MTV Takes On Diabetes.
Over the weekend, I spotted a tweet from the JDRF Greater Blue Ridge chapter that said, “MTV’s True Life series casting call for those effected by diabetes http://tinyurl.com/4g67oqt Will be interesting to see how MTV portrays”
If memory serves me correctly, mainstream media is notorious for pulling out all stops when it comes to filling the air with myths and misconceptions about life with diabetes. Whether its erroneously oversimplifying the difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes or egregiously overdramatizing the severity of type 1 diabetes, or simply not giving a shit about being accurate at all about diabetes, including but not limited to: the causes of the disease, day to day management, impact on emotions, and descriptions of medical devices used.
MTV has now decided to join the fray but putting out a call for MTV’s True Life. Here’s the call for applicants:
Does your diabetes hold you back from living the life the way you want? Do you have an extreme form of the disease which requires you to constantly inject yourself with insulin? Or are you stuck monitoring your diet and exercise when you would rather just live a more regular life? Does it make you feel different from your peers? How is your situation more difficult than your friends’ at school? Are you embarrassed by your diabetes? How often do you visit doctors and how much effort do you put into your health? Have you had any scares relating to your diabetes recently? Are your parents always on your case about your medication, diet, doctor’s appointments, and exercise? Are you planning on taking a new approach to handling your health in the near future?
If your diabetes causes you major difficulty in your life and you appear between the ages of 16 and 28, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your story. We want to know how living with diabetes makes your life complicated. Please include your name, location, phone number, and a recent photo of yourself.
Ignoring entirely the first sentence, which paints the entire population of type 1 diabetics as having the extreme diabetes (is that like Extreme Couponing?), I have mixed feelings about the request. It does seem that this episode will focus on the negative aspects of diabetes. I don’t think that’s entirely terrible, because as many of us have said, diabetes ain’t all rainbows and unicorns. This shit is tough. I want the rest of the world to know just how shittastic this damn disease is. So many people think that insulin pumps just “take care of everything” and that it’s easy because we make it easy. It’s not just like brushing your teeth. If the idea is to show how not easy it is, well, OK then.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also wish they would balance it by having some folks who are not complete basket cases because of diabetes. Because frankly, I think most of us aren’t. I think most of us are able to take the shit with the sugar and make the best of living with diabetes. My desire for MTV’s show is to have someone who is able to adequately display the trials and tribulations of dealing with diabetes while also showing that it can be done. It just might take ten or twenty extra steps to get there.
There is a fine line that we walk as people with diabetes. We want people to know that diabetes is a serious, life-threatening illness that gets in the way of everything, but we also want people to know that diabetes isn’t going to stop us just because it’s hard. We want people to know that we are fully functioning, well-adjusted, intelligent human beings who are productive members of society. And we need a cure.
So am I happy that a popular, mainstream television show is doing an episode on diabetes? I don’t know. Probably not. It will probably be an overdramatic, one-sided interpretation of this disease. Life is complicated. There are good days and there are bad days. And there are more people who are dealing with these situations just fine. But that doesn’t make for good television. I know that.
A good friend of mine, Moira McCarthy Stanford, who is known widely in the JDRF community for her diabetes advocacy and has made appearances on TV too, wrote this on my Facebook wall after I posted about the call for applications:
“Just a warning: having been on a reality show (my exciting one episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians): It’s ALL scripted. It’s not at all about representing anything real. And that’s not just the K sisters. It’s all reality TV. Been there, saw it.”
MTV does not have the DOC’s interests at heart. They are going to find the folks out there who are the most troubled with this disease. They are going to find the ones who are challenged by diabetes’ demands, and who desperately need help. And MTV will exploit them for entertainment and sensationalism.
This might sound strange, but I do hope many of us write to MTV to apply. I do hope that someone from the DOC gets on the show, but I know that it’s more likely than anything positive or enlightening will be left on the cutting room floor. Talented editors and producers know how to get the story they want, no matter what. This is why I also urge everyone, not just those between the ages of 16 and 28, to write to MTV to share what life with diabetes is really like. We have witnessed the media get diabetes wrong time and again, but now we have the chance to do something about it. If MTV is going to share a True Life with diabetes, let’s try to make sure they get it right.