The Switch

Though disabled characters make but a brief appearance in The Switch, the principal character Wally nevertheless manages to pass on his negative stereotypes about people with mental illness to the next generation. At the beginning of the movie, Wally is waiting for the light to change on a New York City street when a nearby man with some form of neurological illness begins repetitively muttering a commentary on the people surrounding him. A lady with a limp is referred to as “Pig-faced, gimpy, limping mama”; when Wally looks askance at the man, he mutters “Beady-eyed little man boy”.

He's not hurting anybody, but a mentally ill man's utterances are making Wally insecure.

Perhaps the man has come uncomfortably close to the truth, because Wally whines about such treatment to his best friend Kassie and opines that the man probably had Tourette Syndrome. Wally’s uninformed diagnosis is probably wrong, as Tourette Syndrome is characterized more by physical (motor) tics such as eye blinking, coughing, throat clearing, sniffling, and facial movements. Vocal or phonic tics are rare in adults affected by Tourette’s. But the most telling characteristic that distinguishes the man on the sidewalk as affected by some other form of mental or neurological illness that causes coprolalia is his seeming lack of self-awareness about it. A person who truly had Tourette’s would likely be trying to control his tics by distracting himself, or consciously adding “Sorry, I have Tourette’s” by way of explanation.

Wally soon gets embroiled in Kassie’s quest to have a child via sperm donor before moving away for several years. When she returns with Sebastian, a child who reminds Wally of the neurotic wimpy youngster he was at that age, Wally (perhaps remembering his fear of the man on the sidewalk) advises him to stand up to a bully by “acting crazy” so that people will be afraid of him. It doesn’t work, and Sebastian is beaten up by a bigger boy.

1 Comment
  1. OR, a person could look at it like this… A/ It’s not supposed to be an educational movie. It’s realistic in the sense that the general population doesn’t know the gamut of disorders and their characteristics, or have the DSM memorized. Wally is obviously self-centered and doesn’t “get out much.” That’s his character. B/ This man with the seemingly neurological disorder is very accurate in his analyses of the people at the crosswalk, thus giving us more insight into Wally and how personally he’s taking it, likely because it’s true. He’s a big baby, a hypochondriac, again, his character. This shows the unnamed man in a positive light in my opinion, his insight and telling it like it is.

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