Movies Shouldn’t Romanticize Illness

Jaydi Swanson, News Editor

Cancer isn’t pretty. Cystic fibrosis isn’t fun. Mental illnesses aren’t desirable. But on the screen, these severe health issues are twisted into tragically beautiful love stories.

We’ve seen it countless times: “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Everything, Everything,” “Me Before You” and now the newest film, “Five Feet Apart.”

They’re all the same. A sick person meets a healthy person, or maybe they’re both sick. The sick people are irresistible despite (or maybe because of) their resemblance to a ticking time bomb. They fall in love fast and hard before the illness gets worse.

Sure, these movies can be entertaining. They pull at your heartstrings and leave you in a puddle of tears when one of the ill characters inevitably dies.

But they never show the real darkness behind these illnesses. Just enough symptoms and treatments are thrown in so that the disease can be used as an attractive plot point but not enough to scare people away with the true hardships a dying person faces. This leaves viewers to feel a sort of uncomfortable jealousy. It’s easy to want a love like Hazel and Augustus’s, but do we really understand what that would be like?

Illness isn’t beautiful. It’s messy, it’s painful, it’s heartbreaking. Hiding it behind love doesn’t take that away. It’s like putting tape over a crack in your aquarium; water will always leak through. And in the real world, so will a life threatening illness.

Exploiting these illnesses for entertainment gives an unfair representation of those who actually suffer through them. Instead of painting the story in an unrealistically romantic light, show viewers the truth. If the illness is so important to the plot, make it real. Show the real treatment. Show the symptoms. Show the daily struggles that come with the diagnoses.

Illness isn’t beautiful, but it’s real. We don’t have to ignore it and leave it out of our movies altogether, but we must make it real.