I am livid.
I was just minding my own business, having some cookies and scrolling through my Facebook feed when I stumbled upon a film trailer.
I almost threw my laptop across the room.
For the sake of maintaining this post relatively neutral towards a particular side of the entertainment industry, I shall not name it, but the following description of the plot might be enough of a giveaway.
Sick girl meets guy. Idolises him. Is willing to give up everything for him. She gets even sicker but it doesn’t matter cos LOVE AND ROMANCE AND AHHHHH A CUTE BOY.
Does it sound oddly familiar yet you cannot really pinpoint which film in particular I am talking about?
Well, that’s kind of the problem and the reason why I’m writing this rant of a post.
Recently, I have noticed that this is becoming a recurrent, popular plotline. And it is a plotline that I am not very fond of and you really shouldn’t be either.
As someone with a chronic illness, this type of overly romanticised approach to chronic illness is not helping. At all. Believe me, the last thing I need is someone telling me that the one thing that will save me from my misery is romance.
Thanks but no thanks.
Chronically ill people are still like any other person, with likes and dislikes, passions. And as such it’s horrifyingly disappointing that we are brought down to one thing: miserable people in desperate need of a thing that makes them feel alive.
And what is even more so infuriating is that, that thing, has got to be some silly cliche romance.
Why can it not be something else? I don’t know, them deciding they will become a world-class chef? or a fashion designer? Devote themselves to religion or even just having a blast with their family and friends?
I just hate the fact that the industry just doesn’t seem to get that chronic illness is not what defines a person. I can tell you, as can many others I’m sure, I HAVE a chronic illness, I AM NOT a chronic illness. There’s more to me than the fact that I am sick so can you please stop using it as a token proof of “diversification” of the industry?
Because even at that, you are not making the industry more diverse. You are not telling anything new, just the very same boy-meets-girl story with illness just thrown about to make it “diverse”.
If you want diversity, at least get it right. Show me, for example, a story about a kid who wants to save trees and happens to have diabetes. Tthe plot doesn’t revolve around the fact that he is sick with diabetes but around the fact that he is saving trees.
And no, I cannot fully blame you for romanticising, because I myself am aware that the lines are blurry, for even when I was writing The Hidden Ones and The Forgotten Ones it was very hard for me to not end up romanticising Lupus (but even then, I still kept myself from doing so, going back and checking every single time so that I didn’t make it sound like having Lupus is amazing). What I can blame you for, however, is the fact that this romantisation is just a by-product of the silly need of the industry to have some “token-something” character in order to claim to be representing “different voices”.
Because as previously said, you really are not showing said “different voices”, you are just using token anything to claim that you are.
Even with this new hype for the “chronically ill token character”, you are failing so bad. You are not showing the real struggle that comes with medications, day-to-day problems with the illness.
Shocker, but just because you throw in a hospital scene/fainting scene/ crying scene doesn’t mean you are doing the job right.
But going back to the very basis of the reason behind this rant…
Is it impossible to have romance movies in which the girl is not dying and therefore she doesn’t need some boy/girl to take her out of her misery? Is it too much to ask? This concerningly, increasingly popular plot device just seems like a modern take on the damsel in distress to me. And in a way, it’s worse.
Because *shockingly, I know* being sick isn’t romantic in the slightest.
There’s nothing romantic about being in a hospital or being stuck at home, bedridden and in pain.
Like, really, I’m not lying to you.
As difficult to believe as it sounds, being sick is not romantic at all.
If anything, there is only one movie which I would say channels the feelings of a chronically ill person well: Love and Other Drugs. The one film I could actually relate to the main character when it came to her struggles. As for books, Girl in the Dark and The Two Kinds of Decay. Highly recommend if you’re looking for something that really represents different voices.
Just stop romanticising what’s not to be romanticised.