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Insanity: nature versus nurture (or is Amanda destined to turn out just like Janet?)

Now that the threat of David Hayward has disappeared from her marriage, beautiful Amanda Martin faces something even darker and more terrifying than Hayward was --- her mother, Janet Dillon. Recently escaped from an institution for the criminally insane, Janet has stalked Amanda, shot her friend, Natalia, threatened to kidnap Amanda and grandson Trevor, and ultimately suffered an apparent stroke, rendering her unconscious.

Through all this latest trauma, we have a glimpse into Amanda's greatest fear---that she will end up to be as crazy as her murderous mother. On the Friday, May 13th episode, Amanda is so paralyzed with her concerns about insanity, that she is unable to pick up her crying child in his playpen. Only a visit from Krystle snaps Amanda out of her trance, only for the young mother to realize that Trevor is burning up with a fever. The question of insanity (nature versus nurture) is a fascinating avenue for AMC to explore with the vulnerable and sweet natured Amanda.

Janet's instability was clear from her first appearance in Pine Valley when she arrived to plague her beautiful sister, Natalie. Dowdy and overweight, Janet coveted her sister's life, pushed her down a well, and attempted to steal her identity. Janet was nuts from the get-go, and over the years, her behavior became more bizarre and murderous.

There is no question that mental instability can be genetic. Chemical imbalances can cause various mental illnesses like depression. However, because one parent suffers from a mental disorder does not guarantee that the offspring will show signs of a similar malady.

Looking at Amanda's childhood, there are markers that indicate that she was a happy, well-adjusted little girl. Her father, a police detective, doted on her, and protected her. She had an older step-brother, Timmy, with whom she was close, and an older cousin, Hayley, whom she adored. The Dillons even owned an adorable moppet of a dog, Harold. Amanda's childhood was relatively stable.

As far as Janet was concerned, she worshipped Amanda to distraction---and therein lies the potential problem. Janet smothered Amanda with her love in a very unnatural way, despite Trevor's attempts to keep things on an even keel in the Dillon household.

And then came the final blow---literally. Janet murdered her beloved husband, Trevor, and stuck him a the deep freeze, for which she was locked away, supposedly forever. However, as Janet explained it, her newly acquired computer proficiency allowed her to figure out an escape from the booby hatch, landing her on Amanda's doorstep.

In the confrontation with Janet last week, Amanda raised the issue of Trevor's death with Janet, who honestly seemed to believe that Trevor could be thawed and raised from the dead. Her tragic misunderstanding of life and death reveals the depths of Janet's delusions.

So here's the essential question---despite having been raised by her loving and stable father, and now being sheltered in the cocoon of Jake's love, is it enough to fend off the demons of insanity closing in on Amanda, or will she succumb to the darkness?

The vision of Agnes Nixon when she created AMC was to launch a show that delved into important, contemporary social issues. Certainly the devastation that insanity wreaks on a family is a huge problem faced in our world fraught with severed economic and social problems. This will be an important story to watch as Amanda faces the truth about herself.


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