* Weekly Topic: Representations of Pain in Media

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Mrs. Dani
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Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 2787
   Posted 3/4/2011 11:06 PM (GMT -6)   
How do you feel about the way that Chronic and Terminal Illness are portrayed in mainstream media?
(Movies, Documentaries , Television Series, News programs...)
 
 
On one hand you have media that depicts those with chronic and terminal illness as survivors. Often highlighting on the painful, debilitating, life changing aspects of chronic and terminal illness.
 
On the other hand you have media that depicts those with chronic and terminal illness as villains . Portrayals of drug abusers and seekers. Controlling, often times emotionally blackmailing the people in their lives.
 
These very portrayals of chronic and terminal patients in media have a very real impact on how we are viewed in society. Not just by general public but our families and medical communities as well.
 
 
 
"..... What are we to make of pain as spectacle? It is certainly uncomfortable to witness another’s pain, especially someone we care about. Yet movie, TV, and newspaper images depicting pain are undeniably popular. What are we to make of these images of pain? Do they increase or decrease our humanity and our compassion? Colin Fernandes, a pain physician and scholar of the media, reflects on these issues. Fernandes concludes with the wisdom of Susan Sontag. She argues that exposure to images of pain is not itself the problem. What is central is why we are exposed to these images and what we are encouraged or allowed to do in response. To what end are we shown this pain? On what path does this pain put us?...."
 
Documentaries
 
 
I Remember Me - In 1984-85, people at Lake Tahoe fell ill with flu symptoms, but they didn't get better. Medical literature documents similar outbreaks: in 1934 at LA county hospital, in 1948-49 in Iceland, in 1956 in Punta Gorda, Florida. The malady now has a name, chronic fatigue syndrome...
 
 
 
Movies
 

Alex: The Life of a Child - A true story about a girl named Alex Depford (Lindsay Amelio and Gennie James) who has Cystic Fibrosis. The movie chronicles Alex's short but powerful life at a time when the life expectancy for those with Cystic Fibrosis was bleak.

Affair, The - A crippled lady (Natalie Wood) songwriter meets an older lawyer, who becomes her first love.

Bang The Drum Slowly - ( Robert De Niro, Michael Moriarty) The story of the friendship between a star pitcher, wise to the world, and a half-wit catcher, as they cope with the catcher's terminal illness through a baseball season.

Cure, The - Dexter (Joseph Mazzello) is an 11 year-old boy dealing with AIDS. Stigmatized by public fear of AIDS, he slowly makes friends with his neighbour Eric (Brad Renfro). As their friendship grows, they decide to find the cure for Dexter's AIDS.

Garden State - Sam (Natalie Portman) has epilepsy and meets Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) in a neurologist's waiting room. Sam and Andrew get to know each other and Sam shares some of her personal challenges, teaching Andrew the value of allowing yourself to feel, whether it is joy or sadness.

Jack - Loosely based on Progeria and Werner Syndrome, Jack Powell (Robin Williams) has the appearance of a 40 year-old man when he is only 10. Fed up with being homeschooled and isolated, Jack decides he wants to go to a public school and make friends of his own.

Little Women (1994 version) - Beth (Claire Danes), contracts scarlet fever while caring for an underprivileged family. The story is set in 1868 when medicine was more limited so instead of recovering fully she develops rhuematic fever and then congestive heart failure. Of the four March sisters, Beth is the one who never marries and never leaves home. She leads a quiet life, but is content to love her family and play a supportive role to them.

Lorenzo's Oil - A boy (Peter Ustinov) develops a disease so rare that nobody is working on a cure, so his father (Nick Nolte) decides to learn all about it and tackle the problem himself.

Mask - True story about a teenager named Rocky Dennis (Eric Stoltz) who was born with craniodiaphyseal dysplasia (aka Lionitis). Despite being warned repeatedly of his impending death, Rocky lives his life as he wants to, going to high school, working at a summer camp, and falling in love with Diana Adams (Laura Dern) who deals with blindness.

My Sister's Keeper - Anna Fitzgerald (Sofia Vassilieva) looks to earn medical emancipation from her parents (Cameron Diaz) who until now have relied on their youngest child (Abigail Breslin) to help their leukemia-stricken daughter Kate remain alive.

Passion Fish - May-Alice Culhane (Mary McDonnell) was a successful soap opera star, but a car accident has left her bound to a wheelchair.

Princes in Exile - Ryan Rafferty (Zachary Ansley) has a brain tumour and less than a year to live. He is understandably angry and bitter, especially when his parents send him to a summer camp for youth with cancer. Over the course of the summer he works on two goals: writing a journal to be published, and losing his virginity. Note: This is a National Film Board of Canada movie which means you should look for it in your public library first if you want to watch it.

Return to Me - Grace Briggs (Minnie Driver), a woman experiencing heart failure, needs a heart transplant to save her life. Grace ends up receiving the heart of Elizabeth Rueland (Joely Richardson), the previous wife of widower Bob Rueland (David Duchovny). A year after her transplant and Elizabeth's death, Grace meets and falls in love with Bob.

Terry Fox Story, The - Just to be clear, this is the 1983 tv movie about Terry Fox, not the 2005 tv movie called Terry. Another movie based on a true story, Terry (Eric Fryer) is a young man who at age 18 had his leg amputated to prevent the spread of ostoscarcoma. He planned and ran the Marathon of Hope, a run across Canada meant to raise money for cancer research.

Theory of Flight, The - Jane Hatchard (Helena Bonham Carter) is in the final stages of amytrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, when she meets Richard (Kenneth Branagh), a man forced to do community service while on probation for attempting to fly off a building. Richard is assigned to be Jane's companion and after they get over their rocky start Jane confides her deepest wish to Richard - to lose her virginity before she dies.

Water Dance, The -  Film about struggling to deal with paralysis. Author Joel Garcia (Eric Stoltz) breaks his neck while hiking, and finds himself in a rehab center with Raymond, an exaggerating ladies man, and Bloss, a racist biker. Considerable tension builds as each character tries to deal with his new found handicap and the problems that go with it, especially Joel, whose lover Anna is having as difficult a time as he is.

Whose Life Is It Anyway? - Ken Harrison (Richard Dreyfuss) is an artist that makes sculptures. One day he is involved in a car accident, and is paralyzed from his neck. All he can do is talk, and he wants to die. In hospital he make friends with some of the staff, and they support him when he goes to trial to be allowed to die.

 

There are far too many to list them all. If you think of more please share.


There have been MANY medical drama television series. Here are a few....

~~>

 
 
 
 
 
"......As the divide between fact and virtual reality becomes ambiguous, and access to images of suffering is made easier, it is important to question our response to these representations. As Sontag astutely concluded: “People don’t become inured to what they are shown—if that’s the right way to describe what happens—because of the quantity of images dumped on them. It is passivity that dulls feeling.”....."
 
 
(A note to all: This is not a discussion for attacking other members. Each person will feel differently about this topic. Remember to respect each others difference of opinion.)

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

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Post Edited (Mrs. Dani) : 3/4/2011 11:28:27 PM (GMT-7)


MIKEL99
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Date Joined Feb 2010
Total Posts : 914
   Posted 3/5/2011 7:11 AM (GMT -6)   
  I guess the way pain is portrayed is better than it was , we know more and its touched many more peoples lives , also the drug companies want to push their products so how diseases effect people and how the meds can address that is very well explained and I suppose that is a good thing ,although I didn't care that much about it until it touched my family , my aunt , my parents , I'd have to say because of technology , that is DVD's , more cable channels ,and the internet provides so much more info from a few years ago this generation is incredibly better informed than any previous one , that can only be a good thing . There was no place like HW years ago , and this place has saved people , and helped and connected folks that never would have been able to know and help and support each other otherwise , so I feel like pain has been presented now as never before and that its only going to get better . Great question Dani . Mikel

Retired Mom
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Date Joined Feb 2010
Total Posts : 1753
   Posted 3/5/2011 8:42 AM (GMT -6)   
I feel like channels like Discovery Health (hope it's ok to name a channel) are wonderful for the information they provide. They give unusual cases that we can sometimes bring to our own physicians. I know this has happened to me....I didn't have the exact same thing, but it lead to my HGH Deficiency diagnosis.

It's important to have information, but I do not like the romanticism of illness. There is nothing romantic about our conditions. Do we have lives....yes....but CP people are often given the look of gaunt, but amazingly beautiful, people with charm and grace during the illness and the families always have the "perfect" dynamics. I think this makes us even more "strange" to people around us. We suffer from so many things and most of us don't ever make it to beautiful and graceful stage. Our families are diverse and often very giving. Our children don't all become nurses to help.....they have their own lives and are always affected in some way by the parent's chronic pain.

I don't think the "general public" wants to see us or our issues in a real way. They want to live forever, never age, never see anyone with a real CP problem, condemn people with a REAL need for serious pain killers, and prevent us from slowing them down when they are shopping or trying to get along in the workplace. We're not "pretty" and "neat" and we make people nervous because they don't want to be "like us". They don't even want to consider that people really do suffer the way we do.

I honestly think the general public wants us to go away. We cost to much and don't present the "American Dream" picture anymore...so they use the media to change us to something we are not and to make themselves feel better about the way they treat us.
Failed fusion L5-S1, Pituatary damage, HGH Def, Fibro, Bladder surgery failure, Nissen Failure, GERD, OCPD, GAD, MDD, CTS (Bilateral Surgery completed), CFS, TMJ, Migraines, Vit D, A, Magnesium deficiency, Pre-glaucomic (sp?), HBP, Idiopatic Reactive Hypoglycemia, Edema, too many Drug/Food allergies, sensitivites, and current meds to list.

misterkatamari
Regular Member


Date Joined Jan 2011
Total Posts : 374
   Posted 3/5/2011 10:14 AM (GMT -6)   
I agree with retiredmom. Chronic pain and terminal illness can happen to anyone, yet typically those afflicted are shown to be either saints or druggies. Not everyone is going to be living out the plot of Terms of Endearment, because we all are different people with different struggles and lives.

cogito
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Date Joined Oct 2010
Total Posts : 932
   Posted 3/5/2011 11:26 AM (GMT -6)   
The T.V. shows listed: House, Southland and Nurse Jackie all portray CP sufferers as also having drug problems. I see this as a cheap and easy way to bring drama to CP, but it is, of course, distorting.

I've always thought that the portrayal of CP in House was terrible. Here is a genius diagnostician who seems to never try (except for methadone and ketamine in single epsiodes) any alternatives than vicodin... no time-release meds, nothing. Likewise, methadone was not portrayed well - House was threatened with being fired if he continued using it, even though it was represented as taking away his leg pain.

Nurse Jackie seems to as much want an emotional escape as a relief from pain -- her pain issues are so intermingled with psychological ones that I think her character is more of a drug seeker.

Of the three, I find Officer John Cooper in Southland the most interesting. He won't see a doctor about his lower back pain because he doesn't want to be forced to take a desk job. So, he buys oxycodone illegally and we see him going through cycles of under-treatment and binging when he gets his meds. Here we have an interesting case of a genuine CP sufferer, but one whose medical decisions are poor and whose erratic opioid use may be doing more harm than good.

Cooper thus illustrates the need for social attitudes to change and as a message to physicians of the importance of reliable access to pain medication.

Here's another movie that came to mind: The Wrestler (Micky Rorke): a has-been professional wrestler who once was wealthy but blew all his money and now lives in a trailor. He squeaks together a living with a mundane supermarket job and holds on to his past glories by continuing to wrestle in tiny venues. His body is severely damaged from his years of wrestling and continues to suffer further damage from his refusal to stop trying to live his glory days.
C4-T4 Scoliosis (disk degeneration, stenosis, narrowed neuroforamen, bone spurs), RT hip and SI joint damage from car accident. Also, Supraventricular tacycardia and mitral valve prolapse syndrome.
Current meds: Ultram ER 300mg daily, breakthrough - hydrocodone 10-15mg, or oxycodone 5-7.5mg. .25-.5mg ativan as needed for sleep, Verapamil 240mg SR (for tachycardia).

Post Edited (cogito) : 3/5/2011 8:13:33 PM (GMT-7)


antbuggey
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Date Joined May 2010
Total Posts : 594
   Posted 3/5/2011 9:58 PM (GMT -6)   
Wow Dani.....you put so much into this for all of us here and first things first......Thank you Dani!!!!! You are amazing!

This is a very good topic and I am not sure what to say about it! I love the show House but not because he is an addict.....because he is a jerk and.....unfortunately, makes me laugh because he is a jerk! But....would I want a doctor to treat me like that??.....NO!! We want people to take our pain seriously, but then we have deal with shows that depict CP patients as drug addicts.....that does not help us.....AT ALL! It adds to the feeling of being in a "no win situation"! That being said there are many true medical show that show how real our pain is and we NEED that! How many of us have heard "You don't look sick!"? It helps when people can see these shows that explain to them that CP does not drastically change the way you look! Unfortunately....more people seem to choose the TV drama over the true medical show!!

Anyway....thanks again Dani for the work you put in to this stuff!! It is not like you have nothing going on in your "real" life and are bored with nothing to do!! Take care of you!!!!

Hugs,
Beckey
Rheumatoid Arthritis, Spinal Stenosis L3/L4, L4/L5 & L5/S1 with Nerve Impingement, Fibromyalgia, TMJ, GERD, Severe Depression, VERY Large Cyst Right Ovary causing mild twisting, Small Cysts Left Ovary & 3 Large Cysts Uterus

Medications - MS-Contin, Plaquenil, Cymbalta, Famotidine and currently Prednisone

Mrs. Dani
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Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 2787
   Posted 3/6/2011 12:02 PM (GMT -6)   

   I did not respond to this one right away for a good reason. The reason was that despite "general research" I had not watched much of the "media" associated with this topic. I have now though. I am a bit shaken by what I have viewed.

    Television series
     Nurse Jackie~
   Drug addict. Not a person in need of pain relief. It was interesting to watch. I will more than likely watch it again. A poor representation of a person with "chronic pain". Was her "back pain" ever addressed at any point in the shows? Is she even a "back pain" sufferer?
     House~  Emotionally abusive drug addict. Well played acting. Great plot lines. Again, I have to wonder was he real "pain" ever fully addressed in the shows? There are many episodes as it has been playing for a very long time. I will try to make it a point to watch.
     Southland~  This one surprised me and I am currently going back to the first episode aired last year. He is in pain. He can barley walk. Because of "social and professional stigma" he refuses to seek help(The same stigmas we all fight against each and every day). As a result he treats his pain like it were a burden of shame, rather than warning sign of serious problems. He attains medication illegally. Knowingly. I will spend some time going back to the beginning with the portrayal of him as a Chronic Pain patient.

   Movies
     I have seen and watched many of them. One that I did not add to the list was one that was very powerful to me. "The Notebook". Others like "Mask", "My Sister's Keeper" and "Whose Life Is It Anyway" (to name just a few) shook me in a very real way. There are people who suffer and must make the people in their lives truly see them and understand, what their life means to them. The very same things we try desperately to help our loved ones and friends understand.

      Then there are movies that have more death than any World War. It is raw images of death portrayed in the most gruesome fashion possible to shock the viewers. Suffering, grief, death. Often time these "Action Movies" also add comedy to all the death and pain. It disturbs me. Even worse? Realizing that I too, have watched many of these movies before I became ill. I too, was entertained at one point.

   Video Games
     *sigh* Lets face it. We are bombarded with images of suffering and pain in video games. As entertainment. As excitement.

  Documentaries
     I watch them often on discovery, the learning channel, the science channel. I stay shocked and in tears throughout them. You wont see millions of people buying the documentary films. You wont see millions of viewers talking about it through the coarse of the year and watch it numerous times.

  Viral web casts
     They shock us, appall us. Yet we go back, thirsty for more.

 

 Are we really becoming numb and passive to those who suffer in media as well as those in our own lives?  ...is too much, all the time, to blame for making our realities even harder every day? It will take a more active approach by everyone we meet. By every life we touch. To make suffering seen and understood for what it really is. 


TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

Chronic Pain Moderator
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cogito
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Date Joined Oct 2010
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   Posted 3/6/2011 10:17 PM (GMT -6)   
Dani,

I'm glad you saw merit in Southland's John Cooper. It is certainly not as well known of a show as House, but it does a far better job with some of the realities of CP... especially for those whose station in life requires that they keep it secret. Unlike House and Nurse Jackie, he is a genuinely sympathetic character. I'm looking forward to see how this character progresses.
C4-T4 Scoliosis (disk degeneration, stenosis, narrowed neuroforamen, bone spurs), RT hip and SI joint damage from car accident. Also, Supraventricular tacycardia and mitral valve prolapse syndrome.
Current meds: Ultram ER 300mg daily, breakthrough - hydrocodone 10-15mg, or oxycodone 5-7.5mg. .25-.5mg ativan as needed for sleep, Verapamil 240mg SR (for tachycardia).

CRPSpatient
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Date Joined Mar 2011
Total Posts : 1276
   Posted 3/6/2011 11:44 PM (GMT -6)   
retiredmom said...
I don't think the "general public" wants to see us or our issues in a real way. They want to live forever, never age, never see anyone with a real CP problem, condemn people with a REAL need for serious pain killers, and prevent us from slowing them down when they are shopping or trying to get along in the workplace. We're not "pretty" and "neat" and we make people nervous because they don't want to be "like us". They don't even want to consider that people really do suffer the way we do.
I don't necessarily agree with that. I did a TV program on CP a couple of years ago, and the feedback was amazing. A few nutters who had all sorts of magical cures to offer, but most people were genuinely very interested.

With you all 100% on the portrayal of CP in a lot of television show though. There is such a stigma already about the use of long-term opioid use, that having pain sufferers shown as addicts, 'emotional cripples' and the like really doesn't help us in the real world.

Mrs. Dani
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Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 2787
   Posted 3/7/2011 7:17 PM (GMT -6)   

 

  Cogito,

    I was floored. I think I may have seen the actor before, but cant for the life of me place where. His portrayal is powerful. He is limping. His aggression when his pain hits it peak that day because he got angry and flushed his meds... very real. Very real. The first episode I found was "Fixing a Hole".  Next thing I knew an hour had gotten away from me. I am getting frustrated with my husband for not recording it on TiVo. I think I will get my daughter to help me. Do you know of where I can get last years episodes? Or would it be better for me to just buy a DvD version?

*hugg*
  dani


TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

Chronic Pain Moderator
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