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Diabetes and The Media

By Arden Suvalle

Edited by Kathleen Khorn

Think about the word “diabetes.” What other words come to your mind? Did overweight, too much sugar, and lazy come across you? Those words, believe or not, are an inaccurate representation of diabetes. There are two types of diabetes, Type One and Type Two, both very different from each other. I am a Type One Diabetic, and I am here to share some of the common misconceptions of Type One Diabetes that are shown in the media.

“You’re too skinny to be diabetic!”

Diabetics in TV shows are often portrayed as an older man who had a few too many donuts in his younger years. Oftentimes when I meet someone new and explain my disease to them, they insensitively respond “you’re too skinny to be a diabetic!” which is anything but true. Type One Diabetes isn’t a weight, it’s an autoimmune disease. In the show “The Big Bang Theory” a character, Penny, makes the observation that an overweight person has an insulin pump. This adds to the stereotype that diabetics are overweight.

Stacey McGill, a young character with Type 1 Diabetes in the show The Baby-Sitters Club.

“But on TV I saw…”

In the new Netflix Original series “The Baby-Sitters Club” one of the main five characters, Stacey McGill, is a Type One Diabetic. While the show mostly portrays diabetes correctly through insulin pumps, juice boxes for low blood sugars, etc, there is one thing that throws me off while watching. Stacey shows her friends a video of her in her old school having a seizure. Stacey comments the seizure was from having high blood sugar, which in reality diabetics are prone to having seizures due to extremely low blood sugars. Although this is one of few small mistakes that the show has, it’s still misinforming the public. What if this show was the only education on diabetes that a friend of mine had, and then saw me having a seizure? That friend may think that giving me a shot of insulin might save my life, when in fact, I would need sugar.

“How can I stop the misrepresentation of Type One Diabetes?”

Write! Write! Write! Writing emails and letters to writers of TV shows and movies about how they need to get their facts straight has worked in the past. On an episode of “Hannah Montana” one of the characters Oliver was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes and all of the info in the episode was incorrect. People wrote to the screenwriters, protesting for the episode to be taken off the air. Disney eventually took the episode off air and reshot most scenes so they could represent a more accurate depiction of what Type One Diabetes is.

The next time you hear someone make an incorrect reference to diabetes, do not be afraid to call them out on it, you will be helping people all around the world. Write emails and letters to people in the industry, tell your friends that that joke is not okay, and help educate people! Just one explanation can help make a diabetic’s life just a little bit easier.

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