Star-crossed lovers are meant to break every viewer’s heart; terminal romance films are some of the best at depicting this concept. The real question is are these movies representing terminal illnesses correctly or are they misinforming viewers?
Teenage patients spend most of their time either in a hospital, getting treatments or in their homes, resting. Patients are constantly under watch. With chemotherapy, there is damage to hair follicles and many cell systems. Radiation therapy, on the other hand, can cause fatigue, fevers, nausea and vomiting. With targeted therapy, patients may experience photosensitivity, changes in hair growth, issues with blood clotting and heart damage. However, the actors’ appearances in these movies do not accurately portray such features, as their characters are depicted to be healthier than they actually are and able to go on outrageous adventures.
In “Five Feet Apart,” Stella and Will, Cystic Fibrosis patients, risk their lives by trying to get closer to each other because of cross-infection, vulnerability to different bacterias that grow in patients lungs. In “The Fault in Our Stars,” both characters suffer from different types of cancer and try to rely on each other, but end up losing each other due to the fatality of their illnesses. In “Me, Earl and the Dying Girl,” Greg puts caring for Rachel and her cancer before his education and gets angry when she stops treatment. These fictional characters do not seem to take their illnesses seriously and constantly risk their lives in ways that do not seem typical of an actual patient.
Real patients and their families feel that they are being misrepresented in the media by making people believe their illnesses aren’t as serious as they are. These tragedies on the big screen are some people’s everyday lives, not just a movie theater experience.
“Honestly, I think it’s kind of sad because terminal illnesses are a very serious thing. Trying to romanticize it, trying to make it light-hearted to show people that it is a good thing,” senior Ingrid Mortensen said. “But it’s not a good thing and people die in the end. They are trying to mess with our feelings.”
Movies that portray illness attempt to represent the terminally ill. To most viewers, that does not matter, though. The target audience for these films is mostly teenagers who are more attracted to the romantic aspects and the heartbreaking emotions that come along with such film.
“Most teens have never experienced a harsh illness. They do not know what problems can occur,” sophomore Navya Nair said. “Personally it depends on the movie because some movies bring information on an illness I never heard of like in “Five Feet Apart,” but it can be bad because it makes illness seem like an okay thing and does not show the true horror of the illnesses.”
On the other hand, people believe that any representation is a good representation. Whether it is romanticizing the illnesses or not, bringing awareness to the cause is all that matters.
“I think that when movies bring to light different illnesses it helps everyone become aware of these diseases that everyday people have to go through,” sophomore Samantha Husar said.
Many of these terminal romance movies are based on popular books with preexisting fan bases who are likely to support these films. However, there is almost always controversy. There were boycotts for “Five Feet Apart” and “Me Before You,” which even had a twitter hashtag, #MeBeforeEuthanasia.
Whether these romantic movies surrounding characters with illnesses are portraying them to be less serious than they actually are or they’re portraying them incorrectly, illness is a serious and touchy topic that should be represented more appropriately.