Dr. Phil Accused Of Exploiting Shelley Duvall's Mental illness For Ratings

By McCarton Ackerman 11/21/16

Outraged celebrities and fans called for a boycott of The Dr. Phil Show

Dr. Phil Accused Of Exploiting Shelley Duvall's Mental illness For Ratings
Shelley Duvall Photo via YouTube

Controversial talk show host Dr. Phil has come under fire for his latest interview with The Shining actress Shelley Duvall, who is suffering from mental illness and has lived in isolation for over a decade.

Duvall, 67, rambled nonsensical thoughts and appeared disheveled in the interview that aired on Friday. The actress told Dr. Phil that she was “very sick” and “needs help,” to which the TV doctor replied, “That’s why I’m here.”

But a preview clip of the interview was almost entirely exploitative. Duvall is shown declaring that the late actor Robin Williams is still alive and “shapeshifting;” speaking about her fear of “the Sheriff of Nottingham;” and talking about the alien “implants” in her leg.

Stanley Kubrick’s daughter, Vivian, posted an open letter on Twitter that called for a boycott of Dr. Phil’s show. She expressed her “complete disgust” with the interview and said it took advantage of Duvall in a vulnerable state.

“This is purely a form of lurid and exploitive entertainment – it’s appallingly cruel. Shelly Duvall was a movie star … whatever dignity a mere unfortunate creature might have in this world, is denied her by your displaying her in this way,” she wrote. “I hope others will join me in boycotting your utterly heartless form of entertainment, because it has nothing to do with compassionate healing.”

Journalist Ronan Farrow also took to Twitter to express his disdain with Dr. Phil, writing, "Don't support the exploitation of vulnerable people. Don't watch Dr Phil. When people sell exploitation it lessens all of us. When we fail to protect people at their most vulnerable it hurts all of us."

Others on social media expressed concern about whether Duvall was even lucid enough to grant interview requests. One Twitter user wrote that “she is not competent enough to grant your permission,” while another tweeted at Dr. Phil that “you are capitalizing on her mental illness for personal gain.”

In another series of tweets, the Today show's Al Roker questioned Dr. Phil's "spotlight" on Duvall's mental illness."How about first treating #ShelleyDuval away from your cameras and if successful, presenting before and after. But that was shameful."

Despite the calls for boycott, the episode aired as scheduled on Friday. Page Six called the interview "every bit as grotesque as we feared." Duvall ultimately denied treatment and returned home. At the end of the episode Dr. Phil said the show will continue to try and help Duvall, and promised updates on her progress.

As of Monday morning, an article on Dr. Phil's website about the episode has been removed.

In addition to her role as Wendy Torrance in the Stanley Kubrick classic, Duvall is also known for her work in Popeye and 3 Women. She retired from the public eye in 2002 and is reportedly living in Texas.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Dr. Phil has been accused of exploiting individuals with mental illness. He devoted an episode earlier this month to a teenage girl who believed that she was about to give birth to Jesus, but an on-air test revealed that she wasn’t even pregnant.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.