Before you tell me I'm late, please know that I know! My dad and brother have been asking me to watch The Boys for YEARS and finally I did!
If you don't know what The Boys is, it's a TV show on Amazon Prime about superheroes who are pretty darn corrupt. I've watched all 3 seasons and I loved it! But watch the trailer before you jump in - it's gory and deals with intense topics.
There may be spoilers after this point.
The character in question is a woman named Ashley Barrett. You first meet her as an assistant but she later becomes CEO. Her job is incredibly stressful with the constant fear of being fired or worse, killed.
My trichotillomania radar went off when I saw Ashley's hand in her hair. I recognized the scanning behavior immediately. I do that! I do that! is all I could think. But I quickly cringed as I saw what she did next: pull out a huge chunk of her hair.
I've had trichotillomania for twenty-two years, I've talked to hundreds of people in the trichotillomania community and not one person mentioned pulling out a chunk of hair. It's just not how we do it.
The hair pulling process is much more intricate. We scan our scalp for a hair that feels "out of place" whether that's because it is a different texture or because when we touch it our brain says, "Yes! That one!" We pull out that single hair, look at the root, sometimes rub it across our lips, sometimes pull off or eat the root, then discard the hair. There have been times where I've pulled out 3-4 hairs at once but that was during my most intense trichotillomania moments. That is not a common occurrence. Ashley pulled out so much hair in one motion I swore I was going to see a piece of her scalp attached to the end of it. And that would've made sense, given the graphic nature of the show.
As the show progresses, you continue to see Ashley with her hands in her hair and eventually with a bald spot about the size of a half dollar. During one particularly stressful moment, you see Ashley violently rip out another chunk of her hair in front of another character. Again, I cringed.
Time and time again, trichotillomania is being portrayed as something it isn't. We aren't violently ripping our hair out. We typically aren't even pulling in front of people. Trichotillomania is a self-soothing behavior, it is not done to cause us pain. For many years trichotillomania was misdiagnosed as self-harm before being diagnosed as a body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB). Could that be what the producers were going for? Blending them together for TV purposes?
At one point Ashley is being intimate with someone and requests that he pull her hair. He begins pulling but she says, "No! Pull it out!" and he does. Now is Ashley's trichotillomania being used as a kink as well? At this point, who knows. Very strange.
One scene that was particularly heartbreaking was at the very end of season 3. At this point, you've seen Ashley pull out her hair periodically but her bald spot is no longer visible. The producers have focused on other parts of Ashley's life rather than her trichotillomania until this moment.
This scene hit me hard. This is a nightmare situation that many people in the trichotillomania community have experienced. Me included. People without trichotillomania often don't realize just how much this disorder can negatively impacts our daily lives. It's not just the act of pulling out our hair. It is the shame, embarrassment, and guilt. We become paranoid. We feel like we can't be ourselves in public without wearing something to cover up our missing areas like makeup, false eyelashes, headbands, wigs, etc. We do our best to fit in so that people won't call us out and when they do it completely destroys us. My heart broke for Ashley.
Although I had some bones to pick with how Ashley's trichotillomania was portrayed in The Boys I am still happy to see it. There are entire Reddit threads about Ashley where people are educating each other about trichotillomania. People are sharing their personal experiences! So yeah, some parts weren't completely accurate but we're having conversations about trichotillomania and that's super.