What’s Wrong With «The Crowded Room» About Dissociative Identity Disorder

Tom Holland shocked his fans last month when he announced he was taking a year break from acting to take care of his mental health after playing Danny Sullivan on Apple TV The crowded room. At first, it was hard to understand why the show, which follows a young man accused of attempted murder as he reveals his dark past, got hammered in the reviews and the series didn’t really seem to make a splash.

However, many reviews alluded to a big twist in episode 7. Now that twist is common knowledge: Danny Sullivan is a guest in a dissociative identity disorder system, and the crimes were not committed by him, but by his alters. The characters viewers thought were Danny’s friends and protectors were actually part of Danny’s inner life, and in later episodes we see them front or show up in Danny’s demeanor. His accent, his posture, and his entire personality change.

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It wasn’t much of a twist if you knew where to look. The entire series is loosely based on the real-life case of serial rapist Billy Milligan, who pleaded insane due to DID and was found innocent. Book by Daniel Keyes The Minds of Billy Milligan he’s even credited in the opening sequence, making the twist a little less shocking than intended.

What’s not surprising, however, is how another fictionalized story of Dissociative Identity Disorder is tied to murder. From Dressed to kill TO Dividedfictional examples of this disorder are often shown as dangerous, violent, and people The crowded room it seems to perpetuate it.

Whenever there is any kind of media surrounding DID, I butt in almost every time because it is so misrepresented in the media, says Kelly Caniglia, MA, LCMHC, LMHC, CCTP Reverse. Caniglia is a board member of An Infinite Mind, a non-profit organization that provides resources and support to those living with DID.

Much of The crowded roomThe action is told through interrogation.


Dissociative identity disorder, formerly referred to as multiple personality disorder, is a trauma response in which an individual experiences something so traumatic that memories, feelings, and traits are fragmented and spread across multiple identities. It’s a surprisingly common occurrence. 1.5% of this population lives with DID. They are more of people than redheads, says Caniglia. It’s much more common than you think. And so this is a whole human race that we’re essentially spotlighting and trying to cash in on quickly.

To the show’s credit, the mastermind behind it is clear The crowded room took to mind a responsible portrait of DID. We’ve read Daniel Keyes’ book, we’ve read articles on the subject, we’ve watched films and documentaries, we’ve talked to experts and specialists in this field, said Tom Holland Reverses Hoai-Tran Bui during the press conference of the series. Caniglia points to elements that show this research, such as the representation of Danny’s internal space as the homonymous crowded room, a space where the alters gather and discuss what to do next. This internal space is something experienced by some (but not all) DID systems.

But it’s hard to sustain this show as a thoughtful and thoughtful reflection on this disorder when it’s treated as a gotcha, as a narrative twist full of shock and awe, not something that’s simply part of who the character is. However, Tom Holland has defended the choice. What’s really important about our show is understanding that there’s more to Danny than DID than him. We wanted the public to get to know him as a human being before people make assumptions about this mental health issue, this affliction that he has, he said.

The interior space shown in The crowded room is accurate for some cases of DID.


For Caniglia, the twist was a low fruit. There are so many pieces in DID that aren’t widely understood, he said, so it’s fascinating to those who don’t know him and it’s fascinating to think about what? Does this body have 50 people inside? What does it look like? How does it work?

So what could this series do to portray this disorder in a more sensitive light? For Caniglia, it could be as simple as a disclaimer that this is a DID story, or any other way to use this high-profile platform of the show to spread awareness of what DID is about in our world beyond violent stereotypes.

He also pointed out that there are other works that are working against this archetype, such as director Dylan Crumpler’s short film Petals of a roseor even from the Marvel series Knight of the Moon. It was still a violent depiction of a DID system, but it showed a hero as someone living with DID. The population finally had a positive representation to look up to: a real superhero. Considering past representations, this is a big step.

The crowded room is a compelling story that attempts to demonstrate that DID is nothing more than a self-preservation technique, yet continues to perpetuate harmful stereotypes, even if it’s based on a true story.

Representation is so important, Caniglia says, and this population is already so marginalized that while this piece is funny and has great execution points, it still reinforces the rhetoric that people with mental illnesses, in this case DIDs, are dangerous.

The crowded room is now streaming on Apple TV+.

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