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Multiple Sclerosis In Entertainment! What do you think? What have you seen? How does it make you feel?

I'm always very interested when I see not only Multiple Sclerosis but any chronic illness, in entertainment. I'm not talking about celebrities that suffer from the illness, but rather, how it's portrayed in things like movies, TV shows, books, comic books, etc. The way MS is shown in entertainment can have a big impact on our lives. For many people, that's their only real exposure to the disease, so when they encounter people like us, that's what they think about. Also, I would imagine, the more a disease is portrayed in entertainment, the more likely research gets funded, the more donations that the MS society gets. On top of all that, hey, I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel good to see an accurate portrayal of MS in entertainment. It makes me feel seen and like I belong. Obviously a poor portrayal will have negative impacts.

One of my favorite (and recent) stories that involved MS has been the Marvel character Darkhawk: https://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/darkhawk-marvel. Now, a caveat, I spoke with the author as he was in the process of writing it and discussed my life with MS with him. So I have a little self interest there but I have been so happy about the way the character’s MS has been illustrated.

There are numerous episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit that feature a character with MS. All with varying degrees of accuracy. Much of the time, it serves as a convenient plot point to demonstrate why something happened or to make a victim more of a victim.

I think it’s always important to not only look at MS in entertainment, but chronic illness in general. I want to give my favorite example, the two part episode of The Golden Girls entitled “Sick and Tired”. Now, and this may be one of the stranger things about me, I am a massive Golden Girls fan (like I have seen every episode many many times and own Golden Girls memorabilia), it is a show that is funny, I grew up with it, and it was wildly progressive for its time. SAo this episode is extra special to me. Basically, Dorothy is fatigued all the time and has other health issues. She sees doctor after doctor and no one can help her. She is constantly dimmissed and told it is all in her head (really talking on a common issue for women that is still prevalent today: https://multiplesclerosis.net/living/gender-bias). I’m trying not to give a full summary but she does eventually find a doctor that diagnoses her (with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, however, MS is mentioned at one point). My point is, her experience throughout the two episodes feels so much like what many of us have experienced trying to get diagnosed. If you have any sort of chronic illness, I cannot recommend the episode enough (and again, this was aired over 30 years ago and they nailed the experience, which says a lot, not only about the show but how far we have come).

What other examples of MS or chronic illness in entertainment have you seen? How did it make you feel? What are your thoughts?

  1. Maybe by doing this and getting more money for research. They might figure MS out by 2050 👍

    1. MS is still a rare disease !!! It only effects 1 million people in the United States. The United States population is 330 million people. There's 3 million people in the world with MS. That's a drop in the bucket considering the world population is 7.8 BILLION people. MS is still not very well known regardless if celebrities get MS or not.

    2. Hi ! It does seem that as Hollywood attempts to be more inclusive, celebrities are becoming more willing to reveal their diagnoses. Michael J. Fox continued to work even when his symptoms of Parkinson's Disease worsened and could not be hidden. That had to be encouraging for the celebrity community. More recently, Selena Gomez has been very open about her Lupus diagnosis and her related health issues. Yet she has continued to produce new music and perform live. And then there is Christina Applegate with her MS diagnosis. It all helps. Thanks for weighing in. Best wishes. - Lori (Team Member)

  2. My particular favorite MS story line ws in one of my favorite TV shows of all time, West Wing! President Jedediah Bartlett lives with Multiple Sclerosis, as is fitting, because we lived in New Hampshire for 35 years, and always heard that New Hampshire had the highest per capita incidence of MS in the United States. Initially, he hid his diagnosis, but it eventually came out. I felt that the series did a very reasonable job with the disease, including Bartlett's attempts to keep it from the public. I do not recall his reasoning for doing this, but can't we imagine why?


    And please can I give a shout out to Teri Garr who, as I understand, was experiencing an exacerbation as she was filming Young Frankenstein, which explains why she is rarely seen walking around in the film.


    Thanks for asking the question, Devin!

    1. Great question.

    2. God I thought Terri was great in 'young Frankenstein '

  3. Devin, West Wing was great television. Fast, smart, funny and touching. Watch it with subtitles! Watch season 6, which is when MS gets the upper hand.

    1. , I forgot all about the MS storyline is West Wing! My husband and I loved that show and even used a character name for our son (Leo, after the President's Chief of Staff). What a great show! Best, Erin, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member.

    2. Leo is one of the greatest names! It's right up there wit h Gus and Max!

  4. Being home too much, I got into the soap opera The Young and the Restless, which I usually call it The Hung and the Breastless, Nicky one of the long time matriarchs of the show was having mobility problems and more and was diagnosed with MS. But when that issue subsided, it was sidelined and never heard from again. I was not impressed. Bringing the subject into the light is obviously helpful in more awareness to the issue, but after having issues since high school, I was not diagnosed until 25 years ago when I moved to Canada from South Carolina. Supppsedly Saskatoon has the highest rate of MS in Canada. Anyhow, the care here is great and my doctor has s assured me that whatever I need he will get it for me. I just got a new brace for my left leg, now I have a matching set have had one on my right leg for years. After my entire left side went totally useless but recovered after a couple of hours after my husband found me on the kitchen floor, it was my wake up call and now I am less active and way the hell more careful. As this disease morfs into PPMS, it is an entirely new ball game. I used to do the MS walk every June, albeit with my mobility scooter, but since Covid, and the walk was basically cancelled. It is and was a really wonderfull experience and totally brings hundreds of folks with MS, or family members and the donations are outstanding. Every little bit helps. I am still stubborn and keep pushing as much as II can. My advice is never stop moving, if you do, you will not progress in a positive way.

    1. , your name for the show made me laugh out loud!! Thanks for the smile today! Best, Erin, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member.

    2. God I called it the same exact thing when I was young !!! It was too easy

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