Primetime Brain Tumor Television: Enough!

Posted by on June 10, 2009 in Jackie, Personal, Television | 0 comments

Before I begin, some housekeeping.

a) There are what may be considered MAJOR spoilers below for recent season finale episodes of Bones, Eli Stone, Grey’s Anatomy, House, Medium and The Unusuals; read at your own risk if you are behind on your favorite shows. 

b) I have absolutely nothing against the writers of these shows and episodes. This is a personal perspective and emotional response.

Like many people, I absorb and watch television to escape reality. It is not that I want or need to remove myself from my own life for a few hours at a time; I simply enjoy the ride and appreciate the effort that is put into providing that journey for us.

We just finished watching the season finale of Medium. And it made me angry. Not directly at this series and not because it ended in a cliffhanger. I am generally disgruntled with the number of shows that chose to end their seasons with lead characters who have brain tumors.

I’m sure it’s mere coincidence that so many shows traveled down this particular road. And obviously the circumstances are varying in each. But I am frustrated by how unoriginal and commonplace the concept has become.

Why do I care so much about fictional illness?

Because my good friend and co-worker Jackie was diagnosed with a brain tumor a year ago this month. She endured a very successful operation that removed almost all of it, and returned to work six months later. Jackie’s spirit and strength are an inspiration, but as she reminds us…it’s still there. That someone so kind and beautiful and damn funny has brain cancer at 30 years old…makes me question both fate and faith.

So no, I do not like seeing so many people on television living under similar circumstances. Jackie has always been a huge Grey’s fan, and chooses to continue watching the show despite our advice otherwise. Those of you familiar with the series are keenly aware that not only is one of the main characters a brain surgeon, but one of the other main characters was just diagnosed with and apparently died from a brain tumor at the end of the season.

Perhaps I am noticing a pattern more right now because I am sensitive to this particular affliction; other instances of it have occurred on many shows over the years. The brain tumors of Mark Greene (ER) and Nate Fisher (Six Feet Under) certainly come to mind in retrospect. But it is frustrating and odd that Booth (Bones), Izzie (Grey’s), Alison (Medium) and Eric (The Unusuals) all developed brain tumors during this same television time period. 

By the way, I am very aware that neither Greg House nor Eli Stone had brain tumors; they were cursed with vivid hallucinations due to a mental breakdown and brain aneurysm, respectively. But their behavior and symptoms alone were similar enough to warrant inclusion here. To be honest, I am also crossing my fingers that Olivia’s hallucinations on Fringe are not the result of a tumor.

My point is that when art really imitates life, disbelief is no longer joyfully suspended.

I’m telling you right now that when Lost ends next season, if it turns out to have been one huge hallucination from the mind of a character who has a brain tumor…I will need to be locked in a padded room for a while. Of all the possible scenarios for my favorite series to end, I am unable to fathom one in which the passengers of Flight 815 have shared this vision together as patients in the same hospital or mental institution. No.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>