Illness and entertainment

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

You’re watching a movie, TV show, or play. After you’ve spent a little while with the characters, getting to know them (and love – or hate – them), suddenly you’re smacked with a revelation: one of the characters is revealed to have a chronic illness of some kind, rendering them more noble and tragic than they otherwise would be.

If I took Hollywood’s word for it, living with a chronic illness not really a big deal. It might be inconvenient at times, especially when you haven’t had your meds, but otherwise it’s just a matter of managing your condition and going on with life. People who are open about the difficulties they face, they’re just whining. They need to shut up and go live life to the fullest. Because that’s what a chronic illness is – a motivator! Be bold and daring! Do all that stuff you said you always wanted to do but didn’t because your lack of illness made you take life for granted (because, obviously, you never knew anyone who dealt with the shit you’re living with now). If you admit that you feel fear and pain, you’re a loser who doesn’t have their priorities straight.

But there are perks, though! You don’t get your health, but people will find you sympathetic and endearing no matter how much you fucked up before. Being sick frees you from being a moral agent. Actually, it frees you from being any kind of agent at all. You just get to hang around and be a symbol of the strength of the human spirit or some shit. Granted, in real life you’d probably be a symbol of how fucked up our health care system is here in the USA (hahaha – good one!). But seriously, fuck your life. We’re making movies/TV here.

And if you die – oh, MAN! Do you have any idea how much pathos you’ll give the friends and family who survive you? What’s that, you say? What about your happiness and well-being? Fuck you! This ain’t about you or what you need or want. We’re talking about the attractive leading actors playing your friends or family. If you don’t die of a painful disease, how can we prove that they’re deep and sensitive and all that jazz?

You really don’t expect us to treat you like a complex human being with complex problems that can’t be solved with a soundtrack and a gimmick, do you? Heheheh! Hey, Bob, this one wants us to treat sick people like real people!

3 thoughts on “Illness and entertainment

  1. Being sick frees you from being a moral agent. Actually, it frees you from being any kind of agent at all.

    Yesss. Being sick = automatic reduction to a prop. Screw being a person, woot.

    We’re talking about the attractive leading actors playing your friends or family. If you don’t die of a painful disease, how can we prove that they’re deep and sensitive and all that jazz?

    I greatly enjoy the idea that being sick isn’t about you or your struggle, but about… other people and how their moral character can profit from your sickness.

  2. I don’t know if you’re talking about mental illnesses here in this post, but I see this happening with mental illnesses as well. As someone who suffers from them in real life, I find it infuriating how it’s appropriated. It makes me want to scream “I am not your morality play!” at the people who write this shit.

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