The group, known as “Care2,” has launched a petition drive to protest the movie and call for a boycott.
Shyamalan is considered a master of the genre. His hit films include 1999’s “The Sixth Sense,” with Bruce Willis and last year’s horror film “The Visit.”
He wrote and directed his latest picture, billed as a psychological horror thriller. It stars James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jessica Sula, Haley Lu Richardson and Betty Buckley.
McAvoy’s character, Kevin, has 24 different “split” personalities, an actual mental illness known as dissociative identity disorder.
Kevin kidnaps teenage girls and terrorizes them. In at least one of his many personalities, he wears a dress with heels. The character “invokes society’s transphobic values in an attempt to scare audiences,” said Care2 spokeswoman and author Sarah Rose in a statement.
“There are a lot of things that are inherently problematic about the upcoming Shyamalan film. We’re at a point in society where male-bodied people wearing dresses shouldn’t be portrayed as offensive, strange, or scary, but films like this do nothing to counteract that narrative. Additionally, this film paints mental illness as a horror movie plot, and not a real issue that should be addressed seriously and with profound compassion.”
Demands for increased mental health services have been on the rise in Congress both for military veterans and prison inmates.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has included mental health services as a key part of her plan to reform the justice system.
“This isn’t the first time a movie has invoked society’s transphobic values in an attempt to scare audiences–consider Norman Bates in ‘Psycho’ and Buffalo Bill in ‘The Silence of the Lambs,’ said Rose, who doubles as Care2’s LGBTQ Issues Advocate.
The petition states: “As both an advocate for and member of the LGBTQ community and someone whose life has been profoundly impacted by mental illness in those close to me, I find this film and it’s subject matter impossible to support.”
Check out the petition here and trailer below. The film hits theaters Jan. 20, 2017.
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