She is a woman made of pain.
Her whole body on fire with an invisible torture, but not because she was born that way. Not because she has been through so much in her young life. It's because she believed she could trust those who claim to be the most trustworthy.
Her feet, unprotected. Her step, unsteady and her body writhes, shakes, and trembles as she holds the arm of an absent father.
The Bride is the symbol of how our faith in established institutions—systems created to serve the greater good—is used to lead us into circumstances that, in the moment, seem so certain and safe.
So we say "yes" without knowing what it is we've committed ourselves to—sometimes for life—only to discover there's no easy, painless way to turn back.
No way to undo what's been undone.
The Bride's slight frame seems compelled by a dark inevitability at her back as she marches toward an unknown future, presided over by the Masked Man, who represents The System.
The System is not evil or good. It simply is.
It's all around us. In our homes, our yards, our schools, our legal institutions, our government, and of course, most importantly, our healthcare.
There is really only one true aspect of The System that makes it safe and humane, and that aspect is the humanity within it—good people working within the healthcare system who, through small and large acts of bravery and compassion, save lives, every day.
But those are the smaller cogs in a very big wheel.
While many decisions are made in emergency rooms or clinical settings to save lives, the decisions made in boardrooms can impact our long-term health and quality of life in negative ways.
This is both its power and its flaw.
Through the eyes of its victims, it seems unhuman, inhumane, terrifying, and treacherous.
But nothing is "all bad."
The System helps so many people in too many ways to count. When it's working well, it seems like the safest thing there is. Unless you get on the wrong side of it.
The System can't "see" what it refuses to see, the harm it has done, hanging right at its elbow. And when The System fails us, it can feel like that is used against us, it lords over us, then turns its back on the carnage left behind.
Over the past several decades, The System has grown worse for many people and financially better for a very few. But there is hope because The System is comprised of individuals who went into healthcare because they care and we have more "say" in this than many of us realize.
Remember, there is a human being behind the mask.
We have to believe The System has the potential to change, grow, and improve for everyone.
The BLACK BOX WARNING
Dressed in black, black-eyed, the disquieting red "V" covering Its mouth, the BLACK BOX WARNING is Information and It's there to warn you that you'd best pay attention to It.
The BLACK BOX WARNING used to be human, once, like you—but now, It's a creation of The System. While not your enemy, It is dangerous. It has the potential to turn on you—and its creator—The System.
It made a promise to Its creators when It realized what It had become:
"I'm coming for you."
A young family, trying to act out the idyllic life
they were "sold" on TV.
The Boy sits with his parents on the unkempt deck and clearly, The System has already impacted his young life and the lives of his parents in dangerous ways.
Does The System assure that medications are not only safe, but medically necessary? What mechanisms are in place to make sure medications are used and prescribed appropriately? Is it okay to medicate normal, human emotions?
How many mothers are shown, every day, how they fall short? The Mother tries for a sense of normalcy in their lives while the pain and fear of not being able to do basic things shows. For too many families, their worlds unwittingly revolve around managing and compensating for side effects of medications, the "new normal."
For how much The Mother loves her family, it's clear their world is falling apart. The System has been integrated into their lives, and despite its many promises, their lives have been upended and The System turned its back on them.
The Father tries to reassure The Mother, his wife, but its clear the both of them are fighting this fight alone. The struggle in his eyes and demeanor portend something that's happening, too much, too often, everywhere medications are being used with side effects that include "...may cause an increase in suicidal thoughts and actions."
As they both stand defiant in the face of The System, demanding a reckoning, reparations, and help that will never come, we feel helpless as their world spins out of control.
Where is The Family's support? What will happen if they don't get it?
Unfortunately, we find out in the after credits, when The Boy faces the final loss, one he's faced once before.
Will the people he trusts do the best thing for him? Will the rest of his family know how to best respond? How do we, as a society, make room for grief and loss, or do we believe there really is "a pill for everything?"
These individuals have been harmed by medications, and they all show their unique, subjective brand of suffering. Whether or not their mouths are taped shut, victims of The System rarely have a voice or credibility within The System once they've been harmed.
*All cast members /actors were irrevocably harmed -
but not by these films and not by us.
The Drug Fairy
She was once like the Black Box Warning – human, but something pushed her over the edge, whether physically or emotionally.
Like yin and yang, The Drug Fairy is the human representation of the falling, dancing, black and white capsules – prescribed medications, and she's here to remind us that medications aren't "evil," bad, or "good."
Medication is a tool used by medical professionals who ideally have the knowledge and wisdom to use these tools conservatively, responsibly, and cautiously. Just as The Drug Fairy dances with precision and skill, medications must be used, and prescribed, in kind.
The Drug Fairy wears pristine white with dark eyes or pure black with pale, blemish-less skin because like medications, there's always a hint, a possibility, of their dark side. She can help or hurt, depending on how much information you have. She is the antithesis of "neutral" because all medications do something.
Everywhere The Drug Fairy is, there is a promise—the promise of change, but not all change is good and as shown in the last film, when we see The Boy's entire world change forever, she is there, helpless, rather than helpful.
The (now) Older Boy is accompanied by his Grandmother and Grandfather as they take him to their most trusted source of help: the family doctor.
The Boy is faced with a choice. How do you grieve the loss of nearly your whole family? Weren't the medications supposed to help his MOTHER and FATHER feel better? How could this have happened, then?
With his Grandparents at his side, they do what they know to be right—hoping his sadness, his despair, can be calmed, just like the commercials on television promise.
The Grandparents trust the medical profession, and as he's given a prescription medication to allay his Grandparents' worst fears, how could they know or suspect that the medication comes with the same warnings. That the medication itself has side effects that cause the worst clinical outcome imaginable—death by suicide.
As Information/Black Box Warning tries to reach them all, Its warnings are unknown, and therefore, silent. Sadly, the warnings were known, and still, the drugs were approved. The System has been compromised in so many places.
But why didn't the doctor warn them? Why don't medical professionals see the patterns?
How do they miss it?