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Letters from alumni about the film A Beautfiul Mind

For other articles of interest about the film, click here.

February 28, 2002

Thank you for your short piece on "A Beautiful Mind" (January 30, 2002). It is a wonderful film based on a superb book which, as you write, "raises awareness of mental illness." In the spirit of further raising such awareness, let me suggest one key correction to your piece: You describe the film as being about "paranoid schizophrenic John Forbes Nash, Jr." One of the basic points of "A Beautiful Mind," however, is that Nash is not his disease. Rather, John Nash is someone who has or who suffers from — and in many ways has triumphed over — paranoid schizophrenia.

Likewise, I have a dear brother who has schizophrenia; I would never debase him by labeling him my "schizophrenic" brother. It may be semantics, but one of the things my Princeton graduate education taught me is that words are crucial to our perceptions. If someone has cancer, we do not reduce that person to his/her disease; we allow the person to maintain his/her dignity by "having" the disease rather than "being" the disease. We need to start thinking, talking, and writing about mental illness the way we do about other illnesses.

Robin Broad *83
Takoma Park, Md.

P.S. To readers: Both the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI at www.nami.org) and the National Association for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD, at www.mhsource.com/narsad) ) can provide more information as well as venues for channeling awareness into action.

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February 15, 2002

Your January 30, 2002, Notebook item about the now Oscar-nominated flick "A Beautiful Mind" notes the controversy over some of the flick's biographical omissions (the subject's out-of-wedlock child, his divorce, and remarriage). Not noted is the very public debate over the film's neglect of the subject's same-sex interests, discussed extensively in Sylvia Nasar's eponymous book, nor the filmmakers' disingenuous defense of their deletions.

Was mentioning this contentious aspect of the film's reception considered too prurient or controversial for your 21st-century readership? If so, why?
Just wondering. Thanks for putting out such an interesting an informative magazine!

Charles F. Allen '94
New York, N.Y.

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February 11, 2002

With all the excitement generated by the filming of A Beautiful Mind, the recent release of the film, and your coverage in the January 30 issue, I thought you might be interested to know that the game Go/WeiQi featured in an early scene is still played regularly at Princeton.

The Princeton Go club was started in the mid-1940's by math professor Ralph Fox. Tournaments and lectures by visiting professional players took place in the old Fine Hall common room described in your editorial. The club has been active ever since. Dr. Nash was a member of the American Go Association until the late 1970's.

The Princeton club is hosting the New Jersey Open Go tournament on Alumni Day weekend in the Third World Center. That tournament, held annually for 43 years, has been played on the Princeton campus since 1990. Any alumni with connections to Go on campus are welcome to drop in.

Rick Mott '73
Ringoes, N.J.

Editor's Note: For an article about Go, click here.

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February 1, 2002

I was discouraged to see that two of the three articles devoted to the film A Beautiful Mind in January 30’s PAW largely focused on the irrelevant details of the film and book: Fine Tower and the representativeness of Hollywood extras. The shortest of the three mentioned the importance of the film for bringing attention to schizophrenia, but none of them state what is perhaps the most salient feature of this Golden Globe-winning film and screenplay: It is the most accurate and moving portrayal of the internal world of someone with schizophrenia ever brought to the general public’s attention.

About 60 million people across the world suffer from schizophrenia, yet most of the rest of the world has been completely unaware of what the illness is. There is a good chance that, due to the quality of this film and book, and the poignancy of Russell Crowe’s portrayal of John Nash, this situation is about to change considerably. Perhaps the PAW, rather than following in the footsteps of Entertainment Tonight by focusing on the bright and shiny details of this media event, could lead the way in bringing the truth of the tragedy of schizophrenia more squarely under the spotlight.

Richard Keefe ’80
associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences
Duke University Medical Center
Durham, N.C.

Editor's Note: For an essay by Dr. Keefe about schizophrenia, click here.

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