Byron to Batman: The Pop Culture Problem of Romanticizing Mental Illness | Katlyn Firkus | TEDxUGA

Byron to Batman: The Pop Culture Problem of Romanticizing Mental Illness | Katlyn Firkus | TEDxUGA

Katlyn Firkus, a Marketing and Psychology double major, is interested in understanding the media’s role in shaping public perception. Her talk explores the archetype of the Byronic hero and how it perpetuates the dangerous idea that suffering is a necessary precursor to brilliance.

Katlyn Firkus is a fourth-year student studying Marketing and Psychology. She is a member and the current President of the Demosthenian Literary Society, UGA’s oldest student organization. She enjoys debate, performing arts, and working on Many Hats: The Podcast with her friend Bailey Johnson.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at


18 thoughts on “Byron to Batman: The Pop Culture Problem of Romanticizing Mental Illness | Katlyn Firkus | TEDxUGA”

  1. This is such a massive issue right now and she phrased is so aptly and beautifully. I love this <3

    It's not just people claiming they have mental illness to attain "instant profoundness" though, it goes well beyond that. It started with that and now it is has turned into people not believing those who actually struggle with mental illness and expecting them to overcome these trials set out for them as if they are minor hurdles to jump rather than mountains to scale. Now if you tell someone you suffer from mental illness, they shrug, state that everyone suffers in a way and that you should man up and be that unique and profound person your mental illness is supposed to make you. It's all backward and it's so sad. It is estimated that one in four/five people suffer from mental illness. That can't be all of us. We don't want it to be all of us. You don't want it to be you. Be happy if it is not you and take the true easy road to being/becoming extroardinary. Be grateful that you were born with the gift of a healthy mind.

  2. @TEDx Talks , as a big fan of Psychology and Pop Culture, I had to give your video a watch and thought it was really cool how you incorporated the romanticism of mental illness with television and movie stars. Great stuff.

  3. I'm sorry some unfortunately opinionated individual was the only one to comment so far =/

    Anyway! Wonderful talk, full of very well made points that are much-needed. For a while now (certainly throughout my childhood) it is nearly impossible to identify as shy, intelligent, interesting, unique, bookworm-ish, artistic or so on without falling into this trap of romanticizing mental illness, negative weirdness, and suffering. The Byronic hero is a cause certainly, as well as so many other tropes throughout western narratives (to be fair, the Greeks did it too). There is also so much else involved in it directly, plus other complex issues connected (a plethora of diverse subcultures, the aesthetic of suffering and darkness themselves as legitimate forms of expression and beauty…but those things can be done in a healthy way that people often do not realize until well after their depressed young-adult stages, if ever).
    It is a very deep issue that needs very deep and careful solutions, and I am really happy to see a talk on it =] Thank you.

  4. And FAKE mentally ill play boogeymen in Propaganda-news…like phantom killer "#AdamLanza" who was never photographed at the sandyhook "event".
    Thanks for pushing propaganda while CENSORING your comments.
    TED is cowardly-TRA$H.

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