The official blog of the Lung Institute.
The Role of Hollywood in Disease Awareness
Every time my mother and I would turn on the latest blockbuster hit, deaths were always portrayed the same way. Somebody would inevitably walk a long, treacherous journey to battle cancer. As a result, cancer awareness is huge. People host a high number of fundraising events such as walks, runs and dinners, and when somebody says they have cancer, people immediately know what cancer treatment and prognoses can be. Thanks to Hollywood, we are all aware of the effervescent force cancer has in each of our lives. For example, because of the excess amount of cancer portrayed in fictional works, people often assume that cancer is the leading cause of death in the United States. This is incorrect. Heart disease actually kills a greater number of people each year, and chronic lung diseases fall just below the number of cancer-related deaths. And while cancer awareness is important, other conditions deserve their moment in the spotlight as well. As odd as that sounds, featuring a disease in popular culture can be the first step in creating awareness. More media portrayal leads to more disease awareness; more disease awareness leads to more financial donations to a disease, which means more research, more treatment, more cures and, most importantly, more lives saved.
Non-fiction and Chronic Lung Disease
Looking at the media presence of lung disease, the third greatest killer in the United States, we can see the dismal number of popular culture references depicting the lives of people with a chronic lung disease. For the most part, non-fiction works are the only genre to regularly look into lung diseases, and for many individuals, non-fiction is not a go-to genre for a Friday night activity. One example of lung disease in non-fiction is in the HBO show, Autopsy, which features real-life stories related to one coroner’s work. This show offered one character, Frank Maisano, who suffered from an incurable lung disease. Furthermore, Michael Moore’s documentary, Sicko, features the lives of several individuals with lung disease. Unfortunately, none of these non-fiction works reached the mainstream leaving consumers in the dark about the dangers of chronic lung disease.
Fictional Characters and Lung Disease
In a society ruled by fiction, and the desire to find an escape, fictional characters are the best way to fuel an understanding between people and a disease. Unfortunately, many works of fiction such as television shows, books and movies fail to dive into the complex side effects of living with lung disease. One film, Inhale, looks at the difficult journey to finding the necessary organ for a lung transplant and the controversial use of the black market to save your child’s life. The film focuses on the parents of Chloe, a girl with an incurable lung disease, but the daughter fails to play a major role in the action and ultimately (spoiler alert) dies.
One of the greatest medical dramas, House M. D., offers two episodes featuring a patient with chronic lung disease, but given the long-running success of the show and the “more interesting” diseases depicted, many consumers fail to acknowledge the dangers of the disease, and moreover, forget that there was ever a case about lung disease in general. Thus the modern world remains clueless.
Time for Hollywood to Step Up
Until Hollywood and the media industry starts to focus on more killers than psychopaths and cancer, people will fail to think about the vast amount of deadly diseases. Think of the insane popularity of The Fault in Our Stars: as a book turned movie about teenagers with cancer written by the amazing John Green, people could not get enough of Hazel Grace, a girl dealing with lung cancer. Now people are thinking about lung cancer and how they can improve the lives of teens with cancer. More money has been donated to the cause, and more trips to Amsterdam, a major destination in the film, have occurred. Think of how giving Hazel a chronic lung disease, instead of lung cancer, could have changed the way people interact with lung disease. People would know what lung disease is; they would have a point of contact and a reason to learn more. People would have cared.
So now Hollywood, the ball is in your court. It’s your turn to make a difference. Show people the dangers of lung disease and let the audience learn what it is like to live with such a debilitating disease. Authors, screenwriters, lyricists and producers, look around you; today is no longer the time for clichés.
If you or a loved one is dealing with the crippling effects of lung disease, you are not alone. And while life may seem difficult, know that you have options. The Lung Institute may have the solution for you. If you are ready to breathe easier, contact us or call us at (800) 729-3065for more