Last weekend I gathered with friends for some holiday-time viewing that included Die Hard (yeah, it’s a Christmas movie), A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Office Christmas Special (BBC, duh), and the Chrismukkah episode of The O.C. I bring it up because this holiday O.C. is also the episode where Marissa attends her first therapy session (and befriends in the waiting area an obsessive sociopath, so, that’s not great for her)
We were struck by Marissa’s vehement opposition to seeing a therapist. It recalls Will Hunting’s persistent refusal — he mocks one alternative-y, hypnosis-y therapist, ”Look into my eyes. I don’t need therapy.”
Marissa is allowed to move in with her cheery and lovable father (and out from under the roof of her shrewish mother), but her part of the deal is she has to go to therapy — because she overdosed in Tijuana, the latest in a series of drug/alcohol abuses. Will is allowed to stay out of prison (and do math), but his part of the deal is that he has to go to therapy — because he beat the crap out of a guy who picked on him in kindergarten, the latest in a series of violent encounters.
It seems weird, kind of… why such refusal? It’s odd to realize how strong the stigma is for many, though if Tony Soprano can go to therapy, so can Marissa. (Though I suppose Tony didn’t go extremely willingly either.) Is it sexist/classist to assert that it makes more sense for Will to react this way than Marissa? Ryan is a very Will-like character, and his encouragement is what gets her to go — as if the out-of-control woman needs to be in therapy but the out-of-control men do not.
That two such different characters should react in this same way, against their best interests, speaks to the varied perception of the value of therapy and the necessity for a dramatic protagonist to be (unrealistically?) resistant to positive change. It is only an ultimatum that gets them to that session, and to the next turn in their stories.