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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: 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: 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. I know it can feel likes they might never figure this disease out, but the truth is they've made huge strides over the years. We have treatment options today that were nowhere close to existing not long ago. There are even efforts going on right now to re-grow myelin, which would be a game-changer. I look at where we are now compared to when I was diagnosed and research has jumped leaps and bounds. Some of that is absolutely due to more awareness and donations. So yea, the more we talk about MS, the more people see MS and hear about MS, the closer we are to a cure. There are a lot of disease out there where the same basic treatment has held steady for years and years, at least with MS, there are always breakthroughs, even if they are small.

  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. Thanks so much Therry! I remember hearing that was a big plotline on West Wing, though I've never seen it. And absolutely, Teri Garr has always been one of my favorites!

  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, 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. Thank you, ! Good to know, I would imagine MS would be a convenient plot device in many soap operas. I'm glad to hear you are getting the care you need, it sounds like you are in good hands! I do miss the MS walk too, always such a wonderful event!

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

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