ISSN (Online): 2583-0090

“All Eyes on Me”: Pandemic-Induced Mental Illness and Performance in Bo Burnham’s Inside

Authored by
Quentin StuckeyQuentin Stuckey,Research Scholar,Toronto Metropolitan University, Spain.
on 28/12/2022


This major research paper explores the representations of depression and anxiety, as a consequence of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, in Bo Burnham’s 2021 musical comedy special Inside. I argue that pandemic-induced depression and anxiety are represented through the symbiotic relationship between its formal elements, such as editing style and setting, and its performative content, such as song lyrics and monologues. This relationship between form and content serves to break down the binary between artificial performance and vulnerable, real-life mental illness, thus bringing the two conflicting states together. As opposed to typical inaccurate/negative portrayals of mental illness in North American cinema, Burnham’s Inside demonstrates the experience of mental illness can be normalized in any given context, even within the theatrical artifice of a performance during a global crisis. This normalization furthermore emphasizes the voice of the individual sufferer, thereby outlining the potential of accentuating the individual’s voice in a post-pandemic, mental health care paradigm.

Keywords : COVID-19 Pandemic, Cultural Studies, Film Studies, Illness Narratives, Medical Humanities, Mental Health, Psychology, Voice of the Sufferer.

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