John's Not Mad Cover If you saw a young lad walking down the street, twitching and swearing at the top of his lungs, what would you think about him, huh? That he was a weirdo? That he was a bad person? That there was something wrong with him? Mad even? Well, if you have a look at this 30-minute BBC made program produced in 1988, you'll get to knows much-much better.

John's Not Mad

This QED devised documentary chronicles how a 16 year old lad from Galashiels, Scotland, called John Davidson, copes with his chronic illness, Tourettes syndrome.

Now to help tell this tale in a more personable fashion, theirs pre-recorded footage showing John in his daily activities, as well as interviews with John, his Mother Heather, his special needs teacher Lorna Peggy, plus the noted author on this subject, Oliver Sachs. Also, in addition to this, this piece is narrated by the actress, Eleanor Bron, too.   

What now follows is a basic outline of what this program entails:

  • How does this affliction affect John?   As John has full blown Tourettes, this illness expresses itself in many different ways. Like involuntary arm movements, twitches, and shudders. The sporadic curse words that are sometimes cognitive, whilst at other times associative. The occasional yelp. Plus John has also been known to spit at people too. 
  • Can John stop this from happening?   No. Not really. But he does stick his fingers into his mouth whenever he feels that he is about to swear. And it has also been suggested that medication may be able to curb this involuntary behavior slightly. 
  • How has Tourettes affected John socially?   Quite a lot actually. He distances himself from other people, and goes out of his way to not interact with anyone, just in case he may offend. Moreover, he had had a run in with the law, and finds something like shopping an arduous chore due to the people who observe his behavior. 
  • Does John have any hobbies?   Yes. He enjoys fishing on his own, as well as participating in Basketball.
  • How did John cope at school?   Regrettably this place of learning wasn't properly equipped to deal with someone like John. Worst still, fellow pupils used to poke fun of him, plus teachers abated his involuntary ways, and tried to push him away.
  • Did John get any form of schooling then?   Yes. Thankfully he was accepted into college, on a course labelled 'Special Vocational Training for Slow Learners'. Here, the teachers are more educated about John's needs, and he is able to be taught horticulture plus basic written and numeracy skills.
  • What is John's home life like?   His mother, Heather, who is a trained nurse, understands that her son has a medical condition, and tries her best to aide him as best she can. His Father, regretfully, isn't coping so well, and takes to the drink to forget his 'son's problem'. His younger brother and sister think that he is funny at times, though I am sure that they can sympathies with John's plight on a certain level. And his Grandmother thinks that John is possessed by the devil. 
  • How many people suffer from Tourettes?   Roughly, at the time of filming, 1988, it is estimated that 1 in 3,000 people have this condition to a certain degree. However, the real figure has not really been assessed properly yet.

Now I first came across this documentary, 'Johns Not Mad', by chance really. You see, I was doing some research on British comedian, Spike Milligan, and I read somewhere that he may have had a neurological disorder called Tourette Syndrome (or 'TS' for short). This then led me down a path of medical based literature, all of which was kind of highfalutin and difficult for me to follow on an associative level.

Please note: I did get the basic gist of what this affliction was all about. But in very real terms I wanted to see it in action, just to ascertain if Spike had it or not.

And guess what I discovered? That Spike had Tourettes? No. Not really. Though it's more than likely that he had some sort of mental snafu. Instead, during my travels, I bumped into an old work-college of my Dads, whom worked with him in Mencap (a learning disability support centre). 

John's Not Mad Documentary

Now my Dad's mate does not want to be named in this article for personal reasons, so for arguments sake, lets call him Donna, OK? Anyway, Donna and I had quite a lengthy chat on the subject, where he illustrated to me the type of things that people with Tourettes do. Moreover, a couple of days later; I actually met someone who Donna was taking care of who had Tourettes - lets call her Bono shall we?

However, after spending a very emotional hour or so with Bono, my feelings towards this illness radically changed from mild curiosity to associative. I found that I had some of her ticks too you see, kicking into gear my neurotic Woody Allen like behaviour to a factor of 11. Well, Bono told me that people with her condition also suffer from things like attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity, obsessive-compulsive behavior, various learning disabilities, and sleep disorders as well.

So what did I do with all of this information at hand?  Correct - I waved bye-bye to Bono (OK, I told her to f*ck off, because she thought it was funny), and then I did a google with the following search criteria 'Tourettes DVD'. And though and behold, what do you think graced my letter box in three days time? No. Not more porn. 'Johns Not Mad'. A great vintage program that captured both my heart and my mind in a very informative way.

John's Not Mad Tourettes

Conceptually, this program acts as a nice introduction to this subject, as well as having the forethought to equips you with the proper knowledge of how someone like John (plus Bono) deals with everyday life. Granted, I have taken into consideration that this documentary was made in 1988, and that certain developments' in this field has changed quite a lot since then. Nonetheless, that does not necessarily make this feature any less pertinent. If anything, it makes it a very nice slice of evolutionary understanding, relating to how Tourettes was treated in the past, and how someone like John and the QED gang should be applauded for thrusting it into the media spotlight.

Honestly, this tale is a very moving story, and just goes to show that ignorance is a much worse pitfall than those people who are afflicted with this neurological disorder. My own personal favorite aspects to this program were the one of one interviews, as it gave the overall feel to this subject that personal touch, making me sympathize with John's plight on a much deeper level. Also, I have to say that I liked the structure of the piece too, giving the complete package a grounded flavor that felt very real and very poignant.

So please, when you have the time, give www.tourettescotland.org a click, and open your mind on what the f*ck is going on with this c*nt of a condition. Or better yet, grab a copy of this very moving movie about a great-great guy today. Agreed John?  

Bless him.


JOHN'S NOT MAD JOHN'S NOT MAD Reviewed by David Andrews on August 14, 2012 Rating: 5
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