Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Script & Movie a Week - Seven

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  • Main character descriptions: Somerset: 45; Detective Taylor: 52; Detective Mills: 31, muscular and handsome; Tracy: 30, a beautiful woman; John Doe: balding, almost silly looking man with thick glasses and wrinkled clothing (when he’s posing as a reporter)
These descriptions are not all that specific, and especially for Somerset, where only his age is given. Instead of describing their physique (telling), on the most part, Walker showsthe reader who these characters are, what their personalities are like, through their actions. I think it’s interesting that the character who is described the most is John Doe, the killer, the character who shows up only halfway through the script (albeit, a very important character).

  • The way that Somerset and Mills interact throughout the script is incredibly important. From their first conversation, they are uneasy and tense around each other. It also sheds some light on each character—Somerset is about to retire and Mills has been transferred over. As they spend more time with each other, they warm up to each other, until the final part of the script where they go together to find the two bodies Doe promised them. This progression of their relationship is slow and steady

  • The scene in which Tracy and Somerset talk about the baby: I’m wondering if it could have been placed anywhere differently to have the same impact. The conversation is important—at the end, Doe references the baby and then when Somerset sees the boy and his father kissing, the reader can understand why he is so much affected by this simple act. I think the scene to me seems a bit out of place because this is one of the only two scenes we really see Tracy have any lines. I think it would have been much better if she had been more than just a plot device to further the Man’s Journey along, but I don’t know where more of her could have fit, honestly. Truth be told, this is a crime movie and romance doesn’t have much place in one. I think if somewhere in the script Mills and Somerset would have talked about family and Mills would have mentioned that he wanted to have a child with Tracy, it would have added an extra punch to the end, where Doe tells Mills about the baby and the latter is shocked by it because he didn’t know.

  • What really impressed me about this script was the way the plot unfolded, the way the characters were written, how bit by bit we’re given more information about them (but only what’s necessary to the plot), the way the Mills and Somerset relationship developed, and obviously the ending. The suspense to the final act was done so well. Every movement of the deliveryman, Somerset’s actions, his reactions and emotions, Mills’s anxiety…wow. Must learn how to write like this.

  • The ending: I actually read the alternate script ending first and then I went to the Wikipedia page of the movie. I accidentally read the ending of the movie (which is different from both scripts) and was confused, so I found another script (dailyscript one) and read the ending of that one, which is I think closer to the movie version than the alternate one. Personally, I like the dailyscript version better, but the alternate version also left an impression.
The dailyscript script however does not have the final line that the movie has and that disappointed me because it’s fantastic. The alternate ending, though in my opinion, more nobler, doesn’t have that final weariness to it—Somerset shoots Doe and then shoots himself, leaving Mills to do the “good work”, whereas in the movie/script, Mills cracks, shoots Doe, and is arraigned (and it’s understood that he may not have a career after this). With this one case, from a passionate, justice-filled cop, he sinks lower than Somerset. He’s not burnt out, he’s hopeless. There is nothing left for him. He is one of the “good ones”, but he loses, leaving Somerset with no choice but go back to work, because there is nothing else he can do.
This script definitely packs a wallop. I would highly recommend reading it because it is very good. The only criticism I have with it is that the only woman character there is used for the benefits of the men. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a solution as to how that problem might have been avoided.
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  • The flower tile is shown in the beginning of the movie but the scene in the script at the beginning where Somerset takes it from the house is cut, as well as the end scene where he takes it out again, which makes the appearance of the tile completely meaningless.

  • In the script, the reader is allowed a bit of time (5 pages) to get to know a bit of Somerset—a burnt-out, weary cop who lives alone in a horrific, dismal city. In the movie, we don’t see this and we get introduced to Mills in the first two minutes.

  • Brad Pitt, in my opinion, was good for this role. Morgan Freeman seemed to me to be too animated, too kind. He doesn’t have that hardness that Somerset has in the script.

  • The title credits are interesting because we get a taste of Doe from the very beginning—the notebooks, the bandaged fingers…we are shown the killer from the very start, but we only get to know him towards the end. I thought this was very clever. (Not to mention, I was tickled to see that the song ‘Closer’ by Nine Inch Nails was used.)

  • Somerset refuses to look at Mills when he asks to be reassigned to another case. The way it’s filmed makes it very apparent that Somerset is ignoring Mills, doesn’t really respect him. The shots focus on Somerset and the captain, and only when Mills tries to interject himself does the shot go to him. Even when he speaks, Freeman is seen in profile. And only when Mills finally tells him to say it to his face does Freeman finally face the camera fully.

  • Similarly, when the captain comes to talk to Somerset in his office, we see that the latter pays attention to the former only when the former is talking to him about the case. When he starts talking about Somerset’s personal life, he gets disinterested and turns his back. The only close-up we have of Somerset in this scene is from above, when he explains why he’s retiring—signifying that this part is important.

  • From the moment where Somerset explains his theory of the seven deadly sins to the captain and Mills, this is where we see the two detectives start working together, frame-wise. This is the first time Somerset has given Mills the time of day, and he shows him the two pictures, intentionally turning towards him and letting him see them before he turns his attention to the captain. Throughout the rest of the movie, we see them both in the same frame, signifying their increasing closeness, culminating in the last scene with Doe.

  • The scenes with Tracy and Somerset, to me, seem to me to be a lot friendlier than they came across in the script, so much so that the restaurant scene actually seemed well-placed and natural. I think it’s because Freeman’s acting is different than I would have imagined someone to play Somerset. So, there’s a pro and con to the character/actor.

  • A detail that I noticed that I really liked was that in the script, the city is supposed to be this rotten, dirty, disgusting city. In the movie, I think this was shown well, especially because throughout the entire movie, it’s raining…until the detectives and Doe go out to find the dead bodies.

  • Kevin Spacey was well cast in this role. He has this quietness about him, this calm smile that makes you shiver a bit inside. He’s exactly who I think of when the murderer is this insane sort-of genius who does intricate, fascinating murders. He plays kind of the same role in ‘The Usual Suspects’.

  • The most important scene actually fell short for me. I didn’t think Freeman expressed enough horror (in the script, he actually throws up, and I think that would have been appropriate in the movie) and Pitt’s performance was not angry enough. When he actually shoots Doe, it was anticlimactic, also because there was no struggle between Mills and Somerset (like there was in the script). In addition, the very last scene was a letdown as well because I thought the father/son moment was fantastic. I really liked the last quote but there was no quote at the beginning of the movie so I thought it didn’t really make much sense.
So…the movie was good, but I thought that the ending would have much better if the script was followed.
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8 Sequence Method
Act 1: Sequence 1: Set up of world, point of attack
Pages 1-8: Somerset is introduced, his surroundings (the dirty, sleazy city), his job. He meets Mills.
Sequence 2: Things start to go wrong, establishing the main tension
Pages 8-25: The first two murders, gluttony and greed happen. The link to the deadly seven sins is made. Mills gets put on the case.
Act 2: Sequence 3: Explanation of why goal is difficult, learn more about the characters, develop a plan
Pages 25-44: Somerset researches the seven deadly sins and he starts helping Mills. Somerset gets invited to dinner and the two detectives put their heads together and try to figure out what’s going on.
Sequence 4: First attempt of plan, characters think they know what they’re doing but they don’t. The plan fails, but the characters emerge with a stronger, better, more focused plan. Focuses the movie, also contains midpoint.
Pages 25-66: The detectives go to talk to the second victim’s wife. Fingerprints are found and a match is made. They go to the suspect’s house only to find that he is the victim of sloth. Midpoint is at page 67, but close enough.
Sequence 5: Main attempt
Pages 66-78: John Doe is found but scuffle ensues.
Sequence 6: Further on main attempt
Pages 78-99: Doe’s house is investigated, Tracy and Somerset talk about his past and her having a baby, and Mills and Somerset talk about whether what they’re doing is worth it.
Act 3: Sequence 7: Descent into the darkness, false ending to the end, we think all hope is lost, and there’s the twist.
Pages 99-126: Pride is found, Doe comes in, Somerset and Mills go out to the deserted place to find the two bodies that Doe promised them. The deliveryman delivers the package…which contains Tracy’s head.
Sequence 8: The ending, characters have to wrap it all up, this is the real resolution and we get all the info
Pages 126-134: The last two bodies are supposed to be Doe’s (who’s Envy) and Mills (who’s Wrath). Doe envies Mills life and so killed Tracy and cut off her head. He’s trying to get Mills to kill him…Mills kills him, ruining his career. Somerset gets shot in the scene…A few weeks later, he gets out of the hospital, gets a letter from Mills telling him he was completely right. Somerset’s not so sure anymore and the script ends with him walking up the police station’s stairs…not retired.
Personal observation on diversity: No race/ethnic inclusion in character descriptions in script for the main characters. There are two detectives that are specified as black and female. Of the five-ish main characters, four are men (Somerset, Mills, Doe, California) and one is female (Tracy). Only one of these five main characters is a POC (Somerset). There are a few POCs in the film as minor characters as well (three, if I recall correctly).
But, only counting main characters, 1/5 and 1/5 on gender and race.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Script & Movie a Week - Nightcrawler

ually, these two would be reversed but since I saw the movie first, we go with the movie first. Spoilers exist below.
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  • First and developing impressions of characters —> Louis Bloom: looks like a lean coyote; like a fucking predator. He smiles too wide, there’s a disturbing lack of emotion and depth in his eyes. He is extremely ambitious, and his motivation is money. He is ruthless and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants. He talks like a self-help book or internet motivational guides. Does he believe in what he says? He may very well. It’s actually quite scary, because who really believes that crap?
(I love how they show you a coyote as well. I actually read an interview where Jake Gyllenhaal and Dan Gilroy, I think, describe him as that.)

  • When he assaults the officer and takes his watch, I was reminded of Patrick Bateman. Actually, Louis reminds me of an everyman’s version of Patrick—the sociopath that the lower to middle class person can relate to more.

  • When he steps to see the accident on the highway, he’s obviously completely unconcerned with the fact that he may be wanted for the assault of an officer.

  • Moreover, why does he stop at the accident? Concern? Curiosity? It seems to be completely the latter rather than the former.

  • During the scene where he moves the body to get a better shot for his camera, we see him interrogating the motorist who is calling 911. He obviously cares more about the job than the victim. This cements his complete and utter indifference and distaste for humans. Later on, we hear one of the victims in the Horror House moaning, and Louis does absolutely nothing.

  • The first and pretty much only emotion in the entire movie that Louis exhibits is anger, when his competitor bests him and when he doesn’t get what he wants.

  • Who wins the scenes between Lou and Nina? Always Lou, never Nina. He always has the upper hand, even though we are led to believe she is in a position of power over him. This is false. At the time, it didn’t seem that the cinematography lent anything to support this, but I’m probably going to have to re-watch their scenes together to see for sure.

  • Rick tells him he doesn’t understand people. This is false. He understands people probably better than anyone else, either in the movie, or really outside of it. Even though he does have a very strange way of behaving occasionally and it can be off-putting, that does not invalidate his understanding of people.

  • When Rick refuses to negotiate, Lou looks a bit lost. Because he was made to feel helpless by someone that was his inferior (because there are other times in the movie where Lou is not allowed to negotiate, but they were always in a position where they had what Lou wanted—> money…but this is the only time where Lou has the upper hand and he is made to feel like a fool), he killed him.

  • The scene at the end between Nina and Louis where she tells him how amazing his footage is and she tells him she wants it and he says “How much do you want it?” and she answers “You tell me”, it is shown as a very intimate, almost romantic scene. The dialogue is actually a bit sexy, in any other situation, it would be lustful, they’re shot in profile, looking straight at each other, inching closer, their faces dark against the background…which is the TV screen showing Rick bleeding to death. I love the way this scene was shot. It is perverse because we know there is nothing sexy about it or that Nina even really wants him, but she is forced to do what he tells her because he has that control over her. I was also reminded by that scene in which he tells her that one of the things he wants from her is for her to do what he tells her to do when they’re together.

  • The last line: “I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself”. The scary part is that he’s telling the truth. Throughout the movie, we see that he has absolutely no concern over the safety of others or himself, he is only interesting in his goal. He would kill himself, and gladly, if that meant him getting the best shot.

  • Something that I found very refreshing and that I really appreciated greatly was that there was no sex scene. In my opinion, there are way too many sex scenes in movies and they don’t make them any better, if anything, they actually detract from the quality, because they are so unnecessary. However, I would actually say that in this movie, a sex scene would not have detracted from the quality. I think it actually would have been interesting to see an emphasis of his manipulation on Nina. Simply a scene where they have a conversation beforehand could have sufficed, though I would be interested in seeing what Gilroy would have had his sociopath act like in bed. That’s just me, though.

  • Criticisms and questions: It would have been a good idea to see him delete the footage and the screenshots he took. Also, there’s a moment where he asks Rick to open the window and Rick asks him why and Lou says ‘Because I told you so’. There was no reason for it. He also tells Rick about the man who wasn’t dead in the Horror House. Why? And then, at the end, the murderer sees Lou but doesn’t kill him (after he’s shot Rick). To me, that didn’t make any sense. It also didn’t make sense at the end when Nina refuses to go with the cocaine horror house news, and just to let it be the way it is. She should have known that it would have blown the story away.
Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. It was an interesting concept, and I always like to see how sociopaths and psychopaths are portrayed in the media. The acting was very good, but Jake Gyllenhaal really was the one who shone. I would say that he carried the movie and if it weren’t for him, it wouldn’t have been half as engaging.
It did bring up some good questions though, especially about how the public, us in general, like to see blood, gore, and unusual titillating things. This reminded me of the episode of Black Mirror, “The National Anthem”, where everyone, though they were sort of disgusted, still watched the Prime Minister fuck a pig. There’s this draw to these sorts of things that we, as a human race, have, and I honestly think it goes beyond us. I think that other animals as well would have this draw to it.
I read this interview with Gilroy and I thought it was incredibly interesting that he said this: “I’m interested in the idea that sociopaths are not these rare people that you rarely encounter.  I feel they’re walking amongst us, and to some degree, we all have tendencies that are not dissimilar and on a good day, we’re aware of those tendencies and we counterbalance them.” It reminds me of the whole us/them dynamic and how it’s not always as simple or true as that.
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  • First impression: really weird format. There are no real traditional slug lines.

  • Example of strange format (pg. 5):
"for
LOU
the effect is electrifying as
THE POLICE CHOPPER
banks low and
THE COPS
smash glass and
THE CAMERA GUYS
film as an
S.U.V.
skids to a stop…”
However, I do feel as though the way the script is written actually enhances the scene.

  • On pg. 7, the description is very well-written. Gilroy’s got style.
"ORANGE GLOW
against an anthracite SKY…night-black tinting day-blue…”
The scene where we transition from the accident to Lou’s apartment was not included in the movie, unfortunately. I think would have made a very visually stimulating scene.

  • I love the way he describes the news anchors…”teeth-bleached MAN”, “plastic PEOPLE…mock cheer”, HAIR-SPRAYED ANCHORS”, “Ken doll ANCHORMAN and pin-up ANCHORWOMAN peddling unvarnished fear and mayhem.”

  • Character descriptions: Lou—>”30…pure primal id…if there’s music it’s in his head…disconnected…feral…driven by dollar signs and a dream of some imagined Eden.” ; Nina: 50-ish, over-made, hard-bitten beauty who…through sheer survival, bec[a]me the madam of the whore-house” ; Rick: a young man, ragged and rangy ; Detective Frontieri: WOMAN

  • The writer doesn’t explain the character’s emotions, he lets the dialogue do the explaining. He doesn’t spoonfeed the readers.

  • The way Lou is written, as I mentioned before, reminds me of Patrick Bateman, but I say this, specifically in the script, because there are moments where Lou is very specific with details and then asks a completely unrelated question that puts the other character he’s having the conversation with (and the reader) off. For example, when he asks Nina out.

  • The way Rick dies is changed in the movie. I like the movie version better, but the script version makes a lot more sense as to why the murderer didn’t kill Lou.

  • The quasi-romantic scene between Lou and Nina at the end did not come off that way in the script at all.

  • The movie made the script come to life. The way that Gyllenhaal delivered the lines is magnificent. He really took the character and put substance, meat on him.
The script feels a bit bare. Lou is not really shown very clearly in my opinion, and it took Gyllenhaal to really give him depth and personality. The format of the script is interesting, but untraditional, so I think it would be better if I took a look at other scripts with more traditional formats to base mine off of.
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As a personal observation…There was no race/ethnicity inclusion in the character descriptions at all. Out of the four main characters, two are male, two female. In the movie, out of the two males, one (Lou) is white, and the other (Rick) is a POC. From the females, one (Nina) is white, and the other (Detective) is a POC.
So, half-half on both the gender and race lines, but I do have to mention that Lou and Nina are the “main” characters, while Rick and the Detective are more minor characters.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Blueberry Coffee Cake with Lemon Topping

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This came out well in my opinion. I’m definitely very proud at how much I’ve progressed. The only issue with this one is that I think it came out a bit too sweet, but that may be because I used regular sugar instead of icing (confectioner’s ?) sugar for the lemon topping. I would highly recommend making this though because it’s relatively easy to do so and it also goes incredibly with milk.
Ingredients: 1/2 cup butter (soft)*, 2/3 cups sugar, 2 eggs, 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2/3 cups milk, 1 cup blueberries
For the topping: 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind, 1/2 cup icing sugar
0. Preheat oven to 374 degrees F.
1. Cream the soft butter and sugar in a bowl.
2. Mix in the eggs.
3. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
4. Mix the flour mixture and milk into the butter/sugar mixture.
5. Mix in the blueberries.
6. Pour the mixture into a greased pan.
7. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.
8. While the cake is baking, for the topping, mix the lemon juice and rind with the icing sugar.
9. Pour the topping onto the cake.
10. For added sweetness, sprinkle additional sugar onto the cake and place it under the broiler until the sugar bubbles, about 2 minutes.
* I actually mostly melted the butter. I don’t think it makes much of a difference.
Edit: It makes a ton of difference. When it says soft, don’t melt it!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Blueberry Scones

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I did not put in the lemon zest and instead of cream, I used whole milk, but the scones turned out decently even so. A few of the comments on the recipe post noted that the scones aren’t sweet enough. In my opinion, this is not an issue, but keep in mind that if you do like them sweet and you’d like to use this recipe, more sugar should be added. I don’t think my scones were too rough and hard, they seem to be pretty moist and flaky but I’m not a scone expert so I could be wrong. However, I do believe these creations were a success and I am quite proud that they turned out so well. These also go incredibly with milk.
Ingredients: 2 cups flower, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (cut into pieces the size of peas), 1 1/2 cups blueberries, 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, 1/3 cup heavy cream, 2 large eggs
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Put in the cut up butter and distribute it evenly. Cover the butter with the flour mixture. Stir in blueberries and zest.
3. Whisk together cream and egg in another bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture. Stir lightly with fork little pieces of dry ingredient mixture in order to allow the dough to come together slowly. Knead it a few times for good measure.
4. Pat the dough into a square and cut it into four smaller squares. Then cut those squares diagonally to make eight triangles. Put the dough on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 20-22 minutes.

Avocado Smoothie

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Spinach smoothie, move over. This one is so much better. 

One avocado, one banana, 1/2 cup milk, 1.5 cups mango lemonade. Absolutely amazing. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Smoothie

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I know it doesn’t look very appetizing, but it is.
Spinach leaves, one banana, one mandarin orange, and 2% milk. Ingredients that I didn’t have but that I plan on putting in the future: chia seeds, half a scoopful of vanilla-flavoured whey protein, and optional spoonful of peanut butter. If you put in the peanut butter, it will taste completely like it.
Alternatives that I have tried for the mandaring orange that have tasted just as good: grapes
And for the milk: soy milk, almond milk

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Desirable Personality Traits and their Relation to Burnout in the Medical Field

In Weekends at Bellevue, Julie Holland, a psychiatrist who worked the weekend night shifts in the Bellevue Hospital psychiatric emergency room for nine years, details the ways that she approached her taxing job. Early on in her career, she begins developing an identity that allows her to deal with the highly stressful environment and obligations of her work. She calls this identity her “hardened persona” and describes it as both “[her] blessing and [her] curse” (Holland, 189). While the persona that she has created allows her to be able to work in an extremely high-stress, high-risk job for many years, it also causes negative emotional and professional impacts on her and those around her. In the end, she realizes that, even with her persona, she cannot endure the hardships of her work, and she decides to quit. Holland’s memoir is a stark reminder that the medical profession is one that is unbelievably harsh and this idea is reinforced by the characteristics that are strongly desired and encouraged in the medical field. I will argue that the traits that are most desired are also the traits that can be the most destructive professionally and emotionally for the medic, and that over time, these “blessings” can evolve into “curses” and result in burnout. I will describe in detail Julie Holland’s account and through this, I will explain how initially positive personality traits can be destructive and how attempting to deal with stress in a negative manner can lead to burnout as well. I will then briefly reflect on possible solutions on how to prevent or ameliorate this issue and comment on their successes currently.
In her memoir, Julie Holland recounts the experiences that she has faced throughout her nine years working in the psychiatric emergency room in Bellevue, one of the most famous (and psychiatrically, notorious) hospitals in the United States. She makes it evident that the environment that she must work in is extremely high-risk, fast-paced, and saturated with grief—she receives countless patients every night, many of which are involuntarily sent either by family, the ambulance, or the law. They are mentally ill, violent, addicted, and homeless and frequently, their time spent in the ER is only a quick fix rather than a step towards long-term rehabilitation.  As someone who has a “hair-trigger empathy switch” and “emotional incontinence”, she realizes that if she is to continue working at Bellevue, she must stifle her kindness and empathy in order to protect herself from the constant barrage of negativity (Holland, 51). Her emotionally exhausting work causes her to form a persona that allows her to deal with the overwhelming obligations for nine years. For this reason, she calls her “hardened persona” a “blessing”. She dons a fa├žade of callousness and toughness and learns to focus only on what is crucial—whether the patient is a danger to himself or others and whether he should be let go or kept. However, her persona does not come without consequences, for it causes serious issues, both professionally and emotionally. As she realizes her limitations in aiding her patients, she becomes more confrontational, aggressive, and rude toward them. Her attitude toward the mentally ill in general is insensitive, dehumanizing, and objectifying—she calls her patients “crazy” (Holland, 50) and refers to them as “live ones” (Holland, 3). Her behaviour not only negatively affects the care that she provides, it also physically endangers her. She is threatened and physically assaulted by patients who she has behaved to in an aggressive manner and toward the end of her stay at Bellevue, she is forced to recognize the danger that she continues to put herself in because of her conduct. Holland’s persona also causes an emotional inability to deal with problems outside of her workplace—when her good friend and colleague, Lucy, develops cancer, Holland cannot bring herself to visit her at the hospital and refuses to deal with her impending death. This also causes a rift between herself and another friend of Lucy’s, Daniel, and this widens considerably when Daniel becomes Holland’s superior. She recognizes the damage that her persona has caused and acknowledges that it has turned her into an individual and a doctor that she detests by calling it a “curse”. She attempts to ameliorate her behaviour by seeing a therapist, but she cannot impede the progress of emotional exhaustion that she ultimately faces. Holland becomes burnt out and decides to resign from Bellevue.
From Holland’s account, one can see how initially beneficial personality traits, such as empathy and compassion, or “blessings”, can transform into “curses” because of the way they force one to develop a personality that is detrimental to the well-being of many. Nevertheless, these traits are strongly desired and encouraged in the medical field. For example, the American Medical Association notes that a few of the characteristics that are required for student success in medical school are integrity, cognitive ability, reliability, dependability, dedication, and motivation (Casey, 2). HealthECareers, a site that medical professionals can use to find available jobs in their chosen fields, states that the five most important traits that a nurse practitioner should have are good physical endurance,  good communication, patience, a caring nature, and to be encouraging (HealthECareers). In addition, a medic should have perseverance, emotional endurance, empathy, fast adaptation skills, leadership and teamwork skills, the ability think clearly and quickly in grave situations, the ability to take criticism or failure, a willingness to take risks, and fast adaptation skills. All of these characteristics are sensible and realistic if one is to be successful in one’s line of work (“blessings”). However, when one places a person with these traits in certain situations or specific environments (usually involving high levels of stress) frequently, there usually occur negative ramifications for the professional, their work, and their personal life (“curses”). In addition, an excess of the traits mentioned above and the exploitation of them by others adds to their “cursedness”. For example, if one is too patient and accommodating, learning to say “no” may be difficult and one might overextend oneself to the point where one would get burnt out very quickly. Having good physical endurance and perseverance might cause short and long-term health issues if one were to take these traits to an extreme. For example, having the ability to work on limited amounts of sleep and nutrition is not ideal for a doctor because it can cause impairment of one’s ability to make proper choices. Excessive ambition and determination might cause an individual to lose track of his priorities and engage in professional competitions which may cause a lack of empathy toward colleagues and potentially patients. One might also become biased toward other opinions and this might cloud one’s judgment concerning patient care. As Julie Holland shows, experiencing kindness and empathy might overwhelm one emotionally. If one has good leadership skills, one may feel pressured to constantly make a decision and one may not take other opinions into consideration well. On the other hand, if one has good teamwork skills, one might be so comfortable not taking the lead that if a situation arose in which this action was necessary, problems might ensue. Risk-taking in itself is a dangerous situation—not risking enough or risking too much may result in an extremely serious mistake. Finally, concerning adaptation skills, there is a possibility that one may not be able to completely process the adaptation at the time, and this may lead to dependence on harmful coping mechanisms. The necessity of having to portray and balance most, if not all, of the characteristics mentioned above in a trying environment leads to professionals using certain coping mechanisms in order to deal with their stresses (Straker). For example, Julie Holland uses humour, distancing, acting out, avoidance, provocation, and compartmentalization (by attempting to separate her different jobs and personas into different bags) as her coping mechanisms (Holland, 189). The personality traits that she develops from these coping mechanisms are what make up her “hardened persona”. Thus, the negative manners in which Holland chooses to handle her situation and her abundance of empathy are what exacerbate her inappropriate behaviour and lead to her burnout.
The phenomenon of burnout is described by Christina Maslach as “a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who do ‘people work’ of some kind” (Maslach, 3). Holland is an apt example of this kind of burnout, portraying what might occur as a result of overextending oneself emotionally, or of being overly empathetic. Other physicians have explained that burnout is due also to “excessive workloads […], subsequent difficulty balancing personal and professional life, and deterioration in work control, autonomy, and meaning in work” (Dyrbye, Shanafelt). In addition, Ryan Flesher, the director of “The Vanishing Oath” explains that for him, an emergency room doctor, burnout is also caused by the inundation of bureaucratic demands and performance anxiety. This issue is extremely common in the United States, with 30% to 40% of physicians experiencing burnout at any given time (Fortney, Luchterhand, Zakletskaia, Zgierska, and Rakel, 412) and with up to 70% of specialists experiencing it on a general basis (Nido, Grimshaw, SayGan, Jensen, Williamson). There are serious consequences related to the syndrome– besides depersonalization, reduced personal accomplishment, and emotional exhaustion, doctors are more likely to leave their practices, and become depressed and suicidal. Professionally, doctors suffering from burnout are more prone to making medical mistakes and the quality of their care is considerably lowered, thus lowering patience satisfaction and further deteriorating doctor-patient communication (Drummond). In essence, this condition is caused by the excessive use of destructive coping mechanisms in order to deal with the stressful environment that negatively influences the personality traits that are strongly desired in medical professionals.
As the crisis of burnout has become more prevalent in the past century, there have been more efforts in attempting to improve and prevent it. Recent studies and medical opinions suggest that essentially, what is needed to counteract the issue is the application of more constructive coping mechanisms. Examples include: managing one’s time more effectively, taking time for oneself throughout the day to reflect on one’s mindset, becoming more self-aware, engaging in mindfulness training (Drummond), staying connected to loved ones, establishing healthy physical habits, attending therapy (Laws), keeping up with activities that one enjoys, and learning to say “no” (Nido, Grimshaw, SayGan, Jensen, Williamson).. More drastic examples include resigning or changing one’s field of medicine. However, there have been no holistic studies that prove that these recommendations decrease burnout on a large scale and there must be more research implemented in order to more definitively conclude that the ideas mentioned above succeed.
Works Cited
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Casey, Barretta R. Enhancing Attention to Personal Qualities in Medical School Admission. Rep. 2008. Print.
Drummond, Dike. “Physician Burnout: Why It’s Not a Fair Fight.” The Happy MD. 2013. Web.
Dyrbye, Liselotte N., and Tait D. Shanafelt. “Physician Burnout: A Potential Threat to Successful Health Care Reform.” Journal of the American Medical Association (2011). Web.
Fortney, Luke, Charlene Luchterhand, Larissa Zakletskaia, Aleksandra Zgierska, and David Rakel. “Abbreviated Mindfulness Intervention for Job Satisfaction, Quality of Life, and Compassion in Primary Care Clinicians: A Pilot Study.”Annals of Family Medicine 11.5 (2013). Web.
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Laws, Jenny. “Start Early: Avoiding Physician Burnout Begins in Medical School.”LeadDoc. American College of Physician Executives, 21 Mar. 2013. Web.
Nido, Derek, John Grimshaw, Jasmine SayGan, Lauren Jensen, and Brandon Williamson. “Avoiding Professional Burnout.” The Mobile Physician. Web.
Nido, Derek, John Grimshaw, Jasmine SayGan, Lauren Jensen, and Brandon Williamson. “Professional Burnout and Physicians.” The Mobile Physician. Web.
Straker, David. “Coping Mechanisms.” Changing Minds. Web.
The Vanishing Oath. Dir. Ryan Flesher. Perf. Ryan Flesher. 2009. DVD.