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February 4, 2020

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Today’s episode is about how type 1 diabetes shows up in pop culture and the media. We want to talk about this because sometimes the only exposure someone has to diabetes comes from what they see in movies or on TV, and unfortunately, a lot of those depictions are inaccurate and misleading.

Many celebrities have T1D, including Nick Jonas, Victor Garber, Mary Tyler Moore, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and multiple athletes.

And for the record, Halle Berry has Type 2 Diabetes, not Type 1.

One of the most well-known examples of diabetes in pop culture is the movie Steel Magnolias. Both Jessie and I have a lot of problems with this movie, even though it’s somewhat accurate for the time period. A big problem with using diabetes as a plot point in pop culture is that it’s really hard to accurately show the full impact of such an invisible disease.

We also talk about a few more movies and TV shows, like Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Panic Room, Con Air, The Walking Dead, and The Big Bang Theory. One thing these all have in common is how poorly the writers used Type 1 Diabetes as part of the plot or the script.

In movies & TV shows, T1D is a dramatic plot point or something to increase the tension. Unfortunately, it’s also subject to really lazy writing. It’s not as dramatic to give someone a juice box or a candy bar to bring up a low (the diabetic shock) than it is to need to immediately stab someone with a needle to inject insulin, which magically makes them better right away.

Here’s Studio C’s “Diabetes Intervention” skit:

Wins & Fails

Jessie’s Win: Jess woke up in the middle of the night with a low, tested, corrected with a snack and then tested again 15 minutes later. Nighttime lows are scary for Jess, so handling this one felt like a win!

Colleen’s Fail: On a weekend ski trip, my sensor was cutting in and out for a while, and then cut out for three straight hours (while skiing) and failed on day nine. I called Dexcom and got transferred to Tandem (who replaced the sensor).

Hack of the Week

If you have a high blood sugar, drink water to help bring the blood sugar down without going overboard on the insulin. You’ll be thirsty anyway, but drinking water helps lower the acidity in the blood.

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Diabetes Spotlight

Ed Straiton’s Story: Marathon running and diabetes in the UK

Ed is a marathon runner from the United Kingdom. He’s gotten his diabetes care routine down to a science so he can run without experiencing major fluxuations in his blood sugars. Ed’s an example of a type 1 diabetic who’s experimented enough with his care to determine what works for him.

“I’ve always been active – it’s part of my diabetes control,” says Ed. “In preparation for London, I’ve already done a couple of half marathons and a triathlon. For me, running is what works. If you’re thinking about taking up exercise, do what you enjoy. I have grown to enjoy running – but, if you enjoy swimming or cycling, do that. Whatever you do, it all helps!”

Question for You!

What’s your least favorite representation of diabetes in film? What’s your favorite? Let us know in the comments! What does everyone think of the movies and TV shows we talked about in this episode?

Links


Credits

Our music is by Joseph McDade. Check out his website here! Our audio wizard is my husband, Tim. He runs his own food blog, Split Appetites.

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About the author 

Colleen

Life & mindset coach, writer, host of podcast This is Type 1: Real Life with Type 1 Diabetes, and full-time analyst in the power industry. I'm passionate about showing people that how we think determines our realities.

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  1. There have been a number of shows that have used T1D I'm their script for "Drama". NCIS, CSI: Los Vegas (my personal Favorite, love Lady Heather), Criminal Minds, Body of Proof, Law and Order, and several other that I just can't think of at the moment. (Obviously, I really like crime shows) Some of them get it right some of them don't, some of them come so close, then they throw something in so crazy wrong for plot twist. (IE: Using an insulin pump as a GPS tracker? Sending instructions to an insulin pump via internet to overdose the victim? This was before they were even Bluetooth enabled. Of course the age old, cure the passing out with an injection of insulin without checking their BG) I honestly feel as much as there is "right" with their portray of us, there is doubly wrong which leads to miseducation. I really wish there were more restrictions on such things, because it could cost a Diabetic their lives.

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