In Almodovar’s film, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the main character, Pepa, becomes frantic when her
mistress lover, Ivan, unexpectedly breaks up with her over the answering machine. While Pepa tries to contact Ivan to understand his actions, her best friend realizes that her own lover is actually a Shiite terrorist. Both, Pepa and Candela (Pepa’s best friend), are regarded as crazy and obsessed by other characters. But Ivan won’t even answer Pepa’s calls following his voice message that ended their relationship. Furthermore, Ivan, who works with Pepa in a voice-recording studio, has Pepa repeat romantic lines to the character he voices following their breakup.
The film eventually ends with Pepa saving Ivan from his gun-wielding, “crazy” ex-wife Lucia. And while murder is obviously an extreme, and yes crazy, resort- Lucia is not without cause. It becomes revealed that after she gave birth to her and Ivan’s son, Ivan locked her up in a mental institute for postpartum depression and left her for a new woman.
None of these women are truly insane. In reality, Ivan is the only one who has earned that title. Ivan refuses to communicate with both his ex-wife and his now-ex girlfriend. Luckily our heroine realizes in the end that “this man she was trying so desperately to get back is unworthy of her — or, for that matter, most any woman,” (Kempley). As Sullivan writes: “[Pepa] achieves strength and understanding not by analyzing the politics of her pain but by working through it,” (Sullivan).
The House of the Spirits offers a parallel viewpoint. In chapter eight, Blanca is married to the count and pregnant with Alba when she begins witnessing strange events. Everyone, from her husband to her mother, disbelieves her until Blanca herself begins to believe that “the heat and pregnancy were affecting her mind,” (Allende, 278). Later in the chapter however, Blanca breaks into the count’s locked den, where “distressing erotic scenes… revealed her husband’s hidden character,” (Allende, 288). Much like Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the female is depicted as crazy at the work of her significant other.
The cause of this phenomenon may very well be etymology, the study of the origin and development of words. Etymology “…[has] cemented a polarisation of the female and male mental states: men being historically associated with rationality, straightforwardness and logic; women with unpredictable emotions, outbursts and madness,” (Nunn). This is still a major issue. In our current election, many fear that Clinton will be disabled from fully performing presidential duties directly due to her menstrual cycle, while Trump is applauded for his “out there” statements. This is not meant to be political, but rather a lesson- both sexes are crazy, but its mainly females viewed that way.
Almodovar, Pedro, director. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. 11 November 1988.
Kempley, Rita. “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” The Washington Post, 22 December 1988, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/womenonthevergeofanervousbreakdownnrkempley_a0c9d8.htm. Accessed 22 September 2016.
Sullivan, Monica. “Movie Review: Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” Movie Magazine International, 14 September 2005, www.shoestring.org/mmi_revs/womanontheverge-ms-182044178.html. Accessed 22 September 2016.
Nunn, Gary. “The feminisation of madness is crazy.” The Guardian, 8 March 2012, http://www.theguardian.com/media/mind-your-language/2012/mar/08/mind-your-language-feminisation-madness. Accessed 22 September 2016.