Mother wanted me to wear a kimono
August 14, 2007 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Did Little Edie suffer from a specific mental illness?
posted by pieoverdone to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Narcissicm, definitely.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:48 AM on August 14, 2007

BTW, for people who don't know who Little Edie is, she's the daughter in Grey Gardens. She and her mother were eccentric recluse relatives of Jackie Onassis, & John & Peter Sayles made a documentary about them that turned into a cult film.

So yeah, Edie and her mom were delusional narcissists, I'd say. But it's okay because she made up for it by wearing revolutionary outfits that they would NEVER wear in East Hampton.

Now please pardon me while I go turn a t-shirt into a turban...
posted by miss lynnster at 6:00 AM on August 14, 2007

John & Peter Sayles

Huh? No, Albert & David Maysles filmed it and in the commentary track they credit Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer with a lot of the editorial choices.

posted by Tuwa at 6:20 AM on August 14, 2007

Keep in mind that the Beales lived in near isolation for many years, feeling more and more persecuted.

I don't think she had a specific mental illness, just tendencies that these conditions exacerbated (such as narcissism, as miss lynnster pointed out) until the lives of the ladies in question had no bearing in reality. That each woman had an enabler (and nonthreatening antagonist) in the other surely contributed to this.
posted by hermitosis at 6:21 AM on August 14, 2007

“No Beale is schizophrenic. They’re too strong!” - Little Edie in the follow up documentary, "The Beales of Grey Gardens."

Albert Maysles clearly didn't think so:

'It's funny you know, if you read the original New York Times review... the guy was totally out to lunch. He ended up by saying he thought it was a terrible exploitation of two people who were so crazy that they couldn't understand that they were being exploited. And he said, "Why are they showing all this flabby flesh?" A little problem with age. But actually, even more disturbing than that, was that Edie read it and wrote an answer to it, and they refused to publish it because the editor told me, "You can't publish this. She's schizophrenic."
iW: Wow. They missed the boat on that one.
Al: Stupidity in the highest form.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:12 AM on August 14, 2007

I don't think so. "Living alone can make you a real individual."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:25 AM on August 14, 2007

Albert & David Maysles

You are indeed right. Which is why when it's 6am & I am sleep-deprived with insomnia nobody should EVER EVER listen to anything I have to say & I should not try to go into AskMe and pretend to know a damn thing.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:21 AM on August 14, 2007

In my opinion, she was just eccentric and living a bit more in her imagination and memories than the rest of us are usually allowed to. I'm certain I would be just as odd living under similar circumstances.
posted by Jess the Mess at 9:34 AM on August 14, 2007

Judging by their house and their cats, I would peg them both as disposophobes.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:18 AM on August 14, 2007

Both Edies are now seen as symbols of freedom of artistic expression and rebels against "Hamptonian fascism", and they have enormous vulnerability and appeal.

But I try to imagine what I would think about the Beales if they were my relatives and I came to visit them in their filthy vermin-infested Long Island mansion. (I have a recollection of a beautiful oil painting of Big Edie - as a beautiful younger woman - which is propped up on the floor of her bedroom, slowly rotting under the cat poop.)

I cannot imagine thinking they were just "eccentric". I would have a hard time walking away and chalking their bizarre life-style up to "individuality". If this was my mother and sister I would try to get them some kind of mental health assesment.

I'm not sure what diagnosis would be made by a competent shrink, but I think if you consider all of their behaviors, they are more than just "peculiar" and they have crossed a line where health and safety are actually at risk.
posted by mmf at 9:57 PM on August 14, 2007

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