Cancer & the Big Screen
Personally, I run from movies about cancer. The trouble is that it often surprises me, and there I am, in a dark theater with cancer on the big screen. A recent example, although I realize this wasn't cancer, was The Descendants. I knew that it was a movie about a divorced/not so involved father and his children, did not know in advance that the mother was lying in a hospital near death. The fact that her medical problem was not cancer didn't help much as all the feelings and issues were very much the same. It seems to me, The Descendants not withstanding, that cancer is virtually always the disease or killer of choice in films. And, if the dying character is a woman, especially a young woman, it is going to be about breast cancer. How much more powerful the story line is when we watch the tragedy of a beautiful young woman (even very ill, always beautiful) saying good-bye to her angelic children than were we to watch her bald and coping and then recovering and thriving.
Sadly, this is too often a true story, but much of the time, most of the time, those young women with breast cancer (and us older ones, too) do just fine. Many people with many kinds of cancer go through difficult treatments and then go on to live long and healthy lives. Those happy endings apparently don't sell movie tickets.
Cancer Portrayed Too Grimly in Movies, Study Suggests
Many popular films use death as plot device even though survival is much improved, researcher says
FRIDAY, Sept. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Movies rarely portray a cancer patient's chances of survival accurately and need to show audiences that a cancer diagnosis is far from always a death sentence, a new study suggests.
Researchers analyzed 82 movies that center on a person with cancer -- including "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Gran Torino" and "Diary of a Country Priest" -- and found that the cancer experiences depicted in the films were quite different from the truth.
The investigators found that cancer patients died in 63 percent of the movies. The most frequent treatments mentioned in the movies were chemotherapy and pain relief. Cancer symptoms were mentioned in 72 percent of the movies and diagnostic tests were mentioned in 65 percent.
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