering Frankie’s newborn child because Frankie’s partner (the child’s father) was white. Similarly, the relationship between Frankie and her partner was extremely discouraged by their families, which prompted them to try to elope and resulted in the young man’s death.

The typical effect of discrimination on minorities in the context of mental institutions includes fewer cases of initiation and lower quality of care (Cook et al., 2013). However, the reasons for this effect can be multiple, and they do not have to be limited to actual hostility and racism. For example, Cook et al. (2013) point out that linguistic and cultural barriers can result in misunderstandings, leading to a lower quality of care. In this respect, the cultural awareness training and anti-discrimination measures can ensure an improvement of the situation. However, Cook et al. (2013) also mention socioeconomic factors that can prevent racial minorities from getting quality care, and it is a systemic problem the healthcare sector cannot resolve on its own.

It is noteworthy that Frankie is discriminated for multiple reasons, which she knows. In one discussion with Dr. Oz, she states that people who see a “black stripper” immediately assume that she cannot be smart or have a genius-level IQ, which one of her personalities does. In other words, she experiences intersectional discrimination that is based on her race, gender, and occupation. From this perspective, it can be assumed that Frankie does not expect to be treated appropriately. This factor can explain Frankie’s reluctance to start seeing a professional, which shows that discrimination prevents people from getting help in more than one way. It is also important that Frankie regards mental illnesses as stigmas, and she is reluctant to admit having one since she is already greatly stigmatized. Therefore, the problem of treatment access cannot be resolved without the deconstruction of the stigmas and the increase in tolerance and cultural awareness in the society as a whole.

The relationships between Frankie and the professionals who try to help her are important for her well-being and recovery. Dr. Oz is the main character in this respect, and he is very supportive. For example, once he realizes that Frankie is worried about being stigmatized, he tries to reassure her. He is caring and responsible; he agrees to start working with Frankie when she asks him to, even though he intended to send her to another specialist. Dr. Oz is professional, and he successfully searches for the ways to help Frankie recover, eventually coming up with the idea of showing her a tape that recorded all her personalities. Most importantly, he manages to win Frankie’s trust, and he does not betray it by discriminating her. As he promises, there are no stigmas in his office.

Thus, Frankie & Alice demonstrates that the effects which discrimination can have on the mental health of a person are multiple and destructive, and a healthcare professional needs to be aware of this fact.


Berry, H., Cirrincione, V., DeKaric, S., Zaidi, H. (Producers), & Sax, G. (Director). (2010). Frankie & Alice [Motion picture]. Canada: CodeBlack Films.

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Cook, B., Zuvekas, S., Carson, N., Wayne, G., Vesper, A., & McGuire, T. (2013). Assessing racial/ethnic disparities in treatment across episodes of mental health care. Health Services Research, 49(1), 206-229. Web.

Lehman, K. (2014). Woman, divided: Gender, family, and multiple personalities in media. The Journal of American Culture, 37(1), 64-73. Web.

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