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Male mental health stigma: Exploring Mr Robot's Elliot Alderson.

Elliot from Mr Robot breaks most stereotypes of what a male protagonist should be.

Mr Robot, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated gems that have hit the small screen. One of the reasons this show is such a gem is revolved around its central protagonists; Elliot Alderson.

Mr Robot's story is told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator (see Fight Club) Elliot Alderson. A chain-smoking, morphine addicted, sleep deprived hacker-vigilante by night engineer who works at All Safe, the company that provides cybersecurity into one of his biggest adversaries: E-Corp.

A different kind of protagonist

One thing that you must know about Mr Robot is that its plot is carried by its characters. Every single one of the characters are fleshed out and given a purpose to the plot while director Sam Esmail provides the viewers with each character's motivation and goals. Today we are going to explore something that form my experience of researching the show; Elliot's differentiation from the standard male protagonist.

Even from the first scene of Mr Robot, you can get a clear glimpse of the protagonists' psyche. Elliot notices that a coffee place provides its customers with a fiber connection whichs a broadband connection that can reach speeds of up to 940 Megabits per second, something that allows the customers to surf the web faster and do whatever Internet things people do. Not Elliot though.

" It's good. So good, it scratched that part of my mind. The part that doesn't allow good to exist without a condition." -Elliot Alderson, Mr Robot.

Elliot hacks the coffee shop's owner before hand and proceeds to tell him of his doings (which I do not want to spoil for you). Elliot makes a connection with his victim; he tells him about his dead father and consoles him by telling him that everything is going to be alright. He also opens up to him and tells him that he usually does things from his computer because of his anxiety. However, he decided to do this IRL because he wanted to take his therapist's advice who told him to try and socialize more. When Ron comprehends what is coming to him, he breaks into tears. He understands that his life is over. Elliot then does something rarely seen not only in TV shows but in the real world as well, he empathizes with him. He tells him that he understands, he knows what it feels to be different. This trait makes Elliot stand out from your stereotypical male character that leaves no empathy for his fellow man whom he shares a grudge with. However, empathy does not equal forgiveness. While a sorrowed Ron offers to pay Elliot, he leaves and tells him that he does not give a shit about money. Our character is established to have the desire to be a hero. He wants to do good but he sees that the world is not black and white. He knows Ron did this for a reason. Maybe its money, maybe its something else. He knows that Ron is a victim of the invinsible hand that controls everything. The need for money.

You can watch this masterpiece of a scene by clicking on this link.

Breaking the barriers of male protagonists

Elliot is an example of a character that breaks the barriers of the stereotypes for male protagonists.He is not tall. He does not have huge muscles and he is not a womanizer. Instead, Elliot is a short, anti-social, skinny guy who can't talk his way through most of the things most male protagonists do (Mad Men, Suits etc). Instead, Elliot talks to himself. But not specifically to himself. He speaks to us. The viewer. Elliot is facing his own mental health problems, just like a high percentage of males do.

He admits to the pain of his loneliness. He is a flawed character that many would relate to, even if they would not admit to it.

Most men do not like talking about their feelings due to the stereotypes that surround them. They are supposed to be tough, strong and emotionless. They are allowed to be vulnerable only when they reach a certain point. This however is nothing far from the truth. Facing mental issues does not mean that one day you magically fill up and let it all out. For some, they can break every day without letting anyone knowing it, for others, they can just hold it inside and struggle as they go.

Elliot also does something that men forbid themselves of doing from a young age; crying. Crying is seen as taboo from a man's perspective and he would rather bottle everything inside or react to things in a more macho way such as breaking things or screaming. We refuse the soothing effects of crying just because society told us not to, because is is seen as weakness, as a "pussy's way of handling things".

While Elliot is not the perfect advocate for mental health, there is one thing that we should take from him as men, we must let ourselves be vulnerable from time to time. Crying should be normalised as it allows you to get any negative emotions out. The expression of feelings such as sadness,loneliness and such, should be encouraged. Not restricted.

A numb feeling

Flawed characters like Elliot are rare occasions.

Elliot does something that we all can relate to, regardless of gender. Just like Rami Malek's potrayal of the legendary Freddie Mercury claimed:

We drink, we take drugs and we smoke. Why? Well, as the quote of Elliot claims:

Life is so much easier when you’re numb

Elliot is a morphine user but he is not your stereotypical junkie. He limits himself in order to convince himself that he is not a junkie. He also uses suboxone for withdrawal reasons? Who does this? Which character purposefuly takes withdrawing medication? We've seen a lot of characters over the years who use drugs but not something like this. It shows us that nobody wants to be considered a junkie. We can claim that weed is not bad for you, that drinking helps us relax etcetera et cetera. However, a majority of people end up lying to themselves since they may not be physically addicted to drugs, but their existence can lead them get addicted psychologically.

Elliot does not take any shit while being diplomatic

We are used to characters that let their punches do their work. We are wired to find people who take no shit from others and be a physical threat to everyone opposing them. However, Elliot does this in a different way. An example? When Olly, Elliot's childhood friend Angela's boyfriend (who he cheats on occasionally according to Elliot's hacks) confronts our protagonist about not making an effort to form a relationship with him, Elliot lets him down in the most diplomatic way possible.

Even when he knows that this douche is betraying his best friend's trust, he does not get angry. He just ignores his existence. One can claim that a true friend would say something, but just remember, Elliot hacks people's accounts. This would mess up your only friend's trust easily.

What do you think about Elliot from Mr Robot? Have you watched the show? What other characters would you like me to look into? Contact me or send me a message and I will get back to you.

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