Welcome to Arkham Asylum

Essays on Psychiatry and the Gotham City Institution


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About the Book

Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane is a staple of the Batman universe, evolving into a franchise comprised of comic books, graphic novels, video games, films, television series and more. The Arkham franchise, supposedly light-weight entertainment, has tackled weighty issues in contemporary psychiatry. Its plotlines reference clinical and ethical controversies that perplex even the most up-to-date professionals. The 25 essays in this collection explore the significance of Arkham’s sinister psychiatrists, murderous mental patients, and unethical geneticists. It invites debates about the criminalization of the mentally ill, mental patients who move from defunct state hospitals into expanding prisons, madness versus badness, sociopathy versus psychosis, the “insanity defense” and more. Invoking literary figures from Lovecraft to Poe to Caligari, the 25 essays in this collection are a broad-ranging and thorough assessment of the franchise and its relationship to contemporary psychiatry.

About the Author(s)

Sharon Packer, M.D., is a New York City psychiatrist and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Daniel R. Fredrick is an assistant professor of writing at the American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Sharon Packer, M.D. and Daniel R. Fredrick

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 311
Bibliographic Info: 42 photos, appendix, filmography, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7098-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3742-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

Foreword by Jason W. Ellis 1

Preface by Sharon Packer, M.D. 3

Introduction: Why Arkham, Why Now? (Sharon Packer, M.D.) 7

Section I: Clinical Psychiatric Controversies

The Differential Diagnosis of Elizabeth Arkham (Elyse D. Weiner, M.D.) 25

ECT in Arkham Asylum: Pacification, Assassination and Electrocution (Timothy W. Kneeland) 35

Hallucinations and Psychedelics in Arkham (Matthew Brown, D.O., and Fernando Espí Forcén, M.D.) 43

Section II: Forensic Psychiatric Controversies I’m [Virtual] Batman: Violence and Video Games (Ryan C.W. Hall, M.D., and Susan Hatters Friedman, M.D.) 55

Deadly and Dysfunctional Family Dynamics: When Fiction Mirrors Fact (Susan Hatters Friedman, M.D., and Ryan C.W. Hall, M.D.) 65

Murderous Minds, Arkham Villains and Real (Not Reel) Life Movie Massacres (Sharon Packer, M.D.) 76

Section III: ­Medical-Ethical Controversies Anti-Psychiatry and the Arkham Asylum (Fernando Espí Forcén, M.D.) 91

Harley Quinn and the Joker: Pitfalls of ­Doctor-Patient Romances (Sharon Packer, M.D.) 101

Unethical Experiments in Arkham and Elsewhere (Sharon Packer, M.D.) 110

Section IV: Big Screen Parallels Arkham’s Sinister Psychiatrists and the Continuum with Caligari (Sharon Packer, M.D.) 123

Haunted by Madness: Horror and the Supernatural in Arkham Asylum (Michael Markus) 134

Breaking Out: The Escaped Mental Patient in the Batman Universe (Jeffrey Bullins) 145

The Suicide Squad: From Bad to Good and Back Again (Jaq Greenspon and Rasa Greenspon) 155

Section V: Small Screen Parallels Animated Arkham: Television and Children’s Perceptions of Psychiatric Treatment (Kristi Rowan Humphreys) 165

The Fine Line Between Sanity and Madness in Star Trek’s “Whom Gods Destroy” and Arkham Asylum: A Serious Place on Serious Earth (Darren ­Harris-Fain and Eric J. Sterling) 173

Section VI: Video Screen Parallels If Walls Could Scream: Embedded Narratives and Mazes of Madness in the Virtual Space of Arkham (Asylum Shawn Edrei) 183

Excavating Arkham: The Mental Asylum as Horrible Homecoming (Brenda S. Gardenour Walter) 191

Section VII: Literary and Artistic Influences

Bizarro Arkham, Bizarro World: The Looking Glass Looks Back (Aaron Barlow) 203

The ­Neo-Expressionist Agony of Arkham Asylum (Rosa JH Berland) 211

Surrealism’s Influence on Arkham and Psychiatry’s Influence on Surrealism (Sharon Packer, M.D.) 222

Poe’s Place in Arkham Asylum: Precursors and Parallels (Caleb Puckett) 233

H.P. Lovecraft, Literary Heritage and Batman: Arkham Asylum (Eric Sandberg) 243

Section VIII: Mythic and Religious Parallels Evil Clowns and Acrobats: The Joker and Harley Quinn (Adam W. Darlage) 255

Matricide and Myth (Daniel R. Fredrick) 264

Appendix: Unethical Experiments in Modern Genetics Research 273

About the Contributors 275

Filmography 277

Bibliography 281

Index 291

Book Reviews & Awards

• Honorable Mention—Ray and Pat Browne Award for Best Edited Collection

• “This collection excels in a scholarly, well-referenced survey that considers the wide-ranging cultural impact and influence of the Arkman Asylum. … offers an involving literary and multidisciplinary approach designed to appeal to a large audience of college readers interested in the Arkham legacy.”—Donovan’s Bookshelf