It’s been 14 years since Shelley Duvall’s last onscreen appearance, a period of reclusiveness during which the actress was reported to be living in Blanco, Texas and—according to The National Enquirer, anyway—unnerving residents with her talk of “aliens living in her body” after entering through the “portal to another dimension” in her backyard. Sadly, this time, at least, the tabloids were correct: It appears that Duvall is suffering from a rather serious mental illness. Fortunately, Dr. Phil is here to give her the exploitative interview he so desperately needs.
Producers have released a preview for this week’s episode, in which the star of films such as Brewster McCloud and The Shining opens up about her condition, as well as some of the disturbing things she now believes. Asked about her Popeye co-star Robin Williams, for example, Duvall insists she doesn’t think he’s dead but rather “shape-shifting.” She also believes that the “Sheriff of Nottingham” has been threatening her. She says there’s a “whirring disk” inside her, pointing to her leg. All told, it’s an intense, disturbing 30 seconds that would impel any conscientious mental health professional to get Duvall the private care she so obviously requires, and therapy vulture Dr. Phil to cut it into a teaser we can all gawk at.
“I’m very sick, I need help,” Duvall admits. “Well, that’s why I’m here,” replies Dr. Phil, because that’s where the money is.
While Dr. Phil promises to give Duvall all the public scrutiny, cross-stitch wisdom, and bluntly obvious advice that can only be dispensed by a self-help and weight-loss placebo huckster who deliberately allowed his psychology license to lapse because he first and foremost practices “entertainment,” others without dentists’ waiting rooms to amuse aren’t so certain this is the help she needs. Vivian Kubrick, daughter of Stanley Kubrick, has already called for a boycott of the show, decrying Dr. Phil for taking advantage of Duvall’s unwitting mental state for his own personal gain:
Kubrick’s involvement is especially interesting, given her father’s psychological abuse of Duvall on the set of The Shining, something she sympathetically covered in her Making Of The Shining documentary. After all, if anyone is qualified to recognize someone who’s taking advantage of Duvall’s shattered mental state for the purposes of entertainment, it would be her. Or anyone who has seen Dr. Phil perform similarly, invasively public interventions on others in obvious crisis, such as Britney Spears or Bobbi Kristina Brown’s depressed, clearly inebriated boyfriend. Or anyone who doesn’t trawl the depths of human misery like a mustachioed catfish, feasting on sadness and shitting folksy aphorisms.
Dr. Phil’s interview with Duvall airs on Nov. 18, after which the collective shame of our all having participated in this will hopefully spur someone to help her for real.