F***! S**t! Pus**! That’s what everyone who has Tourette’s will shout, at the top of their lungs, right?

Wrong. It’s only in media depictions that Tourette Syndrome is all about the uncontrollable shouting of profanities. In actual fact, Tourette Syndrome is usually characterised by several motor tics (tics are sudden, repetitive, nonrhythmic movements or noises) and at least one vocal tic. It ranges in severity, from easily suppressed ones to completely involuntary tics.

What we see on screen is actually coprolalia, the uncontrollable spouting of obscenities – which only manifests in about 10% of Tourette’s patients.

Nevertheless, the misconception has persisted in many Hollywood films, often played up for comic effect. So what’s the stereotypical depiction of a comedic Tourette’s character? Here are five (fairly similar) depictions of them.


1. Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999)

Back in 1999, Saturday Night Live comedian Amy Poehler starred as Ruth – a woman with Tourette’s – on Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. She’s one of the titular gigolo’s clients, who spews the most vulgar things despite being a (usually) sweet and mild-mannered lady.

Admittedly, it’s funny to see her scowling and making furious faces, and she doesn’t actually get laid by Deuce (Rob Schneider) – a plot point which eventually gets paid off in the climax.


2. 500 Days of Summer (2009)

In 500 Days of Summer (one of the most drearily realistic romance films in cinematic history), Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel) play a game to see who can shout “penis” the loudest – in the middle of a crowded park. Tom tries to pass off their “penis” cries as Tourette’s to some bewildered passersby, but they continue the game anyway.

If you think about it, that’s not a great excuse (would you really believe a Tourette’s patient shouts “penis!” uncontrollably?) for their game, and Tom would have been better off keeping quiet.


3. Not Another Teen Movie (2001)

In the teen movie Not Another Teen Movie, JoAnna Garcia plays pleasant cheerleader Sandy Sue – who inexplicably shouts profanities while cheerleading. It’s played up with fairly good comic effect, especially when Sandy leads the crowd in a profanity-laden cheer later and they follow suit.

Despite all that, she becomes wildly popular in school and even gets a boyfriend!


4. What About Bob? (1991)

Comedy What About Bob? is a film where an outlandishly unbelievable character forces himself on a poor hapless victim. Bob (Bill Murray) sees Dr Leo (Richard Dreyfuss) for his multiple phobias, but eventually hero worships the doctor and follows him all the way to his vacation home in the woods. Dr Leo finds Bob sticking to him like glue (in a supposedly comic way, but the poor doctor is the victim here), and the good doctor could definitely have sued for stalking in this day and age.

Anyway, Bob ostensibly teaches Dr Leo’s son Sigmund (Charlie Korsmo) that Tourette’s is about screaming profanities at the top of your lungs in the scene above. Given that Dr Leo is, well, a doctor, it’s understandable why he would get frustrated at a random patient teaching his son inaccurate medical “facts” about Tourette’s.


5. South Park (1997-current)

And finally, the South Park episode Le Petit Tourette has Cartman faking Tourette Syndrome in order to swear whenever he wants to. There are several other characters who legitimately have Tourette’s and Cartman even confesses to Kyle that he’s faking it for attention (and to be able to say nasty things on public television).

Whilst Cartman’s depiction of Tourette’s is blatantly fake, the creators did sneak in some authentic symptoms of Tourette’s through some other characters, showing that they actually did their research on the disorder.

Hichki. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Hichki. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Nevertheless, there are films which portray Tourette’s accurately, but these are generally less famous than the abovementioned comedies. One is inspirational film Front of the Class (2008), which is based on the true story of Brad Cohen, a Tourette’s patient, who successfully becomes a teacher.

Now, it turns out that there’s going to be Bollywood adaptation of it called Hichki – with a female teacher as the main character! Starring Rani Mukerji and Harsh Mayar, the film promises to bring a new level of awareness about Tourette’s to everyone.

Will Naina Mathur (Rani Mukerji) achieve her goal of becoming a teacher? Well, yes you kind of already know the answer to that (she does) – but the fun is in the journey, rather than the destination!

Hichki may surprise you with its depiction of Tourette’s.


Credits: Golden Village Cinemas, Filmfare