Oprah, Owen, Diabetes, Me

Text Size:

I admit that I rarely get upset over the often-mistaken or ill-conceived portrayal of people with diabetes on television series, in movies, on talk shows, or when a nightly news segment reports erroneously on diabetes and fails to provide good, factual information and chooses instead to fearmonger.

This laissez-faire attitude of mine is a symptom of larger psychological issues from years back. I’ll spare you an insightful analysis of my formative years, however, and simply say that to not get worked up over things such as mishandled diabetes in the media is a protective coping mechanism, a way my brain saves itself from meltdown and lives to fight other battles it feels more readily equipped to handle.

So it’s with more bemusement than anything else that I choose the media and diabetes as my topic this week.

Because some people do get upset about the representation of diabetes on TV and in film. They end up ticked off, enraged, and spiked-blood-pressure angry. Thankfully, there are quite a few bloggers out there who write about their dissatisfaction with the way people with diabetes are portrayed. My bemusement isn’t with these bloggers, either. Not at all. I’m so grateful for their voices, for their attempts to hold Hollywood and other media outlets accountable. I respect their writing and often wish I would do the same, yet my nonconfrontational self shrugs his shoulders and says, “Eh, what are you going to do?”

Last week Oprah made a pretty big diabetes-reportage gaffe by allowing Dr. Mehmet Oz to misrepresent both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes on her show with varying degrees of omission and deceptive editing. Please know that I did not watch the program. A neighbor alerted me to its airing, and without even checking to see what it was about, I responded with the following:

Thanks, but I’ll probably skip it. My guess is that it’s about Type 2 diabetes, and not Type 1. Bet. You. Money. I’m Type 1. They’re totally (like, seriously) different diseases. Type 2 is the epidemic they talk of, and the type that nearly 90% of people with diabetes have. They don’t do much on major media networks about people with Type 1. We’re not that much of a market for major venues such as Oprah. (But because a good majority of people with Type 2 are overweight, and because Type 2 affects tens of millions of Americans and there’s money to be made by promoting healthy lifestyles for Type 2s, I’d lay money that Oprah and Dr. Oz are dealing with that type of diabetes.)

The next day, or two days later (I can’t recall), Kerri Morrone Sparling of Six Until Me wrote a letter-as-blog-entry to Oprah and Dr. Oz. In her letter, Kerri articulately expresses the frustration that so many people with diabetes felt while watching that Oprah episode. If you haven’t read Kerri’s blog, I highly recommend this entry, as well as adding Six Until Me to your list of blogs to follow.

Since December my wife and I have been paying attention to a TNT series titled Men of a Certain Age. We’re always on the lookout for a series to get wrapped up in, a series with good character development and a good storyline. We really like the show, too. But…

The problem with Men of a Certain Age is its portrayal of Type 2 diabetes in one of its main characters. Owen, played by Andre Braugher, has diabetes. I assume it’s Type 2 diabetes; I don’t know if it’s ever been officially revealed what type he has. (Maybe there should be a name for Hollywood diabetes and all its ambiguous, erroneous ways. That way we can refer to a drama-betes when writing about it. Suggestions for a good name?)

Much has been written about how this “stuck between a rock and a hard place” character Owen has been saddled with diabetes simply to complicate the character’s difficult life. I think some of the best writing on that subject comes from diabetes blogger Amy Tenderich in her entry “Diabetes Part of ‘Loser Life’ on ‘Men of a Certain Age’.”

Any other recent people-with-diabetes mistakes on stage or screen? I haven’t been Hollywood-diabetes-aware for much more than a couple of years, and besides the Steel Magnolias portrayal decades ago, never really paid much attention. Which is the problem, I think: people without diabetes as part of their lives (whether living with it themselves or with a family member or friends who have it) don’t pay much attention. Or they do, just enough to take in the negative, dangerous, misrepresented aspects of a diabetic lifestyle.

Get Diabetes-Friendly Recipes In Your Inbox

Sign up for Free

Stay Up To Date On News & Advice For Diabetes

Sign up for Free

Get On Track With Daily Lifestyle Tips

Sign up for Free

Save Your Favorites

Save This Article