CAMDEN This summer, superheroes like Spider-Man, Batman, and even Snow White will showcase their staggering strengths on the big screen.
A RutgersCamden professor says that children with asthma are the real-life superheroes, facing down breathlessness and operating life-saving devices whenever and wherever asthma attacks strike.
Cindy Dell Clark, who teaches anthropology at RutgersCamden, recently published research that analyzes Hollywood's portrayal of children with asthma in the journal Medical Anthropology Quarterly.
According to Clark, Hollywood often depicts children with asthma, the leading chronic illness of U.S. children, as vulnerable characters, not heroes. Showcasing asthma as a form of weakness adds drama to action films and levity to comedies. The habit of stereotyping asthma in movies, her research suggests, should be rethought by Hollywood and its writers.
Clark says the media, as well as other social contexts like school and peers, matter significantly for how the 9% of Americans under 18 with asthma view their illness and commit to its treatment. Adherence to medication for severe asthma, which requires steady attention and consistent relationships with physicians to monitor symptoms, can fall short among children and adolescents.
"Asthma is not a telethon disease," Clark quotes a mother of a child with asthma in her studies. "People don't understand the nature of a child suffering with asthma," adds the RutgersCamden researcher. "As a society, we don't want to pay attention; we don't want to face up to the fact that inhaling the air around us, including polluted air, can impede breathing and sometimes life."
In her research, 66 films that dramatized asthma were analyzed, including Goonies, Toy Story 2, As Good As It Gets, Signs, and Without A Paddle. The analysis revealed four main ways of stereotyping asthma: implying that the character with asthma is wimpy; that asthmatic
|Contact: Cathy Donovan|