Diabetes in Mainstream Media

Ann Bartlett Health Guide
  • I rarely watch TV because most of it isn’t worth my time, but I am an avid fan of Downton Abbey! I love the clothes (check out the exhibit at Winterthur), the historical timeline and detail they give about the early part of the 20th century. This was the period of my grandmother, who was into fashion and flappers. I have so much of her memorabelia that the show puts some of it into better perspective for me. The rules of the social class and behavior boundaries that governed people’s lives is something we don’t think about today, and certainly television has lost sight of behavioral boundaries with tabloid news and reality tv shows that plague most stations.

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    What sells is drama and when diabetes plays its part in a drama, it usually sets up a fire storm. The movie Steel Magnolias painted a grim picture of life with diabetes, and in doing so enraged the diabetes community. Movies have endlessly portrayed diabetes as a condition that is out of control and fatal.


    When the news covers diabetes, it inevitably focuses on who is at fault, the need for diet and exercise, or a cure just around the corner. It feels like sensationalism rather then balanced information expressing the issue.


    Many times, I’ve been asked what I think about diabetes in the movies, and my answer is unclear.  TV shows are about drama and that is what sells, so as long as drama remains the focus, I’d rather not have diabetes as the focal point of the drama. Perhaps that’s why I watch more documentaries then Hollywood blockbusters. I like my dose of reality and thinking outside my own echo chamber.


    But finally I think we have some good news about movies, dramas and diabetes.


    And I have to give kudos to Julian Fellowes and JDRF UK parent, Jubie Wigan for getting it right.


    Fellowes is the executive producer and creator of the drama, Downton Abbey. Last spring at a JDRF UK fundraiser, Jubie Wigan encouraged Fellowes to consider an unusual auction item. Fellowes agreed to the deal and allowed for guests to bid for the privilege of having a Downton Abbey character named after their t1 child.


    Fellowes commented, “I cannot remember another time when we allowed a proper character – someone with a real function in the narrative – to be named in aid of a charity.”


    Mike and Georgia Aldridge won the bid to share their son’s name, Atticus Aldridge, as the new character on Downton Abbey, and JDRF raised 20,000 pounds for the fantastic donation.  That is doing it right, Hollywood, please take note!


    Meet Atticus Aldridge played by Matt Barber. Photo: ITV


    If art doesn’t imitate life, then this would be my favorite way for art to enrich life. This just gives me another reason to love Downton Abbey.

Published On: November 10, 2014