Dissociative Identity Disorder in Moon Knight


Photo Curtesy of Marvel

Marvel’s portrayal of DID in the new show Moon Knight

[Moon Knight spoilers]

One of the latest additions to the Marvel universe, Moon Knight recently, premiered on Disney Plus. Released weekly from March 30, 2022, through May 4, 2022, Moon Knight showcases the new wave of darker MCU characters. 

Moon Knight follows Steven Grant, a socially awkward gift shop employee who realizes he is sharing a body with Marc Spector, a mercenary who serves the moon god Khonshu by serving justice to evildoers under the cover of night by means of murder. Steven and Marc have to learn to work together in order to stop Arthur Harrow from reviving Ammit, a being with powers of divine retribution, from pulling another Thanos. Only instead of killing half of the world, Ammit wants to kill anyone in the world who has committed or will commit a crime.

Marc Spector, the original host of the body, has dissociative identity disorder (DID) which is characterized by alternating between multiple identities within the same body. People with DID experience memory gaps, which is showcased throughout the show. Since the first few episodes mainly follow Steven who is unaware of his DID. Along with Steven, the audience gets to learn about Marc, Layla (Marc’s wife), Arthur, Khonshu, and Ammit. The show uses this to its advantage to build suspense while also staying somewhat accurate to how people experience DID. 

Admittedly, the portrayal is a bit exaggerated due to the nature of superhero films. Being possessed by a literal god and going to the afterlife don’t exactly make for the most accurate of portrayals. Despite this, the cast and crew tried their best not to feed into harmful stereotypes. The filmmakers behind Moon Knight brought a board-certified psychiatrist,  Dr. Paul Puri, “to help both the actors and the filmmakers understand the disorder and its implications” in order to create a true portrayal of DID.

At the start of Moon Knight, Steven has lived his entire life believing that it is just him. The first episode is told entirely from his point of view- blocking out when Marc takes over. The audience watches Steven wake up in random places and try to get his bearings which is both intriguing and comical to watch. Steven Grant certainly did not expect to wake up to men chasing after him since he’s just a socially awkward Egyptian loving nerd.  Learning about Marc is world breaking to him at the beginning of episode 2, he doesn’t even believe it himself. Yet as the show progresses, he realizes that he has to accept it and work with Marc. 

In episode 5, we learn about Marc Spector’s past and possibly how he developed DID. Marc was abused as a child by his mother after an accident which killed his younger brother. Due to this, Marc’s subconscious created Steven as a vehicle to see his mother in a good light and live Marc’s ideal and peaceful life, not the life of a vengeful mercenary. Steven learns here that he is an alternate personality, rather than the host. That isn’t to say that Steven isn’t his own person, because he is. Seeing him slowly process that he isn’t the original and accept the situation they are in is amazing. Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada did a phenomenal job at playing both characters- even if Steven’s fake British accent took a few minutes to get used to. 

Even though Moon Knight made an effort to accurately portray DID as close as possible, stigma around mental illness and DID is still rampant within the media. The movie Split is a prime example of this: it portrays multiple of Kevin’s (the main character with DID in the movie Split) identities as evil. Such evils include literally kidnapping three teenage girls and acting creepy towards them. As the movie goes on, it only attempts to make the audience pity him for having mental illness issues, only to go “Oh well, he’s still evil!” at the very end. While both Moon Knight and Split are both one of the darker pieces of media within their franchises, Moon Knight shows DID and mental illness as a whole in a better light. The characters in Moon Knight are fairly morally gray which makes it easier to empathize with them, such as seeing how Marc is affected by everyone he has ever killed.

This movie is fantastic at bringing awareness to mental health issues. After Marc and Steven die after being shot by Harrow, Marc and Steven are thrown into a presumably fake reality of a mental hospital. In this hospital, we see then Dr. Harrow forcing them with treatment at their therapy session. This comes as a shock to the audience because you know this isn’t actually happening. You know this is all in Marc and Steven’s head and Ammit still needs to be stopped, but there’s a part of you that just wonders if this is actually their reality. Are Marc and Steven actually in a mental hospital rather than superheroes? Marc also thinks this and tries to run away from the forced treatment. Everytime he is sedated for his behavior, they are transported to the afterlife where both Marc and Steven have separate bodies. In the afterlife, they have to accept who they are and their past in order to get back to reality and save the world from Ammit. 

Moon Knight tells a simple message: you can’t force people to get help, you can only really listen to them and wait till they ask and are ready. Overall, I would recommend Moon Knight to anyone who’s interested in a show with great suspense, action, and story. Although the portrayal is exaggerated, it does not spread any harmful stereotypes and in fact is a movie bringing awareness to mental health issues.