This is maybe a little too close to philosophy for one of these posts, but I’m very interested in the ways In Treatment almost seems to be a sustained examination of the problem of other minds and a way of forcing the viewer to confront this problem.
It’s true that pretty much all therapy engages this problem somewhat, since what the therapist is trying to do is by definition teasing out the contents of another person’s mind. But In Treatment appears to elevate the question of whether we can ever truly know the contents of another’s mind and, if not, how to deal with that knowledge, through its treatment (sorry) of Paul. His entire M.O. as a therapist seems to entail viewing his patients as puzzles to be solved, with secret “answers” in way that either dehumanizes them (a puzzle isn’t the same as complex human being with a mind as rich as ours/Paul’s) or suggests that Paul views finding the answers as equivalent to knowing another person. And all of Paul’s problems appear to stem from his inability to confront or truly know other people, as he starts to ignore the problems his family is going through in favor of retreating to a place where he feels like he knows his interlocutors.
The show invites us to treat the patients the same way – we talked about “diagnosing” the characters, and whether that even makes sense in the context of fictional characters. That additional level of remove just further complicates the problem of other minds for viewers: We are just as engaged in the game as Paul is (perhaps more so, since he’s another pawn for us but not for himself), but removed from the “reality” of the characters. Maybe this is just me, but watching the sessions (and Paul’s obvious inability to properly remember or characterize them to Gina), I felt a little frustrated by my attempts to actually know any of the characters, and maybe a little despair at the picture of human interaction the show seems to be painting.
Bea’s post seems relevant. Not only does the show go out of its way to present its characters as a collection of (relatively) easily identifiable psychological problems, that attitude toward the characters makes criticism of the show itself somewhat difficult. In a way that’s different from almost any other contemporary television narrative I can think of, In Treatment seems like it has only one thing on its mind (sorry again). Is it possible or useful to use In Treatment-as-text as a way of attacking that problem?