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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.
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?
- The Cinema of Control: On Diabetic Excess and Illness in Film (CUNY Queens College)
- 7 Times TV & Movies Got Diabetes Wrong (Beyond Type 1)
- Diabetes in Pop Culture: Is it Really That Hard to Get it Right? (Hugging the Cactus)
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Want to Read or Listen to More?
- 25 Truth Bombs to Make You Re-Think Type 1 Diabetes
- The Stress Associated with Type 1 Diabetes
- What is Type 1 Diabetes and Why You Should Care
- What Burnout Looks Like in a Type 1 Diabetic
- World Diabetes Day is About Visibility
- What I’ve Learned from 20 Years at Panther Camp
- 4 Things Type 1 Diabetics Have to Watch Out For
- How to React When Family Members Joke About Diabetes
- This is What a Day as a Type 1 Diabetic Looks Like