Why M Night Shyamalan’s Split caused so much controversy

Gabriela Silva
James McAvoy in Split as Hedwig.

Split was released in 2016 and served as a standalone/sequel to M Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable, but it received immense backlash due to how the leading antagonist’s psychological disorder was portrayed.

Jams McAvoy starred as Kevin Wendell Crumb in Split, a man who confided in his therapist that he has multiple personalities living inside him. But the real Kevin is often not in “the light” and instead controlled by his other 23 identities. With one identity regaining all control called the Beast.

The movie dives into how Kevin’s personalities kidnaps teenage girls. With the help of Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Kevin begins a fight to try and gain control before it’s too late. Shyamalan’s movie received decent reviews from critics for its take on a psychological thriller tied to his original movie Unbreakable.

But Kevin’s storyline didn’t sit well with viewers for one key reason and caused quite a controversy. Here’s everything to know.

Fans disliked Kevin’s storyline in M Night Shyamalan’s Split

After the release of Split, many were upset and disgruntled at how Shyamalan portrayed Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) with Kevin’s character.

In the movie, Kevin is the real persona but is overshadowed by 23 other personalities. All personalities take on a different form from men, and women, aggressive, kind, and vary in age. Among them is one key personality that leads the others, The Beast. But there are also a select few like Barry, Hedwig, Dennis, and Patricia who appear more often and take control of Kevin.

Split has it described as coming into “the light” when one of the personalities takes over. Kevin is often not in control. It’s revealed that Kevin developed the personality as a result of trauma from the abuse inflicted on him by his mother. The personalities explain that they manifested as a way to protect Kevin’s fragile mind and keep him safe.

Split was met with criticism over how Shyamalan portrayed DID as a stereotype and violent. The National Alliance for Mental Illness describes DID as, “an involuntary escape from reality characterized by a disconnection between thoughts, identity, consciousness and memory.”

One of the things the movie got right, but not entirely, was that DID can manifest in individuals due to trauma. But the movie put a big emphasis on Kevin’s DID story being rather violent. Especially when it came to The Beast.

A larger-than-life personality that is a brute, monstrous, driven by animal-like instincts, and deadly. It added to the common stigma of mental health or DID leading to violence. Split also had a few other factors that gave DID a superhuman falsehood that doesn’t exist in real life. Like The Beast transforming to be more muscular and invincible.

Split also gave people a false idea of how DID works like Kevin being able to gain control over the personalities when saying his full name. There’s also how one of his personalities is diabetic when Kevin isn’t. While the movie has superhuman and supernatural elements, it inaccurately portrays DID and the real people diagnosed with it.

Split is available on Netflix and you can catch new movies releasing on streaming platforms and new movies this month.

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