Claire Danes Gets Backlash For Bipolar Comments

By: Amanda Crum - September 19, 2012

Claire Danes has a reputation for playing quirky characters–she got her big break on the teen drama “My So-Called Life”, playing a high-schooler looking for a place to fit in–and isn’t afraid to tackle roles that might be a bit outside the box for some actors. For instance, she played autistic doctor Temple Grandin in a film about her life. But now, the actress has spoken about playing a bipolar CIA agent on the Showtime hit “Homeland”, and her remarks are rubbing some people the wrong way.

“I had to do a lot of research for this role. And actually, I found great material on YouTube,” she said during an interview with NPR. “There was a lot of footage of people who recorded themselves when they were in manic states. I think they were probably up in the middle of the night and lonely and, you know, needed to talk. So they talked to the camera. So I gorged on sort of manic confessionals on YouTube. They talk at a very fast clip. But, you know, it’s not a strictly unpleasant phenomenon. A lot of people are reluctant to treat themselves because they’re so protective of those manic highs.”

After the interview aired, several listeners took to NPR’s website to comment on Danes’ remarks, referencing the fact that those who are bipolar and use proper medications and treatment can live quite normal lives. One commenter said, “I am… disappointed that the actress portraying a person with bipolar disorder says she prepared by “gorging on manic confessionals on You Tube”. That’s like studying diabetes by visiting the morgue, instead of talking with those who control it with medication and diet.”

Another listener agreed, writing, “I was concerned that the actress chose “youtube” as a source of information. I have watched many of those videos and it is important to understand that for those of us living with loved ones who struggle with Type I bi-polar, the “youtube” examples actually appear mild.”

Though the actress was trying to illustrate that she did her research on how to properly portray her character, her words have garnered some anger and hurt from bipolar disorder victims and their loved ones who say she should have chosen another avenue in order to get a handle on the role.

Amanda Crum

About the Author

Amanda CrumAmanda Crum is a writer and artist from Kentucky. She's a fan of Edward Gorey, Hunter S. Thompson, and horror movies. You can follow her on Google:+Amanda Crum

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  • megan

    Everyone is getting upset over nothing. She used YouTube to look up people in their manic states to understand how they act when in that mindframe of their bipolar disorder.

  • Lee

    It is such an overreaction. At least she took the time to research the role instead of just falling back on the Hollywood view of things.

  • Jessica

    I hope she also spoke with some mental health professionals, but in order to truly understand bipolar disorder you do have to see it. It sounds like she actually has a pretty clear understanding of how addictive mania can be.

  • stan

    I think people need to calm down. I’m bipolar and I read nothing that pissed me off. If you don’t like it then don’t read it.

  • tracy

    I really like this show and Danes so I am biased, but come on!!! This is a television show people! It is NOT real life. They use real life events and DRAMATIZE them for ratings!!! Wake up and smell the coffee people. Have you seen the show?? She actually did really well portraying the characters different behaviors. Trust me I don’t watch the show and go “That is exactly how all bi-polar people act”. It is just a television show..good grief.

  • thomas dorschel

    Ms. Danes is correct in her assessment of bipolar disorder. Just do a bit of research, and you will find that she is spot on…MANY people suffering with bipolar disorder REFUSE TREATMENT because they LIKE the manic phase of the illness. This is noted fact.

  • Miss AZ

    I myself have Bi-Polar I yet I still have kept it under wraps from certain people due to the social stigmas surrounding mental illness. I am pretty, nice and live a normal life. I am in law school and I am a mom and wife. Because of all the heavy duty meds I’m on, I am pretty lethargic and sleepy most of the time. The meds make me mentally feel well but physically drained. Sometimes I go off my meds and I will get manic. Mania gives you tons of energy and the need for decreased sleep. But it also makes me paranoid, unpredictable and I have violent outbursts. The best thing a Bi-Polar patient can do is to take their meds everyday, sleepy or not. I’d rather be mentally well than physically well.

  • Michelle

    I work in mental health and i am confused at why people got offended by her comments the guy who said she should have studied people who treat the illness properly well that would make no sense as her character does not do so she needed to prepare to be manic! No matter what anyone says or does someone else gets offended. We need to grow some thicker skin! Claire Danes is one of the best actress of our time! She is one of the youngest actresses to have a biography written about her and had praise from Steven Spielberg at the age of 15. I think whatever she did to research the role worked well. I have seen many bipolar people while in a manic state and she portrayed the part to a T!

  • jomama

    big whoopty do

  • Debrah Alsobrook

    She wasn’t lying when she spoke about how protective some bi-polar people about their manic highs. I live with one and am also working on my masters in psychology. I don’tsee what the big deal is, any textbook will tell you the same thing. Being bi-polar and living with someone who is bi-polar is no piece of cake by any stretch of the imagination.

  • http://n/a Dr. Thomas C Carman

    Bipolar people, i am here, e-mail me.

    • http://n/a Dr. Thomas C Carman

      My son playing, sorry for any folks.

  • Victor R Carbo III

    She’s great in the show ‘Homeland’ it.

  • Jenn

    So what if she used YOUTUBE to help with her research! I’m sure she did more than just that to gain insight into the mind of a Bipolar person. I have Bipolar and I think the backlash she received is really ridiculous. I think her portrayal was pretty darn accurate of a person in a manic phase. People really need to get over themselves and stop taking every single thing to this politically correct level. It’s really silly!

  • Robin

    I am actually grateful that Claire has taken on the role of someone who is bipolar. As a Mother I raised my children who are very successful adults now without letting them know about it. They were obviously aware that I suffered with bouts of depression but it was not something I felt I could not be upfront about because of the stigma it would carry for them as having “the crazy bipolar Mom”. It has not only created a way for the public to understand people living with the disease, but it has also been a great springboard for people like me to have a dialogue with family that wouldn’t otherwise exist.
    I’m happy that people who are bipolar will have a much easier journey today. We are no different than a person living with diabetes and should not hide something so relevant to society. There are so many highly successful and even famouse people living with this disoder. Who knows what our world would be like without all the creative and intelligent contributions we have made? Thank you Claire.