‘Moon Knight’: Some MCU Fans Are Worried About the Show’s Handle on Mental Health

Moon Knight is one of several upcoming Disney+ shows expanding on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Production only recently began in early fall 2020, so storyline details remain scant. However, the backstory of Marc Spector (the Moon Knight, who will be played by Oscar Isaac in the new show) stretches back decades.

Fans of the comic book are worried about how the showrunners will tackle the Moon Knight’s many mental health issues. These mental health problems are core to the character’s story, and can’t simply be glossed over. However, pop culture doesn’t have a positive track record in terms of portraying mental health in an accurate, sensitive way. 

The Moon Knight character has a history of mental health challenges

Kevin Feige
Kevin Feige | Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

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It’s rumored that the Moon Knight saga will be connected to a re-imagining of the Avengers that we know so well, but he is hardly a new character. 

In fact, this antihero made his first appearance back in 1975, and his mental health has always been a core part of his journey.

“Over his years as Moon Knight, Spector has also exhibited periodic demonstrations of supernatural powers,” explains Marvel. “Unfortunately, these abilities are balanced by an uneven mental state that manifests itself in bouts of depression and multiple identity disorder.”

Moon Knight’s mental health took center stage when the character was relaunched in 2016 by author Jeff Lemire and illustrator Greg Smallwood as part of Marvel’s All-New, All-Different Marvel program.

In his 2016 debut, Moon Knight’s Spector wakes up in a mental institution. 

Throughout his journey, Moon Knight has:

  • Been institutionalized 
  • Undergone forced psychiatric exams 
  • Displayed antisocial tendencies
  • Had mental breakdowns 
  • Been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder.

Thus, it makes sense that fans are curious about how Disney+ will approach these significant health issues, especially in today’s social climate where mental health awareness is a growing concern. 

Fans are worried about how the series tackles mental health

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“For those who don’t know, Moon Knight in the comics has multiple personality disorder and is also likely deranged to some extent,” points out Reddit user RangerRed02. “But would Disney and Marvel be willing to explore that? […] My main worry is that Marvel and Disney will mostly gloss over this and make it just a standard MCU action/adventure story.”

Another Reddit user, who goes by the name KateVaporeon, added: “I hope that if they do decide to do it they actually handle it with tact.” The user also points out that many TV shows do this poorly, painting mental health in broad, violent strokes that add to the stigma in the real world.

This is a concern shared not only by MCU fans, but also by psychologists and mental health experts. Studies have found that inaccurate or insensitive portrayals of mental health add to negative views of people with mental health issues. 

What we know so far about the TV series’ approach to Moon Knight’s mental health

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When it launched Disney+, Disney promised that its streaming platform would be committed to diversity on every level. This gives some MCU fans hope that the Moon Knight TV series will be honest, authentic and sensitive to how its lead character’s mental health gets portrayed. 

“I think Marvel will take advantage of having a character with mental illness as part of their ‘quest’ for diversity, which is a good thing especially [in] this day and age,” writes Reddit user rompe_palle.

And in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, MCU director and showrunner Kevin Feige hinted that the Moon Knight would stay true to the portrayals in the comics. This likely means that Disney+ won’t shy away from the character’s many health issues. 

At the same time, some fans think that Disney+ is rushing its production of its MCU series to compete with Netflix’s rollout of competing shows. Whether a rushed production schedule gives the producers and writers enough time to portray sensitive topics like mental health in a genuine way remains to be seen. 

There is currently no release date for the Moon Knight. Until then, mental health advocates and Moon Knight fans await the verdict.