You are here

Mind Over Pop Culture: Sybil

Sybil is the mother of all multiple personality disorder movies. It was the first one to really catch the public’s imagination (except Jekyll and Hyde).  It helped solidify what dissociative identity disorder looked like to the general public, and how they should feel about people with the illness. My question in watching it is whether it’s any good. As it turns out, it’s very good.

Sybil is a 1976 miniseries starring Sally Field as Sybil and Joanne Woodward as her psychologist, Dr. Wilbur. Sybil is a timid, shy woman who is having blackouts. She meets Dr. Wilbur in the hospital during one of her blackout sessions, and begins to work with her to address her illness. Eventually, Dr. Wilbur sees her switch personalities and diagnoses her as having Dissociative Identity Disorder (which was then Multiple Personality Disorder). Working with all of the different personalities through the trauma that caused their creation, as well Sybil’s relationship with her neighbor, a handsome single father, the two women are eventually able to integrate all of the personalities and get Sybil to a positive place in her life.

Having seen many of movies and television portrayals of dissociative identity disorder that came from Sybil, I was a bit worried about watching it. Many of the newer portrayals are overacted messes, with personalities flying out and little recognition of the trauma involved with their creation. I was pleasantly surprised that Sybil is such a mellow movie. The framework of how the personalities switch is underplayed beautifully. Often, the change is signaled by Sybil taking off her glasses. Field plays Sybil’s personalities as variations on her main personality, instead of completely different people. I’m not sure if that’s more realistic than other portrayals are, but it felt more realistic, and made more sense. In addition, the movie helps by casting children to play her personalities in flashbacks and in mirrors, so we see what Sybil sees. It’s a nice touch that helps educate what the audience is supposed to understand about the illness and about Sybil. The abuse is addressed head-on, in flashbacks that are increasingly disturbing, but never violent, cheap or unnecessary.

Dr. Wilbur is an idealized version of a doctor, one who never makes mistakes and only has her patient’s best interests at heart. She’s a comforting, calming presence for Sybil, and for the movie in general. In fact, there’s a scene where she hugs Sybil, because “people need hugs sometimes.” The movie offhandedly points out that Dr. Wilbur is presenting papers on Sybil while still treating her by wrapping the trip up in a visit to Sybil’s family. (Later, Dr. Wilbur’s work with Sybil, and her diagnosis of multiple personality disorder, would be questioned, and Dr. Wilbur’s influence on Sybil’s life would be reviewed.) All of Sybil’s personalities love Dr. Wilbur, and all of them get along with her, which is unlikely. All of them are willing to do what Dr. Wilbur says without question, which is also unlikely, and a bit troubling. That being said, Joanne Woodward does a good job with the character, making her appealing and kindhearted.

I was amazed at how complete a person Sybil was. As we’ve seen with this blog, most characters are defined entirely by their mental health condition. Here, Sybil’s Dissociative Identity Disorder is the focus of the movie, but we see her relationship with Richard, her neighbor. A young single father, he’s a good influence on her, and they have a happy, if a bit unconventional, relationship. She spends time with his son, and that’s encouraged by Dr. Wilbur. Eventually, Richard saves her from a suicide attempt by another personality, and is too frightened to continue the relationship. Breaking up with him doesn’t set Sybil’s treatment back weeks, or cause her to collapse into depression; instead, the movie uses it to highlight how her treatment is helping her cope with life. We see her substitute teach, paint and play the piano. Overall, Sybil is a complete person who has other personalities that help with the ups and downs of life, just like in real life.

Sometimes, the classics are classic for a reason. Sybil is a better movie than I was expecting, knowing only the cheap knock-offs that have come after it. I don’t think it’s very realistic, but it’s not afraid to address some of the really ugly stuff that goes along with Dissociative Identity Disorder in a way that’s not tawdry or cheap. It might be looking at her with rose-colored glasses, but the movie is still compelling enough with them. I’d say it’s worth a watch.


Next week, we’ll take a look at another classic, Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Have you seen Sybil? What did you think?


I'm really enjoying the design and layout of your website.
It's a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to
come here and visit more often. Did you hire out
a developer to create your theme? Outstanding work!

Here is my blog annonce coquine - Marjorie -

A wide range of Coach online are on sale in our Coach official website.
Our goods are of high quality and an affordable price. You will enjoy
more from:Are coach bags made in china

Heya! I realize this is sort of off-topic but I needed
to ask. Does building a well-established website like yours require
a large amount of work? I am completely new to operating a blog but I do write in my journal on a
daily basis. I'd like to start a blog so I will be able
to share my experience and thoughts online. Please let me know if you have any ideas or tips for brand new aspiring blog owners.
Appreciate it!

My page; instagram follower hac

It's hard to come by well-informed people on this subject, however, you
seem like you know what you're talking about! Thanks

Also visit my homepage; check this

Howdy! Someone in my Myspace group shared this website with us
so I came to look it over. I'm definitely loving the information. I'm bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers!
Exceptional blog and outstanding design and style.

Here is my site; nike free damen

Buy the very cheap jordans free shipping all over the world,our retro
jordan shoes all sizes for men and women, nike jordan shoes cheap

where real mk bags come from our handbags outlet on line store in cheap authentic michael kors usa official online.
big event, filling light means less hassle for the airline crew, Your operater, the hotel staff,
finally you, inducing a more relaxing vacation and
travel experience. You'll feel a sense triumph as you ease through security, Toss your bag vehicle, And later
fling it lightly over your shoulder as you cruise to your hotel room.
Who cares that you wore those pants last week? You're on christmas, Leaving your own cares, and
the majority of of your closet, driving, Designer Michael
Kors known for his combine minimalism and “wearability.” michael kors canada discount yarn sale johnson photos
Related Article:

  • Have a look at my web blog; michael kors factory outlet online (

    There is certainly a great deal to learn about this
    issue. I like all of the points you made.

    Have a look at my website angular cheilitis free forever book

    I'm pretty pleased to uncover this web site. I want to to thank you for your time due to
    this wonderful read!! I definitely really liked every bit of it and i also have you bookmarked to check out new things on your site.

    Review my page: описание препарата sustanoliq-260 (сустанон)

    High Quality And Discounted Prices Of Factory Michael Kors Handbags
    Outlet Store Online Clearance Sale Light Up Your Life. From
    Now Your Life Will Full Of Light!

    more from:michael kors outlet locations


    Add new comment

    Filtered HTML

    • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
    • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
    • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

    Plain text

    • No HTML tags allowed.
    • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
    • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
    This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
    Image CAPTCHA
    Enter the characters shown in the image.

    2000 N. Beauregard Street,
    6th Floor Alexandria, VA 22311

    Phone (703) 684.7722

    Toll Free (800) 969.6642

    Fax (703) 684.5968

    Text Resize

    -A +A

    The links on this page may contain document data that requires additional software to open: