Interesting ideas for A Beautiful Mind essay

The film A Beautiful Mind sparked a lot of discussion for its portrayal of American mathematician John Nash and his long struggle with schizophrenia. It shows mental illness in a different light from many previous films, so it's inevitable that it's become a popular subject for essays. The internet is full of suggestions for writing one, but with some imagination it's possible to write something a bit more interesting.

  • The plot concerns how Nash's career and personal life are affected by his schizophrenia, which of course is considerably. How would things have turned out if he hadn't suffered from it though? In the film Nash is encouraged to propose to his girlfriend by his roommate Charles Herman - but Herman is one of his hallucinations. Nash's insistence that he wouldn't publish a paper until he had a unique idea was also probably a result of his illness, and in fact he did finally have a unique idea. It revolutionised the field of Game Theory and won him a Nobel Prize. To what extent did his illness benefit him? Would his life have been worse without it?
  • In fact it's possible to go a bit farther. Was Nash a genius despite his illness, or was he a genius because of it? Schizophrenics often have serious problems relating to the real world. They can be very awkward or inept in social interactions. Nash was a mathematician who he saw most problems in terms of numbers - in the film, he discovers a new concept in game theory by working out how he and his friends can approach a group of girls in a bar. If he'd been able to relate better to people would numbers have held such an attraction for him?
  • At one point in the film Nash stops taking the antipsychotic drugs he ahs been prescribed, because he realises that they are affecting his mental abilities. What effect could this have on people who are suffering from mental illnesses? Nash is portrayed as managing to cope without drugs through his intellect and the support of his wife, but is this a realistic option for most people? Do film makers bear any responsibility for portraying issues like this?
  • How could the film change people's perception of mental illness? Despite his intelligence Nash often says and does things that could easily be seen as stupid, and a common perception of people with a mental illness is that they are incapable of functioning normally. This film is based on a true story, though, and John Nash won a Nobel Prize. Can portrayals like this improve the image of the mentally ill?

Overall A Beautiful Mind is an extremely thought-provoking film, and there are a lot of very interesting essay options that come from it.